Halloween 2020: From fairies to mermaids, the UK’s mythical beasts and where to find them
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Teggie: Lake Bala, Snowdonia
Llyn Tegid, or Bala Lake, is a grey blade of water cupped in the foothills of the Snowdonia National Park. Its murky depths are said to be home to Teggie, Wales’s answer to the Loch Ness monster, lurking 144ft down. Certainly there is something unique living here: the gwyniad, a prehistoric plankton feeder that looks like a herring but whose flesh apparently smells like cucumber.
Stay: Family-owned Lake VyrnwyHotel on the neighbouring lake has a spa and fishing rights, doubles from £144 B&B. Restrictions, including a travel ban, remain in place throughout Wales until 9 November, when new rules will be introduced. lakevyrnwy.com.
Cottingley Fairies: Cottingley, West Yorkshire
A suburban village near Bradford sounds an unlikely place for fairy gatherings, but when two young cousins produced photographs taken at a woodland stream at the beginning of the 20th century, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pronounced them credible. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Elsie and Frances admitted the hoax. Today, the adjacent Dales is a Dark Sky Discovery Park, which should make any dancing faeries visible.
Stay: Bradford and its surrounds are in tier two, with social mixing permitted only within single households, but the area will be moving to tier three restrictions from midnight on Sunday. truewellcottages.com.
Black Beasts: Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, and Dartmoor, Devon
Stories of the Black Dog, a hell-hound that stalks the countryside as a portent of imminent death, are as old as the hills. Recent manifestations have been the Beast of Bodmin plus a variety of big cat sightings on Dartmoor, where there’s plenty of tradition, as in the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. In Dartmoor’s Wistman’s Wood, the gnarly, stunted remnant of a 7,000-year-old forest, it is easy to start imagining things.
Stay: Dartmoor’s Moorland House hotel, by Hay Tor, is where Agatha Christie wrote much of her first mystery. Doubles from £140 B&B. West Devon is under tier one restrictions where the “Rule of Six” and 10pm curfew apply. moorlandhoteldartmoor.co.uk.
Hairy Boggarts: Yorkshire Dales
Hurtle Pot and its neighbour Jingle Pot are home to notorious “boggarts”. You will find both potholes in Chapel le Dale, just down the road from the photogenic Ribblehead Viaduct. By contrast, the pots are rather dismal, inter-connected water-filled holes in the ground. At times of flood they make a churning, throbbing sound which is supposedly the call of these malevolent bogeymen who hide in tunnels, marshes and other smelly places.
Stay: Ingleton, sandwiched between the Dales and the Forest of Bowland, is full of Victorian guest houses. The Pines has doubles from £60 B&B. Craven is under tier one restrictions. pinesingleton.com.
Black Annis : Leicester
Back in the 17th century, the blue-faced ogress Annis, or Agnes, is supposed to have clawed a cave out of the rock in the low-lying Dane Hills using her sharp fingernails. She is said to have preyed on unsuspecting children, fashioning clothes out of their skins. Those hills are now mostly Leicester suburbs, so head further out towards Ashby de la Zouch and suddenly you are among rolling woodlands and the Cistercian abbey of Mount Saint Bernard, whose evening vespers will sooth tormented souls.
Stay: Ashby de la Zouch, a market town with romantic castle ruins, is home to the Champneys Springs spa resort. Doubles from £315, including treatments and meals. North West Leicestershire is under tier one restrictions. champneys.com.
Dracula: Whitby, North Yorkshire
Yorkshire’s classic resort is a place of world-class fish and chips, split in half by the port on the River Esk. High on the south bank, above a bunch of tavern-lined medieval streets, stands the gaunt ruin of Whitby Abbey, Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula, and where his character first came ashore in the UK, thirsting for blood. If you want a challenge, then wander after dark among the gravestones surrounding the adjacent St Mary’s Church.
Stay: YHA Whitby is in a grand house right up by the abbey. Private rooms from £29. Whitby is under tier one restrictions. yha.org.uk.
Druids and believers in ancient traditions have long been attracted to Cornwall, with its stone circles and mischievous piskies. The latter are supposedly fond of dancing, after dark, and many a Cornish household has some kind of pisky charm. These creatures feature along the north coast in Boscastle’s Museum of Witchcraft, and in the collection of eccentric shops in Tintagel, which has long associations with King Arthur.
Stay: The Avalon Hotel in Tintagel has doubles from £84. Cornwall is under tier one restrictions. theavalonhotel.co.uk.
Mermaid: Peak District, Derbyshire
Normally associated with the sea, a mermaid is said to haunt a remote, still, clear pool up in the bleak uplands in the shadow of Kinder Scout. Legend has it that the water is salty thanks to a tunnel to the Atlantic, and that anyone who has the good fortune to see her while she is bathing will become immortal (although you do have to be here at sunrise on Easter Sunday).
Stay: The Fox House Hotel in Hathersage has doubles from £85, B&B. The Derbyshire Dales are under tier two restrictions. innkeeperslodge.com.
Kelpies: Scottish lochs
The best realisations of these legendary water horses are the two giant kelpie heads right by the M9 in Falkirk. Here they look innocent enough, but these shape-shifting creatures are said to emerge from water in alluring human form in search of prey. Tempt fate by lodging on the shore, but don’t answer the door to any naked maidens with horse’s hooves or seaweed in their hair.
Stay: A range of lodges and cottages are available on the shores of Perthshire’s Loch Earn, from £149 for three nights. Falkirk is under Central Belt restrictions, with non-essential travel currently advised against. lochsidecottages.net.
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