The most mysterious myths and legends of Cornwall
Cornwall was once home to plenty of legends and superstitions, here are just a few of them.
The south west is a beautiful and breath taking place, with a rich history going back millennia. The first settlers arrived in Cornwall around 10 000BC so it's unsurprising that many stories have been told over the years about the landscape and people within. In no particular order, here are just a handful of our favourite myths and legends from the county.
No list of myths and legends in Cornwall would be complete without this one. Perhaps the most famous legend in the British Isles, King Arthur was believed to have been born at Tintagel Castle in North Cornwall. That is not the only part of his connection to our wonderful home, however, as many stories are told of his achievements across the county. St Nectan’s Glen in Slaughterbridge is the site of ‘King Arthur’s Stone’, a marker for the last battle of Camlann. This skirmish would be Arthur's last ride and it is said he was fatally wounded along with his enemy, Mordred, bringing a close to his reign.
Bodmin Moor is also a popular spot for Arthurian legends. Dozmary Pool is said to be the home of the Lady of the Lake, and many have gathered there to try and catch a glimpse of the infamous Excalibur.
Hurlers Stone Circles
Next up is some divine retribution whose mark can still be seen today, just a few miles out of Liskeard. The Hurlers are a group of standing stones on Bodmin Moor that are now looked after by the Cornwall Heritage Trust. But many years ago, it was believed that the Hurlers were in fact men who were turned to stone after daring to play the game of hurling on a Sunday. In a similar fashion, the Pipers not that far away are said to be petrified pipe players who were also foolish enough to play on the day of rest.
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St Michaels Mount
Giants are also a staple of Cornish myths ranging from mildly irritating to downright evil. The story of Cormoran the Giant may remind you of a little old fairy tale too. It is said he would wade over to St Michaels Mount and steal sheep and other livestock from the local villagers. After many years of this happening, one villager by the name of Jack grew tired of this repeated cycle. He dug a deep pit and lured the giant into it where Cormoran fell to his death. Legend says that the giant's heart can still be found somewhere on the mount.
This beautiful bay is a prime spot for visitors, but do you know where it gets its name? The story goes that a local woman, Mother Ivey, was in fact a white witch of some repute who excelled in healing. But when a local pilchard manufacturer, the Hellyers, refused to help starving villagers, she took a slightly darker path. The pilchards were instead ground up and used as fertiliser for a field, so Mother Ivey cursed the plot and claimed ‘if ever its soil was broken, death would follow’. Ignoring her warning, the Hellyers continued to use the land and their eldest son was soon thrown from his horse whilst riding through the field and died.
St Agnes and the Giant Bolster
Another pesky giant now in the form of Bolster. He took a romantic interest in a local girl called Agnes who quickly grew tired of his attention. She told him that he could prove his affection by filling a hole at Chapel Porth with his blood. Thinking this was a simple task, Bolster plunged his knife into his arm and watched as the hole filled... Except it didn't, no matter how much liquid fell into the hole, the level never reached the top. This is because Agnes had in fact tricked him and the hole actually led through the cliff and into the ocean. Bolster eventually died from the blood loss and it is said that the red tinge to the cliffs you can see today was caused by his blood.
Every year, the village celebrates the St Agnes Bolster Festival where they recreate the events of the story with puppets and other theatrics. It take place on May Day and is well worth a visit.
Helston's Hell Stone
Last but by no means least, we have a classic tale of good and evil. Legend says that the Devil was once flying over Cornwall, carrying a very large stone - why we may never now. As he travelled, St Michael appeared and challenged him to a battle. In the skirmish, the Devil dropped the giant stone and the place where it fell became known as Hell’s Stone or Helston. If you've been to the Angel Hotel in Coinagehall Street, the stone built into its wall is said to be that very stone.
After St Michael's defeat of the Devil, the locals took to the street and danced in celebration. Some say this was the origin of the Furry Dance which still takes place on the nearest Saturday to the feast day of the town’s patron saint, St Michael the Archangel.
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