They capture the imagination, tug at the heart strings and leave you mystically pondering the truth – but perhaps mostly excitingly Cornwall’s many and varied legends cast a whole new light on well-loved locations.
North Cornwall – King Arthur
Undoubtedly Cornwall’s most famous legend, many parts of Cornwall can claim Arthurian links but nowhere more so than north Cornwall. As the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, Tintagel Castle is the first port of call on the Arthurian trail, but the trail has many twists and turns and takes followers on a journey through St Nectan’s Glen, Slaughterbridge - the site of ‘King Arthur’s Stone’ which marks the spot of the last battle of Camlann - and onwards to Bodmin Moor. Here the wild and rugged landscape is strewn with tales of Arthur’s adventures and at the mythical Dozmary Pool even the most sceptical disbelievers will be caught up in the atmosphere and find themselves gazing longingly for a glimpse of Excalibur which is said to have been returned to the Lady of the Lake here.
St Michaels Mount – Giant Cormoran
Whether by boat or by foot the journey in itself to St Michael’s Mount is a mini adventure and waiting is a world of fanciful tales bursting with courage and heroics. Upon reaching the Mount which rises dramatically from the bay you will discover a land once tred by giants and as the story goes, one giant in particular named Cormoran. With a growling stomach he would wade ashore and feast on cows and sheep stolen from the villagers but he met his match in a local boy named Jack who dug a deep pit in which Cormoran fell to his death. And the tale continues – visitors to St Michael’s Mount today can retrace Jack’s steps and hunt down Cormoran’s heart hidden amongst the stone path.
Zennor – The Mermaid of Zennor
Easily the most romantic of Cornish legends, the love-struck tale of the Mermaid of Zennor highlights Cornwall’s connection to the sea and sees a beautiful mermaid capture the heart of a local chorister. With love as his guide he turns to a life beneath the shore leaving the villagers of Zennor to mourn his loss. As a lasting memento they carve a Mermaid Chair from wood which can still be seen in St Senara’s Church today and is thought to be over 600 years old. Listen carefully when you next visit Zennor - on a summer’s evening it is said that you hear the sound of the lovers singing together.
Portreath – Giant Wrath
In Portreath see the remains of boulders said to once be the weapon of choice for a fearsome giant named ‘Ralph the Wrath’ who lived in a collapsed sea cave. With an appetite for sailors and a craving for their treasure he would attack passing ships and fill his cave, now known locally as Ralph’s Cupboard, with his loot.
St Agnes – Giant Bolster
Another famous Cornish giant, Bolster, lauded over St Agnes frightening villagers into submission. But love was his downfall. In a bid to win over St Agnes, a beautiful local girl, he fell prey to her clever tactics and tried to prove his love for her by filling a hole at Chapel Porth with his blood. Unknowingly to Bolster the hole was bottomless and before he realised it was too late and he had lost too much blood. As a sign of this lovelorn tale, a hint of red lingers on the cliffs in Chapel Porth and to celebrate Bolster’s defeat the St Agnes Bolster Festival takes place every April/May.
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