Legends and traditions

The Yorkshire Dales has a wealth of local traditions and legends. Here are just a few from the local area.

According to tradition, the people of Austwick saw the cuckoo as the harbinger of spring and good weather and so when one roosted in a tree they built a wall around it in the hope of keeping it there. Unfortunately the wall wasn't high enough so the cuckoo simply flew away. A Cuckoo Festival is still held in summer.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned here at Bolton Castle. She apparently escaped and made her way towards Leyburn but lost her shawl on the way, hence the name The Shawl of the cliff edge outside Leyburn, a well-know beauty spot with excellent views, and only a short walk away from Honeykiln Cottage
Malham Safari takes place over eight days in May when the villagers and local school build sculptures all around the village.
The Tosside Fox Festival is held in July when families and businesses make a fox and dress it to a theme before putting it on public display. In Kettlewell the Scarecrow Festival sees quirky and often intricate models around the village.
Held at The George Inn in Hubberholme, the annual land-letting auction is known as the Hubberholme Parliament and is on the first Monday night of the year. It dates back centuries. Local farmers gather to bid for 16 acres of pastureland owned by the church, the proceedings of which go to help the poor people of the parish. The vicar oversees the proceedings and sits in the House of Lords (dining room) while the bidding takes place in the House of Commons (the bar). The highest bid made when the candle flickers out wins the auction.
The Barghest is a legendary monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws said to frequent a Troller's Ghyll and rumoured to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles.
The nooks, caves and crannies of Troller's Ghyll are also said to be the home of trolls and perhaps other sorts of similarly diabolical and fiendishly unpleasant beings lying in wait for the unsuspecting rambler...
A grizzly event took place in Grassington in April 1766, when local blacksmith Tom Lee killed Dr Richard Petty following a cock fight when the doctor won a substantial amount of money.
Clapham's manmade lake was expanded in the 19th century, and provided pressure for water turbines to supply electricity to the Ingleborough Estate, apparently making Clapham the first place to have electric street lighting.
Tunnels were reputedly built in Thwaite Lane Clapham to Austwick so the Farrer family from Ingleborough Hall could enjoy their estate and lake without having to come into contact with the peasants using the drovers route of Thwaite lane!
Until 1580, St. Andrews Church, Grinton in Swaledale was one of only a few consecrated burial grounds so people had to carry their dead up to 16 miles along a route that became known as the Corpse Way . The Corpse Way avoided villages for fear that the spirit of the dead would be enticed to return. This fear came from Norse mythology, in which the corpse way was thought to mirror the last journey of the soul from the earth to the underworld. The bodies were carried in wicker coffins that could be rested along the route on large flat stone slabs, some of which can still be seen today.
In 1692, Adam Barker was the last person in Swaledale to be fined for sticking to the local tradition of burial in linen, breaking the law which required bodies to be buried in wool. His daughter, Ann, is buried inside Grinton Church, and a stone slab records the £5 fine he was forced to pay.
Neddy Dick was the nickname of Richard Alderson of Keld who died in 1927. His fame spread far and wide in the dales after his creation of a musical "rock" instrument , made of limestone rocks fashioned to sound a full scale of notes when hit with a special hammer. He took this "band" around the local shows and fairs, to the great delight of all who heard it.
The Terrible Knitters of Dent were the most famous hand knitters of the Dales. Their amazing dexterity is recounted in full at the Dent Village Heritage Centre, together with displays of the special tools involved.
George Hodgson died in 1715 aged 94. Years before his death, there were many rumours about his health and longevity attributing it to dealings with the Devil and Vampires . He was buried in a corner of the churchyard, but later several people reported seeing him walking by moonlight. After their mysterious deaths his body was exhumed, a stake driven through his heart then laid to rest next to the church porch. The hole in the coffin lid is still there.
In common with many bridges of the same name, legend holds that at the Devil's Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale, the Devil appeared to an old woman, promising to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross over it. When the bridge was finished the woman threw bread over the bridge and her dog chased after it, thereby outwitting the Devil.