Last updated
Author Mary Stewart
Cover artistGavin Rowe
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
ISBN 0-340-41519-3

Thornyhold is a fantasy novel by Mary Stewart published in 1988.

Mary, Lady Stewart was a British novelist who developed the romantic mystery genre, featuring smart, adventurous heroines who could hold their own in dangerous situations. She also wrote children's books and poetry, but may be best known for her Merlin series, which straddles the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy.



The story is about a lonely child, Geillis "Gilly" Ramsey, who is made to see the world through her mother's cousin's (also Geillis — Gilly was named after her) unusual eyes. When the child becomes a young woman, she inherits her dead cousin's house as well as her reputation among the local community as a white witch and herbalist. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. Magical effort is pointed at the attractive and widowed popular writer, Christopher Dryden, who lives in rural isolation with his young son.

As Christopher Dryden points out to Gilly, [1] her (and her mother's cousin's) name is that of a real witch, Geillis Duncane, who was tried in Edinburgh in the late 16th century during the North Berwick witch trials. [2] Gilly's rival for the affections of Dryden, Agnes Sampson, shares a name with another woman tried at North Berwick. [1]

North Berwick witch trials Scottish witch trials in 1590

The North Berwick witch trials were the trials in 1590 of a number of people from East Lothian, Scotland, accused of witchcraft in the St Andrew's Auld Kirk in North Berwick. They ran for two years and implicated over seventy people. These included Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell on charges of high treason.

Agnes Sampson Scottish midwife, executed as a witch

Agnes Sampson was a Scottish healer and purported witch. Also known as the "Wise Wife of Keith", Sampson was involved in the North Berwick witch trials in the later part of the sixteenth century.

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Euphame MacCalzean - also known as Ewphame Mecalrean - was burnt to death as a result of the North Berwick Witch Trials of 1590-1591.


  1. 1 2 Thornyhold, Ch. 20.
  2. "The Witch-Persecution in Scotland", from the pamphlet Newes from Scotland (1591).