England’s most spine-tingling myths and legends

Friday 21 April 2017

A country laced with myths and legends, England’s folklore has made its way to Hollywood blockbusters. Forest Holidays explores some of England’s most famous weird, wonderful and downright spooky tales...

St George and the dragon

St George slaying the dragon
Image credit: Shutterstock.

On St George’s Day each year there are re-enactments across England of a legend centuries old, told and retold by generations. The legend goes that Saint George, a Roman soldier in the 10th century, came across a town plagued by an evil dragon about to kill the king of England’s daughter. George is said to have slayed the dragon, freed the town and rescued the princess, thus becoming the patron saint of England.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men

Robin Hood's The Mighty Oak, Sherwood Forest
Image credit: Kelvin Stewart

A story much-loved by Hollywood, the English legend of Robin Hood became a figurehead for the triumph of good over evil – the foundation for many a tale since. This lovable outlaw and his band of Merry Men were praised for robbing the rich to give to the poor, outwitting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and remaining loyal to their beloved king – King Richard. You can visit The Mighty Oak, which stands tall in Sherwood Forest, to this very day.

The Beast of Bodmin Moor

Best of Bodmin Moor
Image credit: “Beast of Bodmin Moor” by Kevin Levell

An infamous myth in British folklore is the Beast of Bodmin Moor: a black panther-like beast seen roaming this wild and isolated landscape in Southwest England (and not usually a habitat for big cats). Practical-minded theories suggest that it’s an escaped animal and although there is no verifiable evidence, the Beast has been sighted no fewer than 60 times. Even a leopard-like skull has been found on the moor… Dare you go Beast-spotting on Bodmin?

King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone
Image credit: Shutterstock

The many legends of King Arthur have captured imaginations for centuries. The most famous of British kings, Arthur was said to have defended the country against Saxon invaders and is at the centre of numerous tales, achieving mythical status in Britain. Arguably the most famous of all tales is the Sword in the Stone. Legend says the magician Merlin placed a sword in a stone and whomever was able to pull it out would be the rightful king. Arthur pulls the sword called Excalibur from the stone and becomes the King of England.

The Ghost of The Grey Lady and Longleat House

Longleat House
Image credit: Shutterstock

While many myths and legends lend themselves to victory of good over evil, others focus on our love of mystery and romance, and the tale of The Grey Lady (sometimes referred to as The Green Lady) at Longleat House is one of passion, love and loss.

The wife of the 2nd Viscount of Weymouth Thomas Thynne, Lady Louisa Carteret was rumoured to be having an affair with a footman. After discovering the affair, the Viscount in a fit of rage pushed the footman down the stairs, breaking his neck. Thomas was said to have had the body buried in the cellar and told Lady Louisa that the footman left without a word. She didn’t believe it and, thinking the footman had been imprisoned in the house, searched every room each night until she died. Legend says that Lady Louisa still searches for her true love and has been spotted by staff and visitors to the house...

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