NOT MANY Scots appear in Dante's Inferno – that extraordinary 13th-century poem by Dante Alighieri depicting hell, purgatory and heaven. But there is one, deep down in the eighth circle of hell, undergoing gruesome torture and condemned to eternal torment amongst the other sorcerers. This Scot is none other than Michael Scott, scholar, tutor to the Pope and wizard.

Scott was born in 1175, some say in Fife, others believe in the Borders. Both places lay claim to him and "mythologise" him in fantastical ways. Border folk remember him as the man who split the Eildon Hills near Melrose, a story that is recounted in the work of Sir Walter Scott. In Balwearie, Fife, he is gifted with the ability to spin rope from sand.

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