Who was The Cout of Kielder?

Today, I research a scene in which the evil Simon Beaumont, seeking a way to return to his own time, visits Hermitage Castle and the nearby grave of the Cout of Keilder...or Kielder, depending who's writing.

The cout of Keilder is one of the very lesser known historical figures, which means that it takes relatively less time to research him and his grave site (say, a few hours, a day) than to research all that is known of Robert the Bruce.  This makes it easier, of course, and yet, we get only little glimpses of who he was, and they tend to conflict.

As an author, of course, I can choose: does Simon remember the Cout who was the innocent victim invited to dinner and murdered? Was he young and brave as one report says, or a vicious, brutal man who terrorized the countryside?  (Brave and terrorizing don't go together in my mind.)  Most stories, if they mention his size at all, agree that brave or terrorizing, he was a giant of a man.

So, collected here from around the web, a number of views of who the Cout of Keilder was:

The Cout who was murdered after being invited to dinner:

The cout (colt) of Kielder was considered a brave young man who was also headstrong but was admired for his physical prowess.  While out with a group of other young lads he ignored the local legend that one would be tempting fate if they were to ride counterclockwise (widdershins) around the Kielder stone.  With a helm festooned with holly and rowan and the belief he wore a suit of mail that was magical, he tempted fate.  The young men were caught by de Soulas and invited to Hermitage Castle.  Though they were treated with Border hospitality, soon it became apparent that de Soulas was going to murder them.  With the prowess of the young, the cout was able to fight off de Soulas and the young men escaped on their horses.  But de Soulas and his men were quickly in hot pursuit.  De Soulas summoned up a Border demon...the Brown Man, who told him that the Cout's magic would not protect him in running water and they chased the young men to the Hermitage water where the cout stumbled and fell as he tried to scramble to the other side with their spears.  They held the young man under the water and he drowned.  Where this happened is now called the Cout of Kielder Pool

Or, the same image from Geograph:

The Cout of Keilder's Grave

giving the following information:

Information plaque by the grave, between the Hermitage Water and the site of the chapel.  Keilder vs. Kielder?  It has been suggested that the latter, like the forest just over the border, is correct.  In those far off days, however, the locals then as some do now, pronounced Kielder as Kylder, so they would probably spell it as Keilder and the plaque is almost certainly correct.

Another version of the Cout is found at Most Haunted Castles dot com:

The final chapter of this reign of terror has a touch of ambiguity as is common with most tales associated with Hermitage Castle.  About a quarter of a mile to the northwest of the castle there is a small mound next to the ruins of a chapel.  This mound is said to be the grave of a giant of an Englishman, a Tynesdale baron called the Cout of Kielder.  This cout is said to have terrorized the area wearing magical chain mail armor which was impervious to blows.  He was finally killed by drowning in a deep pool of water in the river.  This pool, which is very near to the grave, is known as the Drowning Pool.  Whether he was the one and same man as the Cout of Kielder massacred by the Bad Lord Soulis is open to conjecture.  A visitor had once experienced the eerie sensation of being pushed toward the water when he was near the Drowning Pool.  Whether there is a ghost lurking in its depths or there is other paranormal activity is open to investigation.

The Forestry Commission site puts a slightly different spin on it:

From his base at brooding Hermitage Castle, the Scottish noble vied and eventually murdered the Cout of Kielder for sway over the land, but for his wicked ways he was boiled alive!

Haunted Palace Blog dot Wordpress gives both portrayals of the Cout, both as one who terrorized the land, and the champion of the land who tried to stop the wicked Soulis:

The tale of a terrifying knight possessed of magical armour is sometimes linked to the Wicked Lord Soulis, sometimes not.  In one version of the tale the Cout of Keilder, a giant, comes as a champion to kill the sorcerer, but the sorcerer knowing the Cout has magic armour and cannot be killed by weapons tricks him and drowns him in Hermitage Water.  Other versions say the Cout was wicked himself and terrorized the inhabitants of the castle until he was drowned.
The grassy mount just outside the nearby chapel purports to be the burial place of the Cout.  It is sited outside the graveyard on unconsecrated ground.

 Clouts grave site bw
Rainy chapel bw

Keys to the Past dot Info reports that:

Old Kielder was the home of a 14th century border chieftain, the Cout (or Colt) of Kielder.  Legends claim that his prowess in battle was due to his magical armor, and the mystical holly and rowan leaves he wore in his helmet.

Keys to the Past also links to some very interesting historical maps of the areas.

A view of Hermitage Castle from the chapel, near which the Cout is buried:

At Georgraph dot org dot UK we find a picture of the Cout's gravestone, which other sources specify is near the river where he was drowned by being held down with spears:

The Cout of Keilder's Grave

Discover the Borders tells us that the mysterious Cout may have been:
Description: Remains of a 13th or 14th century chapel and graveyard are enclosed within the defensive earthworks of an earlier farmstead. A low mound known as the "Cout o' Kielder's Grave" may be the grave of Sir Richard Knout (Knut) of Kielder, Sheriff of Northumberland, who died about 1290. Ownership: Public access on moorland. Situation – OS ref: NY 493960 How to...

Here's an image of the map showing the area in which the Cout's grave is found,and the chapel earthworks, from Canmore:


  1. This is all very curious.
    Further, starting on page 162 there in an introduction and then the exhaustivly long ballad of the 'Cout of Keelder' here - https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JPVMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=%22luve+and+le%22&source=bl&ots=7gddf4yIFh&sig=7kSNK2_ckNlWgpqTTYSbxBjuxOk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjVqtOM_IPXAhXG2BoKHRpXDWgQ6AEIKzAB#v=onepage&q=%22luve%20and%20le%22&f=false

    1. Thank you, rwmhunt! I had not found that in my research! I'll be doing a post on that.


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