It should come as no surprise that the UK has a vast history full of ancient traditions, myths, and legends. Over time these stories, secrets and surprises have been passed down from generation to generation to become the foundation of today’s British culture.
With these myths and legends come sites which have become infamous for their involvement in folklore and fairy tales. Here are my top 5 myths and legends and the historic sites they have been built upon.
Merlin, King Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table
The legend of King Arthur is without a doubt one of my favourite stories. And to be honest, there’s a large part of me which is holding out for it to be true. If you’re unfamiliar with this legend, here’s a little rundown…
Arthur Pendragon – assisted by the magician Merlin – defended Britain against Saxon Invaders in the 5th and 6th Centuries. From pulling the legendary Excalibur sword from the stone, to leading the Knights of the Round Table on a quest to find the Holy Grail, King Arthur is often referred to as Britain’s ‘Once and Future King’. And although he was eventually defeated in battle, it is said that Arthur will rise again when Britain’s need is greatest – and to this day Merlin is still alive, faithfully waiting for him to return.
Arthurian Legend Locations
Robin Hood is yet another classic British legend that has been the subject of countless books, films, poems, and ballads. An outlaw from Nottinghamshire, Robin Hood was a skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. He was viewed as a heroic rebel whose most notorious enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham. Whilst there is still huge debate over whether Robin truly existed, many medieval chroniclers believe he lived during the 12th or 13th Century. His legendary characteristics of being kind, respectful and courteous to women, children and the poor made this tale go down in history, naturally appealing to the ‘common people’.
Robin Hood Locations
The Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is arguably Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. Although scientists believe the Causeway to have formed because of a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago, folklore tells a different tale.
The legend of the Giant’s Causeway tells the tale of two Giants – Finn McCool from Ireland and Benandonner from Scotland. With Benandonner threatening Ireland, Finn decided to create a path across the sea to challenge the Scottish Giant. But when he arrived in Scotland, Finn saw the true size of Benandonner – and he was massive (even to a Giant). Finn retreated home with the Scottish beast hot on his tails! Luckily for Finn, his quick-thinking wife was there to save the day and disguised the Irish Giant as a baby. Tricked by his disguise, Benandonner thought that if their child was that big, then Finn himself must be ginormous! So, he decided to head back to the safety of Scotland to avoid a fight with McCool…but Finn wasn’t finished yet. He leapt from the cot and chased Benandonner across the Causeway to banish him from Ireland. Both Giants swore they would never speak again and demolished the causeway – leaving ragged remains on the coastlines of both Ireland and Scotland which can be visited today.
The Giant’s Causeway Locations
Beast of Bodmin Moor
With abandoned mines, remote houses, ancient stones and vast open spaces, Bodmin Moor is at the centre of many Cornish folklores.
The Beast of Bodmin Moor exists as a result of dozens of sightings of a black big cat – similar to a panther in its stature. Measuring up to five feet long with piercing yellow eyes, the legend of the beast escalated after countless reports of mutilated livestock. With so much evidence of a strange beast circulating, in 1995 the Government began an official investigation into its existence. Although there was no real evidence found of a beast living on the moor, there was also no evidence found against its existence either. Today, the sightings continue, and so do the wild stories. Some believe the beast is a species of wild cat which has long been extinct in the UK, whilst others prefer to blame the paranormal…
Whatever you believe, locals will encourage you not to walk across the moors at night, in case you become the beast’s next victim…
Beast of Bodmin Moor Locations
The Grey Lady
Whilst Longleat House is probably most famous for its safari park and having the world’s longest maze, Longleat is also home to many ghosts and ghouls – the most famous of which is The Grey Lady.
Louisa Carteret was the wife of the 2nd Viscount Weymouth who lived in Longleat House in the 18th Century. Rumours began throughout the household of Lady Louisa having an affair with one of her footmen. The Viscount soon heard of the apparent affair and so set out to confront the footman near a spiral staircase. When the man denied the rumours, the Viscount lost his temper and pushed the footman down the stairs, breaking his neck in the fall. The Viscount buried the body in the cellar and told Lady Louisa that the footman had simply left the household for good.
But the Lady did not believe him and suspected the Viscount of imprisoning the footman somewhere in the house. Day after day, night after night, she searched the entire house for her love, until one night she caught a chill which later developed into pneumonia. Much too weak from her illness, Lady Louisa sadly passed away during childbirth at the age of 22. Shortly after her death, staff began to claim they had seen the Lady searching the passageway where the Viscount had murdered the footman – leading the passageway to be forever known as the Grey Lady’s Walk.
The Grey Lady Locations
The Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is probably the most famous myth to have come out of Scotland. Nessie is believed to be a large creature inhabiting Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. Whilst much of the evidence surrounding her existence has been discredited, the Loch Ness Monster is still a much-loved creature throughout the UK. The first written accounts of Nessie date back to 565AD in a biography of St. Columba; the monster bit a swimmer and was attempting to bite another when Columba intervened and banished the creature.
Fast forward to 1933 when a road passing the Loch was finally completed, allowing for clear views of the entire lake. A couple stated they saw an enormous animal – similar to a dragon – disappearing into the water. Many other sightings followed, and the area began to attract tourists, hunters and scientists all determined to find the creature.
In 2018, a DNA survey was conducted in the Loch to discover which organisms existed in the waters. No signs of such a large animal were found, though there was substantial evidence to suggest numerous eels lived in the lake – suggesting perhaps that Nessie is just an oversized eel! Although there have been no concrete findings, the legend of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster remains popular to this day!
The Loch Ness Monster Locations
Do you have any favourite myths and legends from your country? Let us know in the comments below!