North Yorkshire is full of folktales, myths and legends, lots of which focus on the giants who are said to have shaped our landscape. Take a look at some of our favourite tales of Yorkshire giants and plan a trip to see some of the impressive locations for yourself.
Wade the giant
Stories of Wade the giant can be found all over North Yorkshire. He’s said to have travelled right across Yorkshire with his wife Bell, building roads and castles as he went, some of which you can still visit today.
The castle ruins hidden in Mulgrave woods near Whitby and Pickering Castle are credited to Wade and Bell’s building skills. The two are said to have built the castles at the same time, but they only had one hammer. Luckily, they were happy to share and flung it to each other across the moors.
If you’ve ever driven towards the coast through the North Yorkshire Moors, it’s likely you’ve seen the Hole of Horcum. It’s an incredible sight, especially when the heather is in full bloom, and the 400m deep, half mile wide crater is a favourite for walkers.
Also known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, the Hole of Horcum is said to have been created when Wade, during a fight with Bell, grabbed a handful of earth to throw at her. We’re sure you’ll be pleased to know he missed! The mound of earth sailed past Bell and landed to form the outcropping Blakey Topping.
Wade and Bell made their home in the moors and created lots of roads to make their journeys easier. You can still travel along Wade’s Causeway in Wheedale Moor. The causeway covers around 25 miles from Malton to Eskdale and is believed to be around 6000 years old.
You can find the grave markers for might Wade, if you care to look. A six foot standing stone, appropriately named Wade’s Stone marks the head of the giant’s grave. 20 yards away, you’ll find another marker, also called Wade’s Stone, which marks the foot of the grave.
Rombald is another Yorkshire giant who had troubles with his wife. The story tells of a fight between Rombald and his wife as she was gathering stones in her skirt. During the fight, the stones flew from her skirt and landed in the formation we see today, known as the skirtful of stones on Ilkley moor.
The Cow and Calf Rocks on Ilkley moor are also said to have been created by Rombald and his wife. As he was running away from her during an argument, legend tells that he trod on the rock, splitting it in half and leaving the formation we still see today.
The Penhill giant
There are legends of the Penhill giant from Wensleydale. He’s thought to have made a fortress for himself in the dale and spent his days terrorising local maidens and stealing flocks of sheep to feed his massive appetite.
The blinded giant
In Dalton, near Thirsk, legend tells of a giant who was blinded by the human he had taken captive. This giant was particularly fond of bread made from bones and so made his home near a mill. He would capture men to feed his appetite, but one day decided to keep one of his victims to serve him.
This man laboured for the giant for many years without a break, so began to plan his escape. As the giant slept in the mill, the man eased the giant’s knife from his hand and using all his strength, stabbed the giant in the eye.
As the giant howled in pain, the man seized his opportunity. He killed the giant’s favourite dog and skinned it. Covering his body with the dog’s hide, he ran straight past the giant and secured his freedom.
The story says that the mound which formed by the mill is actually the final resting place of the giant.