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Legends of the UK

You may have heard of the Loch Ness Monster, but what about the River Conwy Afanc? Show and Stay takes a look at some of the lesser-known UK myths and mysteries, from the most haunted village to notorious witches.

Bran the Blessed

This bloodthirsty giant of Welsh mythology is the protagonist of many a gory folktale. His head is said to be buried beneath the Tower of London, facing France in order to ward off invasion. Since the name Bran means ‘raven’ in Welsh, it is thought to be linked to the legend of the ravens in the Tower, whose presence is also thought to prevent attack. Why not take a stroll past this impressive landmark before taking in a <a href=”” target=”_blank”>London show</a> in the nearby West End?

The Conwy Afanc

Another Welsh myth, this time a terrifying lake monster said to resemble a crocodile or a beaver with a horse’s head, who lurks in a pool on the River Conwy in North Wales. Its violent writhing is thought to have been the cause of huge floods which drowned the entire population of Britain, all except for Dwyfan and Dwyfach, from whom all later Britons are said to have descended.

Pluckley, the Most Haunted Village in England

From phantom highwaymen to ghostly horse-drawn coaches, Pluckley is riddled with haunted happenings. Look out for the misty figure of a gypsy woman smoking a pipe on the bridge, or a black-silhouetted ghost in the ruined windmill. Both a Red Lady and a White Lady are thought to haunt the grounds of St Nicholas’ Church, while a Tudor Lady can be heard calling her dogs nearby. The Black Horse pub has a mischievous spectre that’s known to steal people’s clothes, while The Dering Arms boasts an old lady in a bonnet and The Blacksmiths Arms, a phantom cavalier.

The Green Children of Woolpit

This Suffolk village is known for its curious folktale of two children of ‘unusual’ colour who appeared in the 12th Century. The lost little ones spoke in an unfamiliar language and refused to eat anything except green beans. When finally they learned the local lingo, the girl explained that they had come from ‘St Martin’s Land’, an underground world where it was always dusk and all inhabitants were green.

The Black Lady of Bradley Woods

This beautiful and bereft apparition is said to haunt these Lincolnshire woods dressed in black and weeping incessantly. Legend has it that she is the wife of a woodsman who lived in a cottage there in the 13th Century, and who was called away to fight in the War of the Roses. Left to raise her baby alone in the woods, the young wife was one day attacked by cavalrymen and her baby was stolen. It is thought that if you enter the woods on Christmas Eve and shout “Black Lady, Black Lady, I’ve stolen your baby!” three times, she will appear to you, although this is unsubstantiated.

The Lincoln Imp

The iconic imp is a well-known symbol of the city of Lincoln. According to legend, Satan sent two imps to Earth in order to carry out all sorts of evil mischief. The imps headed to Lincoln cathedral, where they smashed up tables and chairs and tripped up the Bishop. An angel came out of a hymnbook and turned one of the imps to stone. The second imp is thought to have escaped to Grimsby, where he suffered a similar fate.

The Dun Cow

This is a common motif in English folklore, ‘dun’ being an old-fashioned word for a brown-grey colour. A savage cow-beast is  said to have been slain by Guy of Warwick on Dunsmore Heath, the huge tusk of which is still on display at Warwick Castle. Story says that the cow belonged to a giant, and one day broke loose after becoming enraged at the heavy demands being made on its inexhaustible milk.

Upsall Castle Pots of Gold

This North Yorkshire castle is the site of an old legend in which a man dreamed that if he went to London Bridge, he would experience incredible luck. Hoping it would come true, he walked the distance from Upsall to the capital, where he proceeded to wait and wait. A Quaker came by and asked him what he was up to, and he told the man about his curious dream. The Quaker laughed and said he too had had a dream, that if he travelled to Upsall Castle, he would find a pot of gold buried under a bush. The first man immediately returned to his home, where he dug up the aforementioned shrub, and did indeed find buried treasure there.

The Witch of Wookey Hole

This limestone stalagmite is a prominent feature of these Somerset caves, and the focus of local legend, which tells of how it was once a witch who cursed all romance to fail. An angry man sought revenge on the old crone after his relationship failed, and after stalking her to her cave home, splashed her with holy water, which immediately turned her to stone. She remains in the caves to this day as a popular tourist attraction.

Goblin Combe

Also in Somerset, this is a beautiful expanse of woodland ridges, home to rare ferns and hazel dormice. You’ll also find over 30 species of butterfly, and if you’re very lucky, a fairy or two. Watch out —they’re thought to live in the rocks there, leading lost children home, but kidnapping wayward adults!

This post was written and provided by Show and Stay, the providers of weekend theatre breaks in London.

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