The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan

Dunvegan Travel Blog

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The ancient tattered Fairy Flag which is still on display inside Dunvegan Castle (photo is from Dunvegan Castle's guidebook -- no photos are actually allowed to be taken inside the castle)

The Fairy Flag (in Scottish Gaelic, An Bratach Sith) is a fragment of cloth owned by the Clan MacLeod and preserved at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where it's on display.

Legends

The name fairy flag comes from many legends in which the cloth was connected to the Sidhe, a Gaelic term for various supernatural beings sometimes referred to as the Shining Folk.

In one such story, the chieftain's son was wrapped in the cloth by a fairy lady; in another, the chieftain took a fairy woman as a wife and she brought the cloth to the marriage, however she could only stay for seven years, after the seven years were gone she left, but she left the flag to protect her children; in a third, the banner was brought to Dunvegan by a MacLeod chieftain after years spent with the Sidhe.

Another legend says that, if unfurled, the flag will save the clan from disaster. This can only be done three times. Supposedly, the flag has been unfurled twice in the past, although accounts differ on exactly when.

Supposedly, one of them was during World War II at the request of the Queen.

Origins

The Dunvegan castle web site states that the flag is made from silk and originated in the Middle East ("Syria or Rhodes") some time between the fourth and seventh centuries CE. A related legend holds that King Harald HardrĂ¥de acquired the flag while raiding in the Middle East, making it his own banner and naming it Land-ravager. Harald died in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York, England; a MacLeod legend says clansmen at the battle brought the flag to Skye.

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The ancient tattered Fairy Flag wh…
The ancient tattered Fairy Flag w…
Dunvegan
photo by: highlandmist