Legendary British destinations

The UK is rich with history, folklore and tradition. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip across the pond any time soon, here are 10 places to live the historical lore and legends of the British Isles.

Tintagel, Cornwall
The windswept Cornwall coast is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. Medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first to propose that the ruler of Arthurian legend was born among the untamed cliffs, with the wizard Merlin living in a cave nearby. The ruins of Tintagel Castle set on a blustery cliff top, makes for a romantic backdrop to explore the legend.

Glastonbury, Somerset
Glastonbury, long known for its supernatural associations, is located at the junction of mystical motorways of spiritual energy, or what are known as ley lines. Legend holds that the site is the final resting place of King Arthur. A young Jesus Christ is also thought to have visited the area with Joseph of Arimathea (a relation of Mary), who owned a mine nearby. Glastonbury has also been linked to The Holy Grail, which is rumored to be hidden in the town’s Chalice Well.

London Tower Ravens
Count carefully. According to legend, at least six ravens need to be in residence at the Tower of London at all times to protect both country and kingdom. A longstanding myth holds that the continued presence of ravens — usually considered birds of ill omen — at the Tower is necessary lest the Tower and Monarchy fall. Today, there are seven ravens in residence at the Tower (the required six plus a spare!) The royal ravens are fed their favourite foods from the Tower mess — and to keep them from straying, their wings are clipped by the Raven Master.

Jack the Ripper, East London
The infamous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered 5 London prostitutes in 1888, but his identity remains a mystery to this day, with suspects ranging from artist Walter Sickert to author Lewis Carroll. Visitors can inspect the fog-cloaked scene of the crimes by night, while by day taking in the local scene of hip boutiques, designer bars and curry houses on Brick Lane.

Robin Hood, Nottingham
In Nottingham, legendary home to Robin Hood and his band of merry men, you can follow in the footsteps of the famous outlaw hero who stole from the rich to feed the poor.  Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Major Oak, the ancient tree in Sherwood Forest thought to be Robin Hood’s hideout.

St Michael’s Mount at Penzance, Cornwall
If you believe the legend, this small tidal island off the coast of Cornwall was once the fortified home of a cranky Cornish giant called Cormoran, who liked to terrorize locals living in the village of Marazion. To stop his attacks, a brave lad named Jack snuck over to the island to set a trap for the giant, digging a hole and camouflaging it with straw. The scheme worked: Cormoran tumbled into the hole, never to escape. Visitors to the island can see Jack’s hole, and if you place your head against the nearby rock, you just might hear the beating of the giant’s heart.

Wookey Hole Witch, Wookey Hole Caves near Wells
Deep within the spooky, underground caves of Wookey Hole once lived the legendary Wookey Hole Witch. Long ago, the villagers of Wookey sought protection from the witch’s dark powers from the Abbot of Glastonbury. Father Bernard, Benedictine monk and exorcist, answered the call by throwing specially blessed water over the witch and turning her into stone. Visitors can still see the witch’s petrified form deep in the caves.

The Loch Ness Monster, Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands
Scotland’s most famous and mythical monster skulks in Loch Ness (which also happens to be Britain’s longest body of fresh water). Even if you don’t get a glimpse of Nessie — the beast has apparently has been maintaining a low profile in recent years — the loch itself is beautiful, and the Highlands possess more than their share of mystery and magic.

Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Scotland
This medieval church outside Edinburgh has long been associated with the Knights Templar and Freemasonry. (In the bestselling book The Da Vinci Code, it is speculated to be the repository for the Holy Grail.) The church’s astonishing carvings — praised as an extraordinary ‘essay in stone’ — cover every surface of the structure and are rich in symbolism.

Stonehenge, Salisbury
No list of awe-inspiring sites would be complete without mentioning Stonehenge, which is probably the most famous megalithic monument in the world. The site, which dates back at least 5000 years, has drawn visitors for millennia. Was its original purpose a place of ritual sacrifice and sun worship? A massive calendar? Theories abound, but no one knows for sure.

Find more information and ideas for planning your vacation at VisitBritain and Historic UK.

Sources: VisitBritain.com; Historic UK; Frommers; Yahoo

Photo St Michael’s Tower, Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, UK ©iStockphoto.com/ Nick Webley

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