Mystical stories passed down through generations are woven into the very fabric of British culture. Follow the narrative of these five legends to make sure you bring back a few magical tales of your own…
1. The Loch Ness Monster
A ‘Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness’ was the subject of an article written 85 years ago and, since then, the myth of the Loch Ness Monster endures.
Want to do a bit of your own Nessie spotting? Loch Ness – near Inverness in north Scotland – is an absolute stunner of a lake and you can start your search from the magnificent Urquhart Castle on the loch’s shores (there’s also 1,000 years of castle history to discover, should you want a little break from your Nessie search), or head out on one of Loch Ness by Jacobite’s boats, which sail out onto the mysterious dark waters. Check out the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition to see photos and hear eye-witness accounts of sightings and make sure you have a chat with local Steve Feltham. He’s devoted himself to spotting the Loch Ness Monster since 1991 with his Nessie-Serry Independent Research. His base is a campervan on the Loch’s shore, and from there he dispenses Nessie lore to those interested in his research.
2. Robin Hood
Fan of the forest-dwelling outlaw? Pull on your best green tights and put Sherwood Forest and the city of Nottingham in central England on your must-visit list immediately! They certainly know how to bring the story of its greatest legend to life. Brace yourself for the sounds, sights and smells of medieval Nottingham on an interactive journey at the Robin Hood Experience. Explore Nottingham Castle then take a selfie with the Robin Hood statue outside. Or, unravel the city’s history with Robin Hood himself – expert of Nottinghamshire history Ezekial Bone – on the Robin Hood Town Tour.
There are also several Robin Hood-themed events throughout the year, including the Robin Hood Pageant (March), Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest (late August) and the Robin Hood Beer Festival (October).
3. The Welsh Dragon
Emblazoned on the Wales national flag the red dragon has been the proud symbol of the nation for centuries. Rumour has it that a Celtic king, Vortigern, wished to build a castle on the mountain of Dinas Emrys but was told by a young boy (who turned out to be Merlin) that where he chose was above an underground lake where two dragons lay sleeping. When the king’s men started digging, they found one red and one white dragon, who fought fiercely, with the red dragon triumphing. This dragon was said to represent Vortigen’s people and (according to 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth) was a prophecy of the coming of King Arthur, whose father’s name ‘Uther Pendragon’ means ‘Dragon’s Head.’ Hike up the path to the ‘dragon territory’ of Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia National Park in north Wales…just don’t wake any sleeping dragons.
4. King Arthur
King Arthur’s mythical status is deep-rooted in British culture – and he’s even been the subject of a film or two. Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, south-west England, was once the seat of Cornish kings and it was probably here that inspired good old Geoffrey of Monmouth to name it as the place where King Arthur was conceived.
Travel on to the north Cornwall town of Slaughterbridge and discover the story behind the legend at The Arthurian Centre, as well as a 1,500-year-old inscribed stone (also known as King Arthur's Grave) and the fields where King Arthur and Mordred are said to have met for their last battle. And many believe Glastonbury in the west England region of Somerset is where Camelot was located, making it one of England’s most mystical destinations.
5. The Irish Giant
Giant’s Causeway on the north coast of Northern Ireland is a perfect location to immerse yourself in giant myths.
How did its awe-inspiring hexagonal basalt columns come about? One story is that Northern Ireland's iconic causeway was built by Irish giant Fionn man Curnhaill when challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonne (the slightly less legendary tale is that they’re the result of an ancient volcanic eruption). Let yourself be swept up by the giants’ story and unlock the secrets to further mysteries in the Giant’s Causeway’s fantastic Visitor Centre.