Fact of the week: the ‘Beast of Balmoral’

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

SCOTLAND has no shortage of big cat sightings with many of the native wildcat known to grow well beyond the size of their domestic cousins.

Residents and visitors to Deeside have long testified to witnessing a panther-like beast meandering through the wilderness.

These sightings rose to national prominence in 1997 when a local gamekeeper, believing he had seen the beast, shot a cat in the street of Craithie.

The domestic cat, it transpired, was owned by the minister of Craithie Kirk church - the Queen’s chosen place of worship when she is in residence at Balmoral.

Reports at the time say the keeper apparently mistook the domestic pet for a wildcat which had been preying on grouse.

The keeper was ordered to apologise to Reverend Robert Sloan for shooting his cat and told to study the difference between domestic and feral cats.

Police blamed the shooting on the hysteria surrounding a mystery “Beast of Balmoral”.

The mistake was only discovered when a former gamekeeper who witnessed the shooting heard that the Rev Robert Sloan’s pet had gone missing and put two and two together.

Stories of the Beast of Balmoral have circulated in the area for decades and can resurface in the winter months as sightings of a giant black cat are reported in the countryside.

Animal experts believe the “beast” which was sighted regularly in the area was likely to be an unusually large Scottish wildcat, or possibly a panther which has been living in the wild.