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Grandtully Castle in Perthshire, Scotland, reputedly home to the only benign redcap
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Redcaps are goblin-like evil fairies said to live in the ruined peel towers and castles in the Border country between Scotland and England, particularly those associated with slaughter or other wicked deeds.[1] According to tradition, the foundations of such towers and castles, supposedly built by the Picts, were sprinkled with the blood of a human or animal sacrifice, and the redcaps are the spirits of those victims. The similar but less malevolent duntersSpirits also known as powries, said to haunt the peel towers and castles of the Scottish border with England. are also said to be the spirits of those sacrifices.[2]

Usually only one redcap inhabits a building. The name comes from their habit of dyeing their hats red with the blood of their victims. In appearance they have been described as resembling a powerfully built old man wearing iron boots and carrying a pikestaff, with long sharp teeth and nails like an eagle’s talons. No human can physically withstand a redcap, but one can be frightened away by quoting from the Bible,[1] or by holding a cross towards them. Once so confronted the redcap vanishes with a shriek, leaving behind one of his fang-like teeth.[3]

Grandtully Castle in Perthshire[a]Given as Grantully Castle in some sources. is reputedly home to a redcap who breaks the mould, one whom it brings fortune to see. Legend has it that he lives alone in a room at the top of the castle.[1]

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Bibliography


Alexander, M. (2002). A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain. Sutton Publishing.
Briggs, K. M. (1979). Abbey Lubbers, Banshees, & Boggarts. Kestrel Books.
Briggs, K. M. (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogeys and Other Supernatural Creatures. Pantheon Books.