Border Tales

The Anglo-Scottish border, or Scottish Marches existed during the late medieval and early modern era, it was characterised by violence and cross-border raids. The Scottish Marches came to an end during the first decade of the 17th century following the union of the crowns of Scotland and England, and we now recognise this area as Cumberland, Northumberland, Dumfriesshire, and the Scottish Borders. For centuries the Marches on either side were lawless, areas of mixed allegiances, where families or clans switched sides as suited their interests.

The Anglo-Scottish border has some unique folklore: magical creatures that do not generally appear elsewhere in British folktales.

The Redcap


The Redcap (or Red Comb, or Bloody Cap) is a type of malevolent, murderous ‘goblin’ found in borders folklore. He is said to inhabit ruined castles along the Anglo-Scottish border, especially those that were the scenes of murder and evil deeds, and is known for soaking his cap in the blood of his victims. He is depicted as “a short, thickset old man with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and a red cap on his head”. If travellers take refuge in his lair, he throws huge rocks at them and if he kills them, he soaks his cap in their blood, giving it that distinctive crimson hue. He can be driven away by the brandishing of a crucifix. The origin of vampire myth?


A Bluecap is a benevolant spirit that inhabits mines and appears as a small blue flame. If miners treat them with respect, the bluecaps lead them to rich deposits of minerals, or forewarn of cave-ins. They are mostly associated with the Anglo-Scottish Borders. They are hard workers and expect to be paid the same as a miner’s wages. This payment left at a specific corner of the mine.

The Bluecap


Ginswick, J. 1983 Labour and the Poor in England and Wales, 1849-1851: Northumberland and Durham, Staffordshire, the Midlands

McNeill, F. M. 1957 The Silver Bough: Scottish Folk-lore and Folk-belief

Dorson, R. M. 1968 History of British Folklore

Atkinson, P. 2017 Folk Tales of North East England

Simpson, J. 2000 A Dictionary of English Folklore

Henderson, W. 1879 Folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders