What is Am Fear Liath Mòr?
Is there a Bigfoot stalking the Cairngorms, Scotland? Am Fear Liath Mòr, or the GreyMan has been rumoured to exist in the Scottish Highlands, and is present in folklore, as well as modern accounts. It bears some striking similarities with bigfoot, but is it possible that a large, bipedal ape could exist in Scotland without being recognised by science? It may seem unlikely at face value, but there is often some degree of truth behind the stories. The British Isles have Wodewose and a variety of other Bigfoot like creatures scattered throughout folklore, and their persistence into the modern day raises significant questions as to the nature of such accounts.
Let’s look at the evidence, and determine whether a large ape could remain undetected in the Highlands. Firstly, can the area sustain a large creature? What does the creature itself look like, and what conclusions can we draw from the stories about the creature?
The highlands of Scotland are some of the few remaining wildernesses remaining in the British Isles. Following the significant urbanisation since the industrial revolution, Britain has become a somewhat tamed landscape compared to the natural stomping grounds of Bigfoot-like beings in the States, Himalayas, or Australia.
Perhaps then the last remaining habitat on this tame island that would be capable of sustaining and sequestering a giant bipedal ape would be in the sparsely populated Northern Reaches of Scotland. Specifically, the GreyMan is associated with Ben Macdhui - the highest mountain in the Cairngorms range.
The weather up in the mountains is notably cold, with a yearly average low being -3 degrees celsius, and a highest of only 12 celsius. Such cold temperatures means that snow is regularly present on the mountains, and includes the UK’s longest sitting snow patches - which have melted only a 7 times in the last 300 years.
Flora and Fauna
This cold climate is still home to many animals, including red deer, mountain hares, and the famous Ciarngorm Reindeer herd, which have run wild on the site since 1952. Across the national park, there are a variety of types of flora that can sustain and hide these animals. This includes half of the UKs pine trees, and significant heather coverage.
Such coverage could potentially give a creature of a reasonable size coverage to go about it’s business unabated, feasting on the local populations of animals - wild or domestic - or indeed the vegetation, which is able to sustain fairly large known creatures, including the Reindeer and deer populations.
The Greyman itself carries many of the hallmarks of bigfoot encounters from around the world. Itis said to be a large bipedal humanoid with short hair that hardly covers it’s olive coloured skin. It said to leave those who see it feeling uneasy and many encounters involving it are auditory, with witnesses hearing large, crunching footsteps nearby them.
Whilst the similarities to bigfoot is striking, many reports seem to connect the GreyMan with the paranormal, more so than claiming it represents an extant species living in the Scottish Highlands. The creature is often ‘experienced’ rather than truly ‘witnessed’, which raises a lot of questions as to what is the cause of sightings of the creature.
Indeed, many people who do see the creature often have their view obscured by mist, or view it only as a shadow or a dark shape in the distance, which makes it difficult to draw many conclusions as to what the creature - if indeed it is a creature at all - may look like.
The most famous account of the Grey Man is by climber J. Norman Collie, dating back to the 19th century, the story goes as follows:
Collie was climbing Ben MacDhui, the tallest mountain in the Cairngorms. Climbing Ben MacDhui can be quite challenging, as you can see from the modern suggested trail. The terrain is rugged, and covered with stones of varying sizes.
As Collie ascended the mountain, he became aware of a sound that was echoing his movements. It was a crunching underfoot which would step as soon as he would, but with a stride Collie reported as 3 to 4 times the length of his own.
Collie paused to try and determine the source of the noise, but was unable to. Justifiably, he became scared and decided to run further up the moment, which is where the account ends.
There is something incredibly romantic about the notion of a bigfoot in Scotland. As an Englishman myself, the perception that there is, within reasonable driving distance, an untapped wilderness that could house our own giant bipedal ape is exhilarating.
But it’s hard to say that there is anymore to the GreyMan than the fantastical stories. Most accounts are largely ‘feeling’ based, which, whilst disturbing for the individuals involved, is hard to quantify and look at scientifically.
Perhaps this is why it has become natural for the creature to be perceived much more as paranormal than flesh and blood, unlike the sasquatch or yeti - although of course there are proponents of the paranormal bigfoot theory.
Accounts are often attributed to misidentification of exhaustion, which are entirely possible - perhaps Collie’s stalking footsteps were his own echoing behind him. This article on the BBC website also suggests “brocken spectre” is a possible source of the GreyMan story. It is based on a person standing above a layer of cloud. The sun projects their image onto the cloud layer, creating an exaggerated and elongated shadow.
There are many plus sides for the British Bigfoot in general though. Accounts stretch across the country, including in my native Lincolnshire, which keep the hopes of some sort of British beast alive. Even in Scotland, there are accounts and extensive folklore, which warrant further investigation to discover what exactly is happening in the British isles.
To find out more about British Bigfoot, I can highly recommend Andy McGraths’ Beasts of Britain, and Nick RedFern’s Man-Monkey: In Search of the British Bigfoot, which you can find in the affiliate links below - which helps the blog as well as giving you great reading material!