British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain

Giant's Graves

Giant's Graves

The two neighboring chambered cairns on Whiting Bay, Arran, are known as the Giant's Graves.  Some records claim there is only one, however it is possible that the giant or giants concerned have something to do with the tradition mentioned by the well-known traveller and author Martin Marin in late 17th century:

The name of this isle is by som derived from Arran, which in the Irish language signifies bread. Others think it comes more probably from Arjn, or Arfyn, which in their language is as much, as the place of the giant Fin-Ma-Couls slaughter (or execution). The received tradition of the great giant Fin-Ma-Cowls military valor, which he exercised upon the ancient natives here, seems to favour this conjecture; this they say is evident from the many stones set up in divers places of the isle, as monuments upon the graves of persons of note that were kill'd in battle.

The giant "Fin-Ma-Coul" or "Fin-Ma-Cowl" is of course Fionn mac Cumhaill, historically an early Irish legendary war-leader, although he is remembered as a god-like figure and his followers, known as the Fianna, are celebrated as heroes. Between the 10th and 14th centuries his legend became widely known in Scotland, but here he was called Fingal.

Fionn and the Fianna are described as having superhuman strength and size, being as much as 500 times larger than a man. As King Arthur of some traditions was pictured as large enough to fit on Arthur's Seat (in Lothian & Borders), so Fingal was said to be of a size to occupy Fingal's Cave (Western Isles) and to sit there in Fingal's Chair. Again like Arthur, who was said to sleep beneath Arthur's Seat, so in one version of the legend of Tomnahurich the giant warriors asleep inside it are said to be 'Fin and his warrior band, the Fianna.'