Carrick Community Heritage Trail

Lendalfoot - Cave dwelling cannibals and the 'Birds of Lendalfoot'

Phone number:


Lendalfoot is a hamlet located at the foot of the Lendal Water and on the curve of Lendalfoot Bay. The bay is an unspoiled mile long sandy beach boasting stunning views up and down the coast as well as spectacular views of Ireland, the Mull of Kintyre, Arran and Ailsa Craig. When the tide is out you can walk out to the rocks where seals are a common site.

Close by is Carleton Crescent, built in 1933 the crescent has twenty seven chalet type bungalows nestling below the great hill that protects the village from the East wind.

Half of the chalets are inhabited by all year round residents while the other half are second and holiday homes.

Birds of Lendalfoot

Though Lendalfoot is a haven for tourists, it was discovered that it is was also a haven for birdlife by Glasgow Naturalist Charles Berry. He documented his findings in a fascinating paper called The Birds of Lendalfoot, which was published in the journal of the Natural History Society of Glasgow in 1908.

He identified, without the help of any assistance, an impressive 162 species of birds habitually seen within four miles of Lendalfoot. He also accounted that 78 of these species also breed in the vicinity.  Below is a downloadable list of the many amazing examples of birdlife Berry viewed himself, a true draw for any birdwatcher to the area:

Birds of Lendalfoot 

Keep your eyes open when you’re in Lendalfoot to see which of these birds you can catch a glimpse of.

Why not print off the Birds of Lendalfoot list and tick off the ones you spot as you go.

Sawney Bean

A darker side to Lendalfoot’s past is the legend of Sawney Bean and his family clan of Cave-dwelling cannibals.

The story goes, that Sawney Bean was born in the late 14th century, in a small village near Edinburgh. He left this village with a women just as viciously twisted as he. Having no way to make a living, they made their home in a sea cave on the Carrick coast near Lendalfoot and Ballantrae. They supported themselves by robbing and murdering travellers and locals, and feasting on their victim’s pickled and salted flesh.

As the years went by their gruesome family incestuously grew to a tribe of 46 sons, daughters and grandchildren, they were responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of people. The family began discarded unwanted limbs to the sea and these stray body parts often washed up on local beaches.

As the reputation of the area grew, the authorities were under pressure to find and prosecute the culprit, many innocent people were falsely accused and executed for the family’s crimes.

Sawney’s family had continued to multiply and began attacking much larger groups; it was estimated that in their 25 years of horrific attacks they murdered over a thousand people including children.

Their reign of terror may have continued if it was not for a chance encounter. A band of barbaric Beans ambushed a couple returning from a local fair on horseback. The husband fought back intensely with pistol and sword, holding his ground just long enough that fortunately 30 more folk from the fair came along the route forcing Sawney’s clan to retreat.

His wife was not so fortunate, losing her balance as the attack ensued she was quickly butchered.

Horrified the man and the group informed magistrates at Glasgow of the attack who told King James. The King was so shocked by the tale he took personal charge, with bloodhounds and a band of 400 men he made for Carrick to begin the hunt.

The king’s men would have missed the well-hidden cave if it was not for the bloodhounds’ keen noses picking up the sent of flesh. Inside the men found a horrific scene with dried body parts hanging from the ceiling, pickled limbs in barrels and piles of stolen money and possessions previously owned by Sawney’s victims. The family made no attempt to escape and was brought to Edinburgh in chains.

The gore of this legend does not end there, so horrified by the Beans crimes the people decided to give them an even more gruesome punishment. The execution was slow, the men’s arms and legs were cut off leaving them to bleed to death while the women were burned alive, bringing to an end, the Sawney Bean reign of terror from a Carrick Cave.

The truth of the Sawney Bean legend is hard to confirm and there are many factors which suggest the story is an 18th Century invention. It seems that the legend first saw print in the early 18th Century in the lurid broadsheets and chapbooks of the time.