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The Heather Ale
Once upon a time, the Mull of Galloway was the last stronghold in mainland Caledonia (as Scotland was then called) of the Southern Picts, those same fearsome blue—painted warriors who had fought the Romans at Hadrian’s Wall. But not only was the Mull their fortress, it was also a sort of prehistoric brewery. For these prehistoric Picts had discovered the secret of brewing an ale from the heather which still grows today, around the Mull. Their Heather Ale was said to he so wonderful in its flavour and effect that it surpassed anything else in the country and its unique recipe was passed from generation to generation to preserve that same secret.
However, the fame of this wonderful elixir spread and Niall, High King of Ulster, crossed from Ireland to capture not only samples but also the secret recipe for his own use. After stiff resistance, the Picts were eventually destroyed by the invaders, assisted largely by a treacherous Pictish Druid who had turned traitor at the promise of being put in charge of the brewing in Ulster.
Finally, only the old Pict and one son remained, with the latter mortally wounded and seeing only two left, the King agreed to spare one if the other revealed the recipe. Knowing his son was weak and dying, the old man agreed and the son was as duly thrown from the cliffs to his death. Heartbroken, the old man maintained that he should only give the recipe as agreed to one man and led the druid up to the highest point of the cliffs at the Mull where, grasping him by the hand, hurled himself and the traitor into the foaming waves beneath. And so the secret of heather ale was lost for ever.
Well not quite for ever, for there is now a Heather Ale available again locally. Try some and learn why an Irish king fought over it and why Robert Louis Stevenson immortalised it in verse in his 'Heather Ale: A Galloway Legend'.