Myths and Legends

Test your knowledge of myths and legends with our quiz. Click on each question to reveal the answer.

  • Q. 3 - According to legend, which saint, who was the abbess of Whitby, drove snakes away from the area by casting them over the cliffs?

    Answer: St Hild

    St Hild was the abbess of Whitby in the 7th century. Later legends say that Whitby was plagued by snakes. Hild was asked to intervene, and she drove the serpents away by quoting Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: 'Be removed and cast into the sea.' The snakes fell over the cliffs and smashed their heads, and then more prayers from Hild miraculously turned their heads to stone. You can still find the remains of these snakes on the beach below the abbey – although they’re actually fossilised ammonites that are millions rather than hundreds of years old.

  • Q. 6 - According to legend, how did a bishop decide where to build Salisbury Cathedral?

    Answer: He ordered an archer to shoot an arrow from Old Sarum's ramparts and he built the cathedral where it fell

    In around 1220 Bishop Richard Poore decided to build a new cathedral. According to legend, he decided its site by ordering an archer to shoot an arrow from Old Sarum's ramparts – or, some say, he shot the arrow himself. Where the arrow fell, he built what is now Salisbury Cathedral. But there's a problem with this tradition. Salisbury Cathedral is almost two miles from Old Sarum. So it's nearly nine times further away than even the strongest trained archer with the mightiest medieval longbow could shoot the lightest 'flight' arrow. 

  • Q. 7 - Who assumes the title of the legendary ‘King of Piel’ on a small island off Barrow-in-Furness today?

    Answer: The landlord of the island's Ship Inn

    In June 1487, Lambert Simnel's army landed to seize the throne of England from King Henry VII. Really the 10-year-old son of an Oxford craftsman, Lambert claimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, who Henry's Yorkist enemies regarded as the rightful king of England. Lambert invaded Piel with an army of around 8,000 soldiers but soon moved on to total defeat. Lambert was pardoned and spent the rest of his life as a kitchen servant and then a falconer at the Tudor court. He'd only ever been 'King of Piel'. There's still a King of Piel today – the landlord of the island's Ship Inn, who takes on the title with the pub. 

  • Q. 10 - What ladies are said to haunt the ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon?

    Answer: The Blue Lady and the White Lady

    Deep in woodland overlooking a picturesque valley, the medieval defences and dramatic shell of an Elizabethan mansion at Berry Pomeroy look just the place for spooks. So Georgian and Victorian fiction writers created a whole bunch of them, based on the mistaken belief that the castle was a Norman fortress, scene of many dark deeds. Before long, the imaginary Blue Lady and the White Lady, the ghostly riders and the murdered baby from these made-up tales began to materialise as 'real' ghosts.


  • Q. 11 - What animal was said to guard the severed head of St Edmund at Bury St Edmunds Abbey?

    Answer: A wolf

    St Edmund was captured by invading Vikings in AD869 but refused to give up his Christian faith. So the Viking leader Ivarr the Boneless had him tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, 'like the spines of a hedgehog'. Then his ribs were cut and bent away from his spine. Finally, as he still called on Christ, Edmund's head was hacked off and hidden in dense thorn bushes. Edmund's followers discovered the head guarded by a huge white wolf: the wolf shadowed them until the saint's head and body were brought together, and then vanished.


  • Q. 12 - Who might you find sitting on the Countless Stones of Little Kits Coty in Kent if you try and count them?

    Answer: The Devil

    Kit's Coty House is a prehistoric tomb chamber, with three huge sarsen stones topped by a massive capstone. Little Kit's Coty was once similar, but now it's a jumble of fallen Countless Stones. They've been attracting visitors and rival legends for centuries. Both monuments allegedly have strange powers. If you walk round it three times at full moon, Kit's Coty will swallow up anything placed on the capstone. And don't try to count the Countless Stones or you might find the Devil sitting on one of them.


  • Q. 13 - A witch disguised as what long-eared animal is said to haunt Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire?

    Answer: A hare

    Before the castle was demolished during the Civil War, local tax officials used to meet there once a year. But their meetings were often upset by 'a certain spirit in the likeness of a hare', which ran between their legs and sometimes tripped them up. Once they chased it into a castle cellar, which had no means of escape, yet though they searched every corner, they couldn't find it. Another time hounds were sent in after it but shot out yelping with fright.


  • Q. 14 - According to the 13th-century writer Gervase of Tilbury, a swineherd working for Peveril Castle's lord found what in the vast Peak Cavern that sits below it?

    Answer: Broad open country, bathed in summer sun, where people were gathering the harvest

    Peveril Castle is one of the oldest Norman castles in England. Its Domesday Book name was 'Peak's Arse', from the vast Peak Cavern that lies almost directly beneath it, and was believed to be an entrance to Hell. According to the 13th-century writer Gervase of Tilbury, a swineherd working for the castle's lord found something more enchanting there. On a freezing midwinter day, he lost a sow that was about to have piglets, and guessed she'd strayed into the cavern. Not daring to tell his master he'd abandoned a valuable animal, he overcame his fears and ventured in. After wandering through dark passages, he found himself to his amazement in broad open country, bathed in summer sun, where people were gathering the harvest. 



  • Q. 15 - What did workmen supposedly find in the walls of Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire while demolishing the abbey?

    Answer: A room containing the body of a monk

    The story goes that Sir Vincent Skinner demolished the abbey to build himself a Jacobean mansion on the site. But ‘when it was finished, it fell quite down to the bare ground, without any visible cause, and broke in pieces all the rich furniture that was therein.' It's also said that workmen demolishing the abbey found a room containing the body of a monk, sitting at a table with book, pen and paper, all of which fell to ashes when touched. 




  • Q. 16 - A fiddler is said to have disappeared in a secret passage linking Binham Priory with what nearby abbey?

    Answer: Walsingham Abbey

    A secret passage is said to link Binham with nearby Walsingham. It was patrolled above ground by a ghostly black-clad monk – possibly one of several mad or wicked priors from the monastery's troubled history – who seemed to be searching for something. A local fiddler called Jimmy Griggs, with his dog Trap, volunteered to explore the passage, fiddling all the way so that his friends could trace his progress. But when they reached Fiddler's Hill the music suddenly stopped, and Trap came dashing out terrified. Jimmy Griggs was never seen again, and some said the monk had got him.




  • Q. 17 - What is said to have been spotted in the waters of Falmouth Bay below Pendennis Castle in Cornwall?

    Answer: A sea monster


    In 1975–76, many people reported sighting a sea monster up to 18 metres long, usually said to have two humps, a very long snaky neck and a small head, rather like the Loch Ness monster. Years later, a local joker admitted making up his sightings, persuading other hoaxers to back his story and even sending blurred fake photos of the Falmouth Bay 'morgawr' – Cornish for 'sea giant' – to local newspapers.





  • Q. 18 - According to legend, how are local people said to have saved Wenlock Priory’s bells and treasures before Henry VIII closed it down?

    Answer: They buried them under a haunted hill and in a church graveyard

    Stories still firmly believed in the 20th century told how local people saved the priory's bells and treasures before Henry VIII closed it down. They buried the bells under a hill haunted by the ghost of a 'conjuror' or wizard; no thief would dare to dig for them there. But over the years the hiding place was forgotten, until a farmer tried to plough the hill. When his plough horses broke into a sweat and refused to move, people knew there was something uncanny beneath. So the vicar dug and found the bells, and hung them in the parish church. The priory's treasures, meanwhile, were buried in the holy ground of Easthope's church graveyard, with a death curse laid on them to make doubly sure.




  • Q. 19 - Tintagel Castle is said to have connections with which doomed lovers?

    Answer: Tristan and Isolde

    Dragon-slaying Tristan was the nephew of Cornish King Mark, who lived at Tintagel. He went to Ireland to collect his uncle's bride, the beautiful Isolde, famed for her healing skills. But both Tristan and Isolde drank a magic love potion by mistake, and fell hopelessly in love. Isolde married Mark all the same, yet continued to love Tristan in secret. Eventually the king found out, and Tristan was exiled to Brittany, where he was badly wounded. So he sent for Isolde to heal him; her ship was to show white sails if she was aboard. Tristan's jealous new wife told him its sails were black, and he died of despair; Isolde then died of a broken heart. 




  • Q. 20 - Tudor visitors travelled to Dover Castle in Kent to see the alleged skull of which of King Arthur’s famous knights?

    Answer: Sir Gawaine

    The story goes that Gawaine was badly wounded in the head in single combat against Sir Lancelot. He'd only partly recovered when Arthur's wicked son Mordred seized the English throne. Arthur defeated Mordred at Dover but, during the fighting, Gawaine was struck again on the old wound. He died at Dover Castle, and was buried in the castle chapel. And there, wrote Sir Thomas Malory in the 1460s, 'all men may still see the skull of him, and the same wound is seen that Sir Lancelot gave him in battle.'