The Tigh na Cailleach is a fascinating place. Hidden away in a remote glen west of Glen Lyon, it’s a small turf-roofed “house” which is home to a “family” of water-worn stones known as the Cailleach (old woman), the Bodach (old man), the Nighean (daughter) and further children. It is thought to be an ancient shrine to the cult of the Mother Goddess.
Each spring the family are brought out of their house, and each October they are returned for the winter before Samhain a tradition that has been going on certainly for hundreds of years, but possibly even thousands.
Shielings nearby were still in use until after 1782 and the inhabitants would re-thatch the Cailleach’s house, repair the walls and bring the family out to watch over their herds. When the herds moved back down for the winter the family would be sealed up in the house until the following year.
Later, after farming methods changed, a succession of local shepherds or gamekeepers continued the practice. The most recent that I know of was Bob Bissett, head stalker on the Invermeran estate, who died a few years ago, however someone else is still bringing the family out each year.
Legend has is that the Cailleach gives birth to a new child every hundred years. Writing in 1888, Duncan Campbell said that there were 12 stones, although this may have been said to give the site a Christian spin, associating it with a St Meuran (probably St Mirin) and his eleven disciples. Today there are 7 stones in total.