Myths and legends of the South West

by Katie Rowe

Category: History & heritage
June 16 2014

Discover the weird and wonderful tales and legends that stretch back centuries in enchanting locations across south west England. 


Step into a story book, following in the footsteps of a giant with a trip to St Michael’s Mount. Home of the Cornish giant Cormoran, this island is steeped in myth and legend and topped by a turreted castle. Adjoining the castle is a medieval priory, built after the island was bequeathed to Benedictine monks by William the Conqueror. Together with the village and its bustling harbour, they make an idyllic place to wander. Head there in the summer months for a dip in the glistening azure waters surrounding the island at high tide.


Dartmoor has been a muse for writers throughout the centuries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have been inspired to write The Hound of the Baskervilles after hearing tales of Squire Richard Cabell while staying at the Duchy Hotel in Princetown, now the High Moorland Visitor Centre. Cabell, who had a passion for hunting, was infamous for his wicked ways and legend has it that when he died in 1677, a pack of black hounds ran howling across Dartmoor. Buried in the picturesque mill town of Buckfastleigh, Cabell’s coffin was placed beneath a heavy stone in a solid altar tomb and enclosed behind iron bars to prevent his escape. Take a look at the eerie structure for yourself, but be sure to keep an eye out for his hounds!


Wiltshire is a county awash with mystical landscapes. You only have to stroll along the Ridgeway, thought to be the oldest pathway in England, to get an idea of just how ancient this area is. Just think of all the prehistoric soles that have trodden the chalk path before you – spooky. Also spooky are the burial tombs of Wayland’s Smithy and the stone circle at Avebury, plus the daddy of stone circles resides in Wiltshire too - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge continues to be an archaeological enigma. Take an audio tour around the iconic landmark on Salisbury Plain to discover more about the mystery behind the megaliths.You can discover more about the intense mystery surrounding the giant megaliths and experience its incessant charm with an extensive audio tour around the landmark on Salisbury Plain. You’ll hear the various myths and legends conjured up through the centuries and learn about the ridiculously meagre tools used in the construction of the site – some of which can be seen in The Wiltshire Heritage Museum. 


Get interactive at the Roman Baths and discover the gory details about curses, witchcraft and horrible hygiene alongside costumed characters who tell tales of those who lived and worked there 2,000 years ago. There are plenty of  grisly artefacts too, such as reusable toilet sponges and ‘strigils’ – curved tools used for scraping oil off the skin in the days before soap. 

Discover more of England's myths and legends.

Katie Rowe

VisitEngland would like to invite you to take part in a short survey about our website, it should take no more than a couple of minutes.

Go to the survey

To add items to favourites …

… you need to be logged in.

If you already have an account, log in.

Or register a

Access your account

Enter your e-mail address or username.
Enter the password that accompanies your e-mail.
Forgot your password? Recover your account
Don't have an account? Register an account