The Strange Afterlife of the Reverend Robert Kirk

Getting there:

From Glasgow follow the A81 north to Aberfoyle.

From Stirling follow the A84(T), A873 then A81 west to Aberfoyle.

From Callander follow the A81 south to Aberfoyle or, for a more scenic route, take the A821 – known as The Duke’s Pass – via The Trossachs.

The car park is in the centre of Aberfoyle, just off the main street behind the Tourist Information Centre.


The Reverend Robert Kirk was a strange fellow. He was a native of Aberfoyle, born in the manse in 1644, the seventh son of Reverend James Kirk. Despite having an extremely poor upbringing, against all odds he excelled himself and managed to get a place at a local school. He progressed well, attending the University at Edinburgh and eventually graduating with a Master of Arts degree. Kirk became minister of Balquhidder in 1664, and later of Aberfoyle, from 1685 until his death In 1692.

Despite Kirk being a Mnister of the cloth, and a strict interpretation of the Christian faith had made its force felt in every corner of the nation, he also believed implicity in fairies.

Kirk walked every night to the hill of Doon just outside the village. He used to lie with his ear to the ground and listen to the noises that apparantly eminated from the fairy realm. It is said that he normally only left when his wife came to get him – anxious as she was over her husband’s nightly escapades. He even stated that he had communicated with the fairies of Doon Hill, which he called “The People of Peace”. It is said that he used to preach in church about the fairies, much to the consternation of the congregation.

Along with his own personal experiences, he also collected folklore of the fairies and somewhere between 1691-2 he created a manuscript entitled ‘The Secret Commonwealth’, detailling all he knew of the ‘little folk’. Unfortunately he died before it could be published. He had gone to the hill of Doon one evening, as was his custom, and his body was later found lying on the hill. In 1815, Scottish author Walter Scott came across Kirks manuscript and published it. Folklore scholars consider The Secret Commonwealth one of the most important and authoritative works on fairy folk beliefs.

Popular legend says that Kirk’s coffin is empty, or filled with stones, as the fairys have taken his body to their realm to be the ‘Minister to the Fairy Queen’.

One of the little houses on the trail – done for kids really, but cute nonetheless

A couple of friends and I were in the area recently, we had gone to see if the salmon were leaping in the next burn. It made sense to have a visit to Doon hill, so on a wet and misty autumn afternoon, weI walked the ‘fairy trail’ from the village of Aberfoyle to the top of the hill. It is a beautiful, mysterious place – made all the more so by the mist over the surrounding mountains.

The Ministers Pine – with ribbons and wishes tied to it

Passing some cute little ‘fairy houses’ carved into tree trunks, (it is promoted as a walk suitable for children), we got to the ‘Ministers Pine’ at the top of the hill without too much exertion. Ribbons surround the trunk, and people have written wishes on cards and have tied them to the ribbons….who says the old beliefs are dead.

Mist over the village of Aberfoyle

You can read the Secret Commonwealth here.