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  The Nuggle - the Orcadian water horse

The Nuggle in Flight: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieAnother malicious creature found in Orkney folklore was the "Noggelvi" or "Nuggle".

Although the Nuggle was said to be able to disguise itself as any creature, it usually took the form of a placid, but magnificent, horse.

While in this form, the Nuggle frequented areas of the countryside around lochs, pools and streams.

There, its method of ensnaring human victims was to wait patiently by the side of the water.

When the unfortunate who spied the riderless horse decided to climb on its back, the beast would charge into the water, carrying the doomed rider to a death by drowning. Those familiar with folklore will instantly recognise elements of the Nuggle as being identical to the Celtic water-horse known as the Kelpie.

In Orkney and Shetland it was said that only a Finman could ride a Nuggle. The incorporation of the Finmen into the folklore seems likely to be a later addition.

Although there are a few documented references to the Nuggle in Orkney, recorded accounts are more common in Shetland, where the creature wasalso referred to as "shoopiltee".

One particular piece of Shetland lore refers to a group of local men who managed to capture a Nuggle. The men chained the frantic creature to a standing stone between two lochs but, after a great struggle, the Nuggle escaped. The evidence of its struggle remained - marks where the binding chain scored the stone.

Back in Orkney, all that remains of Nuggle lore today are a few faint references to areas where the creature was once thought to haunt.

The Hoy water-horse

Hoy, with its hills and isolated streams and pools, seems to have been plagued by the Nuggle, with several areas associated with water-horse activity. The main territory, however, seems to have been the area surrounding the body of water known as the Water o' Hoy.

Local tradition also has the Nuggle active around the Pegal Burn, as well as the Little Loch at Rackwick. To ensnare his victims at the Pegal Burn, the creature would hide on the island of Rysa Little. From there it could see victims as they approached the burn.

And by the time the traveller reached the bridge over the burn, the Nuggle would be waiting.......