The most well-known and forgotten myths and legends of Britain's favorite holiday locations. How many of them do you know?
Whether you fancy a visit up North to the Lake District or perhaps a more sunny trip to the seaside in Devon, the United Kingdom has many beautiful locations to choose from for your next staycation.
There are so many myths and legends tied to such a rich history across the UK, that the stories behind them all are almost impossible to keep up with.
Beast of Bodmin Moor - Cornwall
The wild landscape of untouched Cornwall is slightly creepy even before you find out that it could be home to a wild, haunted beast.
Three to five feet long, with blazing yellow eyes and terrifying teeth; the beast has been sighted no less than 60 times.
Those who have seen it have said to have been filled with dread and fear, and the mornings after have revealed mutilated livestock.
King Arthur’s Sword - Bardsey Island
Bardsey Island is home to beautiful views and stunning landscapes and an abundance of wildlife. It is also said to be the legendary Avalon, the magical island where Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, was forged.
If that’s not good enough for you, try Excalibur Lake.
Deep in Snowdonia National Park, there are three Welsh lakes that supposedly contain Arthur’s magical sword. Why not make a day out of it, and go off on a hunt to find the legendary sword? Who knows, there are three lakes to choose from, so they’re pretty good odds!
But the legend doesn’t stop there, Cornwall has a claim to fame with King Arthur too!
Trevethy Quoit is also known as King Arthur’s Quoit and is a highly impressive burial chamber, standing at 15 feet high.
Tintagel Castle is also an iconic landmark in the legend of King Arthur. It is the supposed birthplace of the King, but it is also where Arthur bequeathed his crown to his cousin Constantine after the last battle at Camlann.
The Grey Lady in Longleat House - Wiltshire
The wife of the 2nd Viscount of Weymouth, Lady Louisa Carteret had an affair with one of the footmen in her home of Longleat House. The Viscount discovered his wife’s dark secret, and in a blind rage, pushed the footman down the stairs, killing him.
The Viscount buried the body on the floor of the cellar and told his wife that the man left in the night without a word.
Louisa didn’t believe her husband and spent her remaining days searching every room in the house for her lover. She died, never having found him, and is now seen by staff and visitors wandering the rooms in search of the footman.
The Borrowed Cauldron - Surrey
Back in the 17th century, Amazon wasn’t up and running, so the village of Frensham in Surrey found an alternative to next-day shipping.
The Legend of Mother Ludlam describes a friendly old white witch who would grant the locals whatever it is they needed, all they had to do was promise to return it in two days' time.
One day a man asked to borrow her personal cauldron, but he failed to return her cauldron, and soon enough he was a wanted man by an angry witch. He quickly sought refuge in Frensham Church where the cauldron remains to be seen by visitors to this day.
The Irish Giant - Giant’s Causeway off the North Coast of Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing sight to behold. Legend says that Irish giant Finn MacCumhail was challenged by the Scottish giant Benandonner to a fight.
Not one to back down, he accepted the challenge and prepared for the fight, however, he quickly realized he would have to cross the sea to meet Benandonner.
As a result, he constructed what is now known as the Giant’s Causeway. A series of interlocking columns that once made a bridge to the Scottish island of Staffa. The foundations are still there to this day and you can take a walk through the beautiful countryside to the coastline, where you can climb on the columns and feel like a giant yourself!
The Pendle Witches - Lancaster
The town was host to the only officially documented witch trials in the 17th century, in which 12 people were accused of witchcraft. They were held in the dungeons of Lancaster Castle, where they awaited trial.
After the daughter of one of the families gave evidence against them, ten people were found to be guilty and taken to the moors above the town to be hanged in August of 1612.
Now, you can visit Lancaster Castle for a tour, where you can learn the details of the trials and the rich history of the town.
Robin Hood - Sherwood Forest in Nottingham
A popular tale of taking from the rich to give to the poor, Robin Hood and his Merry Men and their adventures are often retold, and for good reason!
His legend dates back to 1226 and has developed into the folklore we know and love today.
A skilled archer, who lived in Sherwood Forest, royal land where the king kept his deer decided to take action against the unfair taxes and rulings put upon the people.
He would steal from the rich and give it to the poor, and so began many tales that were told across the country, of the young hero.
You can visit Sherwood Forest and the neighbouring town of Nottinghamshire, and see the Major Oak tree. According to folklore, it was Robin Hood’s shelter where he and his Merry Men slept.
Loch Ness monster - Scotland
The Scottish Highlands is home to an abundance of wildlife but in the large, deep, water of Loch Ness, there is an animal that has really grabbed the attention of tourists.
The 23-mile-long lake is supposedly home to the Loch Ness monster, a large, long-necked humped creature, affectionately known as Nessie.
The first depiction of Nessie dates back to ancient times, where local stone carvings were found of a mysterious beast with flippers. The first photograph was taken in 1933 and ever since then there have been multiple sightings.
There have even been several sonar explorations over the years, but unfortunately, none were able to locate the mystical creature.
You can visit Loch Ness and take a ride on a boat to see if you’ll be the next person who sets their eyes on the beloved Nessie!
Hairy Hands of Dartmoor - Devon
In June 1921, a worker at Dartmoor Prison was killed when his motorcycle became uncontrollable when driving through Postbridge in Dartmoor. His children, riding along in the sidecar, recounted how they saw their father wrestling with the controls, fighting against something they couldn’t see.
The same accident happened again, only this time the passenger on the back of the bike remembered seeing two hairy hands grasp the handlebars and veer them off of the road.
In 1924, a woman woke up in the night at a nearby campsite to see a hairy hand crawling along the wall next to her face.
Since then, the road is now known as B3212, and the legend has been heard time and time again, in which survivors tell their stories of hairy hands grabbing the wheel as they tried to travel along the road.
If the beautiful Devon landscape isn’t thrilling enough for you on your staycation, why not brave the road and see if you can beat the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor!
The White Wizard and the White Mare - Alderly Edge
Deep in the Cheshire countryside, there is Alderly Edge. A long, steep slope that overlooks the surrounding villages. Most would assume it’s just a scenic landscape, perfect for a long summer’s day walk, but the locals know there’s more to it than that.
Hidden beneath the surface is a series of caves and tunnels supposedly home to the Wizard of Alderly edge. The tale tells of a farmer from the local village of Mobberly who was on his way to sell his white mare at the market when an old man approaches him and offers to buy his horse.
The farmer declines, believing he can get a better price elsewhere, but after no one at the market offered to buy his horse, on his journey home he encounters the old man once again and offers to buy his horse.
The farmer watched on as the old man struck his staff against the side of the cliff, and a huge iron gate appeared. Past the gate, and into the cave, were old knights, asleep by their horses. The old man, who the farmer now knew to be a wizard, explained that these knights would be the ones to fight the last battle of the world, but they needed one more horse.
The wizard led the farmer to another cave, full of treasure, and said in return for his horse he could take as much treasure as he could carry. Once he left, laden with riches, the iron gate sealed up behind him.
Since that day, no one has ever been able to find the entrance to the iron gates, but who knows. Next time you go for a walk around Alderly Edge, you may have something the White Wizard needs, and in turn, find all the riches you could ask for.
St Boniface and the Wishing Well - Isle of Wight
Near the traditional seaside resort of Ventor, nestled within the holm oaks on a steep slope, lies a wishing well.
The wishing well, more commonly known as St Boniface’s well, is stationed where St. Boniface was known to preach to the locals in around 710AD.
The well is interesting enough due to its unusual height and size. However, the more interesting story says that only those brave enough to climb down the steep narrow well, without looking backward, will be granted three wishes.
However, if you’re enjoying your stay in Ventor and you feel like attempting to climb down the well, remember that those who want to make the three wishes have to drink from the waters of the well; and if we’re being honest with you, we don’t recommend that.
The Old Coach House - Blackpool
One of those oldest buildings still standing on the South Shore is The Old Coach House.
It was built in 1851 as a vicarage and is still full of its original Tudor-style character, the now bed and breakfast is host to more than just families.
Patrons of the Old Coach have encountered a variety of ghosts. Many tell of a male figure in a black cloak and cap that will stare at them as they eat their meals. Others have told of an apparition of a woman referred to as Shirley, who hangs around the dining area. According to witnesses, she doesn’t interact with the guests and instead simply sits and watches over the room.
So, if you fancy being by the seaside, playing the arcades and experiencing a fright in the night, why not see if you can spot The Old Coach’s more permanent residents?
Ordsall Hall - Salford
Voted one of the most haunted buildings in the North West, Ordsall Hall has a creepy air surrounding it that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable.
The rich history of the building dates back to 750 years ago, known as the alleged site where Guy Fawkes developed The Gunpowder Plot.
However, The Star Chamber is where the real spooky stuff happens. Visitors have reported hearing the voices of small children, feeling shivers and cold drafts and some have even said to have felt ghostly hands on their shoulders.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can for a ghost walk with a medium who tries to make contact with the spirits.
A medium is said to have seen the ghost of John Radcliffe, former Lord of Ordsall Hall, when on a walk. Visitors have told stories of how they didn’t feel welcome in the Lord’s old bedroom, as he often grabbed visitors or tried shoving them out of the room.
The Green Fairy Hills - Bassenthwaite Lake, Lake District
The Fairy Hills of Cumbria surround Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria’s Lake District.
Just off the A66, stands a fairy castle on the border of the lake. According to legend, a man once climbed to the top of the fort on the hill, and after accidentally stumbling on a rock, he looked back to see a man dressed in green. When he looked again, the man had disappeared.
Other stories tell of children who were digging on the hill near the castle, where they found a hut with a slate roof. After running back to their parents to eat lunch, they returned to the same spot, only to find the hut had vanished.
Shortly after, the children’s father spotted two small people dressed in green and as soon as he had seen them, they disappeared.
John of Kent - Hertfordshire
John of Kent has many myths surrounding him, most of them centered around him outwitting the devil.
Known for selling his soul to the devil in exchange for supernatural powers, the most well-known story revolves around a bridge over the Monnow.
Between Kenchurch and Grosmon, the tale tells of the bridge that was built in just one day after John of Kent made a deal with the devil; should the bridge be built in a day, he can have the soul of the first person to cross it.
However, John lured a stray dog across the bridge and so the devil was never fully satisfied with the animal’s soul and is said to be seeking revenge on anyone who dares cross the bridge.
* Originally published in Sept 2020, updated in 2023.