Never mind Nessie, the scariest creature ever to roam Scotland was the infamous Linton Worm.
A ‘Worm’ was another term used for a dragon (orme or worme is the ancient Norse for serpent), and the Linton worm lived in a hollow on the Northeast side of Linton Hill. This area is still known as ‘Worm’s Den’. From its lair the Worm would roam the land and take its share of local livestock and anything else that fell into its path.
Not surprisingly the local population were terrified of the creature. A 12th century writer described it as “In length three Scots yards and bigger than an ordinary man’s leg – in form and callour to our common muir edders.” The area became a virtual wasteland and it seemed as if nothing could stop it.
A Scots laird, John de Somerville heard of the worm and decided to go see for himself. From a safe distance he observed the creature, noticing how it would crawl halfway from its lair and stand watching, its mouth wide open while it observed those who came near. This gave the enterprising laird an idea. He returned and ordered the production of a unique lance from a local blacksmith. The lance was longer than normal and had a wheel fitted about a foot from the end. This allowed the end of the lance to rotate on contact.
Somerville returned to the lair with his special lance. On the end he placed a large lump of peat covered in tar which was set alight. For some time he had practiced charging with the burning lance so his horse would get used to the smoke blowing in its face. Now came the time to strike. He rode up to the worm who predictable opened its huge mouth. Somerville plunged the lance deep into the creatures throat.
The Worm writhed in agony, the marks of it’s death throws are said to be still visible in the undulations of the hills around the lair (now known as Wormington). Eventually the creature brought down the roof of the cave in which it had lived and (conveniently for all the story tellers) disappeared without a trace. As a reward for his bravery Somerville was knighted and made a royal Falconer, he also became the first Baron of Lintoune. In commemoration of the event the crest of the Somerville’s was a dragon perched on a wheel. The beast is also depicted on the carved Typanum above.