Walking myths and legends

Ancient trees at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Myths and legends bring the landscape to life. These walks have been selected by our staff to give you a sense of the folklore you can discover while enjoying the places we care for.

The River Plym, Devon
Walking trail

Plym Valley, Devon 

If you’re on the hunt for myths and legends, it’s hard to beat Dartmoor. Hunkered down among the trees in the Plym Valley you’ll find the Dewerstone - named after ‘Dewer’ or devil who is said to command a pack of demonic ‘Wisht hounds’. Appearing as a figure in black, he lures or hunts travellers to the top of the Dewerstone and then disappears, leaving them to fall into the jaws of his hounds. It is even said that one year following snowfall, the traces of a cloven hoof were found alongside a human footprint on the way to the summit.

Autumn Killerton
Walking trail

Killerton, Devon 

This walk will take you to the top of Dolbury Hill – a now-extinct volcano that was once the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It’s also said to be the hiding place for a huge mass of treasure, guarded by the Killerton Dragon who also watches over the house. If you do happen to find any treasure on the hill it’s probably a good idea to leave it there, otherwise you might wake the beast from its slumber…

The Devil's Dyke in East Sussex
Walking trail

Devils Dyke, West Sussex 

According to local legend, the Devil got so annoyed at churches springing up in Sussex that he began digging a dyke to let in the sea water and drown the people. As he was throwing clumps of dirt around he accidentally created new features including Chanctonbury Ring and Rackham Hill. Luckily for the locals the Devil was scared off by the cry of a cockerel, and left the dyke only half finished. The story says that when the Devil perished he was buried at the bottom of the dyke, and if you run around the Devil's Grave seven times holding your breath, he will appear.

Looking down on Dragon Hill from White Horse Hill
Walking trail

White Horse Hill, Oxfordshire 

The chalk horse figure on White Horse Hill is one of England’s most recognisable sites, but did you know that this landscape also hides another legend? There are lots of locations all over the country which are said to have been the site of St George’s battle with the dragon, and the aptly named Dragon Hill is one of them. Follow our route to see the distinctive mound, and decide for yourself whether you think this is the true place of legend.

River Lugg flowing through Pokehouse Wood
Walking trail

Croft Castle, Herefordshire 

Local legend says that the name of Pokehouse Wood is derived from ‘Puck’, the mischievous imp of English folklore. The wood’s winding paths had a reputation for leading travellers astray as they tried to get home to Aymestrey - particularly innocent young maidens. So concerned was one local resident of the village that he donated money to employ someone to ring the bell at Aymestrey Church just before sunset in order to warn travellers in the wood that darkness was approaching.

Early morning on the Blickling Hall estate with the house reflected in the water of the lake, and a bluish mist all around
Walking trail

Blickling, Norfolk 

Blickling Hall stands on the site of an older medieval manor, which is thought to have been the birthplace of Anne Boleyn. She was famously beheaded on the orders of her husband Henry VIII, and now her headless ghost is said to return every year on 19 May, the anniversary of her execution. As night falls she arrives in a coach drawn by a headless horseman, with her own head in her lap. The moment the coach arrives in front of the house it vanishes into thin air, leaving headless Anne to roam in the hall until daylight.

Visitors at the Penshaw Monument, Sunderland
Walking trail

Penshaw Monument, Tyne and Wear 

Legend says that Penshaw Hill was once the haunt of a malevolent dragon. The story begins with young John Lambton, who caught a worm on an unsuccessful fishing trip and dropped it into the village well. The worm grew into a dragon, and Lambton discovered that his punishment for introducing this terror to the village was to kill the first person he saw once the dragon had been slain. He managed to cut off the dragon's head, but was horrified when his father ran out to congratulate him. Lambton was unable to kill his father, so instead the family was cursed for nine generations.

Gelert's stone monument at Beddgelert
Walking trail

Beddgelert, Snowdonia 

Snowdonia is the perfect landscape for myths and legends, like the tragic tale of 13th-century Prince Llywelyn and his faithful hound Gelert. One day the Prince returned from hunting to be met by Gelert, who was stained with blood. Llywelyn rushed to his baby son but found only an empty, bloodied cot. Mad with grief Llywelyn stabbed his dog, but in the next instant heard a baby’s cry and found his son unharmed beside the body of a slain wolf. The prince, filled with remorse for his mistake, never smiled again.

View of the Giant's Causeway
Walking trail

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim 

Follow the blue trail at Giant’s Causeway to discover an other-worldly landscape of basalt columns that is truly the stuff of legend. Local folklore claims that the Causeway was built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool, in an attempt to cross to Scotland to fend off his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. Scientists discovered the real cause behind the rock formations in the late 18th century, but a walk along the clifftops is still sure to raise a sense of mystery.

A mandrake sculpture from the folklore trail at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

Share your superstitions and local folklore 

Do you have a local superstition? A family tradition that's been passed down through the generations? A folk story from a place near you? We'd love to hear your story.