Sawney Bean's Cave

Useful Information

Location: North of Ballantrae.
4.8 km north of Ballantrae on A77, parking lot on the left. 15 minutes walk to the shore.
(55.146100, -4.984500)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologySea Cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Sawney Bean's Cave is named after the legend of Alexander “Sawney” Bean. The cave is often mixed up with nearby Snib's Cave, in both historic and modern reports. It is also called Bennane Cave, like Snib's Cave, which is either the reason for the mixup, or it is also a mixup.

During the 15th or 16th-century Alexander “Sawney” Bean led a 48-member clan, a product of incest and continued breeding within the family. According to legend they were responsible for murdering and eating more than 1,000 people.
It seems Beans father was a ditch-digger, one day he ran away and lived in a cave with a female companion and the two went undiscovered for more than 25 years. They started to rob people for a living. The clan left the cave at night and brought individuals or small groups back to their home. Here they were dismembered and eaten. Residents of nearby towns occasionally found body parts which were washed up on shore.
One night, the Beans met their match. When they tried to capture a man who was skilled in combat, he fought back long enough that others heard the commotion and gathered around. The Bean clan fled, but a search party was organized and found their hideout. After they were captured, the clan members were taken to Tolbooth Jail in Edinburgh. They were executed without trial.