From a lover’s meeting point to the Devil’s stomping ground, the High Rocks is shrouded in legend. We delve into its history and find out why…
When an area is as firmly established in history as these protected rocks, you would expect nothing less than local folklore to surround it. The High Rocks can be traced back to 6,000,000B.C and are now an iconic landmark.
Tourists travel from far and wide to experience the unusual essence many have encountered here. As the supposed home of strange happenings and lingering spirits, it has attracted plenty of attention.
Legend has it that the Devil himself once walked these rocks, disguised as a handsome young man. After a fight with St Dunstan in the 1600s, he was thought to have fled to the area and inhabited a lake. It has since been suggested that he is responsible for the subtle red tinge that the water has.
One day he tried to seduce a beautiful young girl who lived nearby, trapping her hands in the roots of an old oak tree until she relented. Unknown to the Devil, she had collected three single drops of water in her hand from the nearby wishing well. This entitles the holder to the fulfilment of a single wish.
As she prepared to make her wish for freedom, the maiden caught sight of the Devil’s beautiful eyes and changed her mind. For punishment she was turned into a block of stone, which remains forever imprisoned in the roots of the Devil’s Oak. An inscription on the wishing well now reads:
Pause ere if you wish
From idle wish refrain,
For what you wished
Not wish you wished, you gain
Another of the Rocks’ stories tells of a gloomy area in its midst, known as the Grottoes. Here you can see several engravings of verses, dating from the 1800s that depict the troubles travellers would stumble upon when passing through. One of the better known writings was from a woman in 1702, who suffered great distress when her dog fell to its death from a perilous rock.
If you climb to the top of said rock and throw a stone into the lake, local folk say you will hear the sound of a bell ringing. This peculiar notion gave it the name Bell Rock.
Despite being first and foremost a destination for spooks and scares, The High Rocks was also once a popular destination for romantic liaisons. The Duke of York reportedly brought his Duchess here for the stunning scenery and quiet atmosphere throughout the 1600s and James II is thought to have accompanied a few lady friends over the rocks.
In fact the area grew to be so prestigious that the minerals from the rocks became an incredibly coveted material for health. Soon horse brakes were running from all the most exclusive hotels and a railway was introduced, with the High Rocks appointing its own little station.
Their fascinating past coupled with the high regard they have earned in local’s hearts, mean the rocks will be forever protected as a historic monument and continue to thrill and delight visitors.
Written by Jessica Makey