The North York Moors: Land of myths & legend!Posted on
The North York Moors is a stunning place, forged by nature, and shaped over generations – where peace, colour, and beauty rub shoulders with a rich history and a warm welcome. On top of this, it is also the place of many a myth and legend. Here are some of the places you can visit linked to the age-old folklore of moors.
Young Ralph’s Cross
Ralph was a young man who used to guide the nuns from the Cistercian Priory across the moors whenever they needed him to. Whilst he was out walking one morning he came across a hand sticking out of the snow, and when he dug down he discovered the body of a traveling workman, who had fallen to sleep in the snow. It really upset Ralph that this man had met such an unfortunate end so he decided to erect a cross with a big ‘R’ on it just a few miles from the inn. It was hoped by seeing the cross other travelers would then see the inn and not meet the same fate as the traveling workman. Ralph also created a hollow in the cross so that richer people could leave coins for poorer travelers to help them on their way.
It is believed that creatures called Hobgoblins, boggles, bogarts, hobs, live in the moors making their homes in caves and coves on the coast and around the moorland area. One such place is Boggle hole at Robin Hood’s Bay. Boggles have always been believed to be mischievous creatures that play tricks on the people that live nearby, and local people believed that every dale had their own boggle. They were thought to have often hung around farmers and families, helping out with the workload and chores in exchange for a reward such as a pale of fresh cream. The creatures worked in secret and would get upset if they were not rewarded.
The Wade’s Stones
This 6-foot stone has stood for centuries in the North York Moors near the village of East Barnby. The legend behind the stones is that it marks the mysterious folklore character ‘Wade The Giants’ Grave. The story is that Wade the giant lived many years ago with his giant wife bell in a castle near Lythe, they both built two other castles also, these were; Old Mulgrave Castle and Pickering Castle.
They both lived peacefully, raising cattle, and to help with moving the cattle around the moors they built a road, this wound around the moors crossing some of the highest and wildest parts as it went. This became known as Wades Causeway.
The stone piles found around the moors are believed to be from when the giantess Bell’s apron strings snapped when she was carrying too many rocks to manage. The Hole of Horcum, which is a natural amphitheater, is said to have come from a time when the two giants had a row and wade scooped up the land to throw at Bell, and when he missed the mound created by this became ‘Blakey Topping’.
If you would like to see these legendary places, you can do it in a spectacular 5-mile walk that starts at Saltergate.
The story behind ‘Beggars Bridge’ is that the son of a poor sheep farmer, Tom Ferres, fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy Glaisdale landowner, Agnes Richardson. However, because Tom was from a poor farming family they were forbidden to marry, so Tom decided he would head out to see to earn his fortune. Before he left he wanted to see Agnes but he couldn’t get across the river and had to leave without a farewell kiss, it was then that he vowed if he ever got rich he would build a bridge.
Tom spent many years at sea and ended up earning his fortune as a pirate in the west indies. Upon his return to England, he was a wealthy man which meant he was able to marry Agnes and true to his word he built the bridge so that others would not get stuck by the river in the future.
White Mare Crag
The White Mare can be seen from quite a distance on a hillside in the North York Moors and is a place that many a tourist visits each year. The legend behind this tourist hot spot is that the abbot from Rievaulx Abbey owned a beautiful white mare which was famous for its speed. A local Knight, Sir Harry was jealous of the abbot and wanted to ride the white mare. So one day when the abbot was alone drinking in an inn, Sir Harry joined him and they drank the afternoon away, when the abbot was drunk Sir Harry told him a lie that a local farmer was in need of the abbot’s help. The knight convinced the abbot to take his horse rather than the mare, claiming it was stronger and faster, and he would bring the white mare for him.
However, the ride soon turned into a race, and as the abbot took over on the knight’s bigger horse, he began to drive the mare harder, but he hadn’t accounted for the rough terrain. As he got closer to the cliff he saw off to the side the abbot laughing, however, he had grown two horns and a long forked tail, unfortunately, the knight was so shocked he had no chance to stop the mare and they both plummeted off the cliff edge. The abbot was not at the side of the road, he and his steed, plunged into the Gormire Lake, which created clouds of steam and left the water bubbling, boiling, and as dark as night.
People still believe that to this day on dark and stormy nights the mare can be seen plunging off White Mare Crag.
We hope you have enjoyed discovering some of the Myths behind some of the places in the North York Moors. To find out more about places to visit in Yorkshire head to our blog page.