If you’ve never visited the county of Cornwall in the UK, I implore you to visit as it is one of the nicest parts of the UK, and that really is saying something.
When I first visited Cornwall, one thing I noticed was just how much different it felt to the rest of the UK. It felt more like it’s very own little country instead of a county, and when you consider the fact that ‘Cornish Time’ is a real thing down there, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Cornwall is home to beautiful countryside, amazing beaches and coastlines, tasty fish and chips, and some of the finest cider you could ever wish to taste (though don’t tell the locals in nearby Somerset that I said that). Not only that, though, but it is also a county steeped in ancient myth and mythology, which is what I want to talk to you about today.
From Piskies and Giants to Mermaids and Ghosts, here are se7en bizarre Cornish legends.
Hell’s Stone, Helston
The town and civil parish of Helston is a hugely popular town located on the Northern end of the Lizard peninsula, between Penzance and Falmouth.
As well as being a typically quaint Cornish town, Helston is also apparently the place where the gate to hell itself was blocked by a boulder.
The Cornish legend goes that, one day the devil himself was flying across Cornwall while carrying a large boulder so that he could block the gates of hell. Before he could do so, though St. Michael of Cornwall challenged the devil and a battle commenced.
During the scrap, the devil dropped the boulder to the ground and where it landed became known as Helston, or ‘Hell’s Stone’.
Now, if you visit the Angel Hotel, you will notice a large and unusually shaped rock built into the wall of this hotel, and it is allegedly this very stone which the devil himself dropped many moons ago.
The Legend of King Arthur, Tintagel
In a few of my earlier posts, you may remember that I have mentioned Tintagel Castle as one of my favourite attractions in the UK, and I stand by that comment.
Tintagel Castle, which is now largely in ruins, sits high atop cliffs overlooking the dramatic Atlantic Ocean. It is joined to the mainland by narrow and rugged roads and it is believed to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur.
The legend goes that King Uther Pendragon actually deceived the gorgeous Igerna, who was the wife of Gorlois, the Earl of Cornwall.
So infatuated with Igerna was the king, that he requested his magical assistant Merlin, to change his appearance so that he looked and sounded just like the earl so that he could sleep with Igerna.
He was able to seduce the beautiful lady, whereby getting her pregnant. 9 months later, or so, she gave birth to a baby boy who was named Arthur. He would go on to become the legendary King Arthur.
Cornwall’s main sources of income these days are Farming, fishing, and tourism. Years ago, though, mining played a key role in boosting Cornwall’s economy, specifically, tin mining.
Cornwall was home to numerous tin mines, many of which are now abandoned but can be seen along the coastline. In fact, the Cornish pasty is here thanks to mining, as the wives of tin miners deliberately baked the pasties with thick pastry that was designed to keep the food inside protected from the dirt on the miner’s hands. One half was savoury with meat and vegetables, and the other was sweet with sugar and fruit.
Knockers, though, are mythical beings which are thought to either be malevolent or helpful. The legend goes that they would knock on the walls of tin mines, to either warn the miners of an impending collapse or to cause and trap the miners by causing a collapse.
Some believed them to be the spirits of dead miners, while others considered them to be supernatural beings. Miners would leave pieces of pasty on the floor of the mines to try to keep them happy.
Again, not specific to any particular area of Cornwall, Piskies were believed to reside in barrows, ancient dolmans, and stone circles.
They are mischievous little creatures that were said to often be mistaken for children playing.
They would dance, sing, and play, and were led by ‘Joan the Wad’.
Giant Cormoran, St Michael’s Mount
Another very popular tourist attraction in Cornwall is St Michael’s Mount.
If you visit this castle at low tide, you will see the ancient ruins of what used to be a forest, now underwater. It is said that a giant named Cormoran used to live here.
He would often venture inland to feast on cows and sheep which he would steal from the locals. One boy, conveniently named Jack, decided that enough was enough and set a trap for Cormoran. He dug a deep pit which the giant fell into and died in.
Visitors to the mount can retrace the giant’s steps and look for what is said to be his fossilised heart, hidden in amongst the stone path.
Ralph The Wrath, Portreath
Another giant said to have caused a lot of problems for Cornish natives was Ralph the Wrath.
Ralph would hurl huge boulders from his cave on the cove of Portreath, at passing ships in order to sink them so that he could loot them and steal their treasure before stashing it in his cave.
Tourists can visit this very cave, which is now known as Ralph’s Cupboard.
The Mermaid of Lamorna, Lamorna
The village of Lamorna is a cove and a valley located in Western Cornwall. Now home to a National Park, it is said to be inhabited by a mermaid.
The story goes that on a rock on the outskirts of a cove, sits a mermaid who sings and combs her hair in order to try to lure fishermen to an early watery grave.
If you are lucky enough to see her, this means that a fierce storm is on the horizon. However, if you hear her sing, somebody’s days are marked as this spells out an impending shipwreck which will take place exactly 7 days from when she was witnessed singing.
Which Cornish legend was your favourite one?
Until next time stay safe, stay curious and don’t stop wandering!