In our third of our weekly instalment’s of Author and Cryptozoologist – Richard Freeman’s articles, we hear all about the Dragons of Albion – A comprehensive guide to Dragons in the UK.

The dragon is the great, great grandfather of all monsters. Before the daemon, before the vampire, before the werewolf, before the giant. Before them all was the original uber-monster the dragon. The dragon’s image has crawled across cave paintings 25,000 years old, dwarfing mammoths. It has slithered across Chinese rock art in Shanxi province 8000 years before Christ. It haunted the Sumerians and the Babylonians, was worshipped by the Aztecs and feared by the Celts. In the east a glittering rain god, in the west a flame spewing, maiden devouring monster. It is found in every culture on earth. The immortal dragon has its fangs and claws deep in the psyche of mankind. And it is still seen today.

The dragon comes in a dazzling array of forms. The best known in the West is the true dragon or firedrake. This is the classic dragon: a gigantic quadrupedal reptile, with vast bat like wings. Armed with razor teeth and claws, and a mighty tail, its most formidable weapon was the white-hot jets of flame it gouted at its victims. These monsters were considered to be the most magickal of beasts with powers such as shape-shifting, self-regeneration, and mind reading attributed to them. They were covered in impenetrable scales and had only one vulnerable spot.

The wyvern was much like the firedrake except it bore only one pair of legs. It was smaller than the true dragon and seldom breathed fire. It did however carry a deadly sting in the tail and could spread disease and pestilence.

The lindorm or worm was a huge limbless reptile. Instead of breathing fire it spat venom or spewed poison gas. It could also crush prey in its steely coils. It could rejoin severed portions of its body and was hence very hard to kill.

The basilisk or cockatrice was the smallest but most death-dealing member of the dragon clan. It was said to have hatched from a cock’s egg incubated by a toad or a rooster. It resembled a tiny snake with a rooster’s comb. It’s gaze brought instant death to all it looked upon, including itself. The basilisk’s reflection was fatal to itself. The great deserts of the Middle East were attributed to the baleful glare of hordes of basilisks.

Amazing as it may sound the dragon seems to have a basis in fact and it still haunts the wild, and sometimes not so wild corners of our strange little planet. Modern sightings include a huge, winged reptile that terrorized the San Antonio valley, Texas for several months in 1976. More recently a horned, black-scaled dragon seen by five hundred witnesses in July 2002 in Lake Tianchie, northeast China.

Some dragon sightings are much closer to home. In the early 19th century folklorist Mary Trevelyan interviewed many elderly people living in the Glamorgan area of Wales. They recounted memories from their youth (early 19th century) of a race of winged serpents said to inhabit the forest around Penllyne Castle. They had crested heads and feathery wings. The serpents were brightly coloured and sparkled as if covered with jewels. They rested coiled on the ground but if threatened would attack by swooping down at their aggressors.

The snakes killed poultry and were described as “the terrors of farmyards and coverts” many were shot for their depreditations of livestock. One woman recalled that her grandfather shot one after it attacked him. Its skin had hung for years on the wall at his farm. Tragically it was discarded after his death. This would make any modern day cryptozoologist wince.

A dragon skin was once said to hang in the church in Sexhow, Cleveland. The forest dwelling worm was slain by a knight and the skin kept as a relic hung on pegs in the church. The skin has long since vanished. Cromwell’s men probably destroyed it after the Civil War.

A portion of the hide of the Lambton worm was supposedly kept on display at Lampton castle. It was said to resemble cow’s hide. The specimen was lost when the castle was demolished in the 18th century.

One of the most disturbing dragon stories occurred relatively recently. When the north east of England was under the Dane lore, the Norse men feared a sea dragon known as the Shoney.

It is said that they sacrificed crewmembers to the beast. After drawing lots the luckless victim was trussed hand and foot, his throat slashed, and tossed overboard. The Shoney was meant to eat the sacrifice and let the Viking ships alone. Bodies, sometimes half eaten were washed up around Lindisfarne and around the area now known as Marsden Bay near South Shields, Newcastle.

Dragon so the story goes this sacrifice became a kind of maritime worship and persisted long after the time of the Vikings. It was supposedly practiced by Scandinavian sailors. Several hundred years ago a pub was carved into the cliffs of Marsden Bay. Known as Marsden Grotto it has had many landlords down the years. Many of them awoke to discover the sacrificial victims of the Shoney washed ashore on the beach outside the Grotto. The pub’s cellar was used as a makeshift morgue on many occasions. According to local researcher, historian, and Fortean Mike Hallowell the last bodies were washed up in 1928!

The idea that a dragon worship cult was making human sacrifices in England well into the 20th century seems amazing. Mike and myself a currently trying to gain access to police records for the period to verify this tale that runs like the script of a horror film.

In the early 1980s something began to kill sheep in a very odd way in north Wales. The animals were found with two puncture marks in the flesh. They were always found close to water. Veterinary analysis showed that they had been killed by venom. Sometimes a large snakelike trail was seen in the grass or mud close to the victims. Strangely the killer never ate the sheep. The weird killings stopped as suddenly as they started leaving only an unsettling mystery.

There have been many theories proffered to explain the dragon phenomena. They fall mainly into two camps. One is that dragons are based on some kind of flesh and blood creature. A gigantic reptile of some kind. The second is that they are a paranormal manifestation.

Let us examine the former idea first. It has been widely suggested that fossil remains of dinosaurs and other large animals were the basis for dragon legends. Whilst they may have been an influence in some cases, most fossil bones are too fragmentary to give rise to such awe-inspiring legends. We must also remember that many ancient texts specifically speak of dragons as living entities interacting with humans.

There are some living reptiles that make impressive dragons. Crocodiles can be huge and deadly predators. The largest, the Indo-Pacific crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) can reach 10 meters (33 feet) in length and tip the scales at 3 tons. It can kill water buffalo, tigers, and even sharks. The ancient Chinese called the creature the “flood dragon”

In the 1950s James Montgomery investigated tales of a huge monster along the Sagama River. The local Seluka people said it was the father of the devil and threw silver coins into the water whenever it appeared (bringing to mind the treasure hordes of medieval dragons in Europe).

He found the brute sunning itself upon a sandbank; it was a gigantic Indo-Pacific crocodile. Montgomery knew his rifle would be about as much use against such a creature as a peashooter and beat a hasty retreat. He later returned and measured the sandbank. It was nine meters (30 feet) long. As the crocodile had the end of its tail in the water it’s total length would have been around 10 meters (33 feet).

Another giant lurks in the waters of the Lumpar River. A known serial man-eater it is venerated by the Ibad tribe as Bujang-senang, the king of crocodiles. It is reckoned to be seven and a half meters (25 feet) long.

The African Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) can exceed 7 meters (23 feet) and can kill a lion with one bite. It was worshipped by the Egyptians as Sebek, the god of the life giving Nile. A seven-meter specimen is currently at large in Malawi and has eaten 14 people in the last 12 months!

These armour-plated giants can bite down with a force of 10,000 Newton’s. That’s twice the strength of a great white shark!

Big constricting snakes make good analogues of the limbless “worm” type of dragon. The reticulated python (Python reticuatlus) of S E Asia can grow to ten meters (33 feet) and swallow animals as large as deer whole.

The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) may exceed eight meters (26 feet) and is far more bulky than any python. Tales of monstrously large specimens filter out of the South American jungles from time to time.

The infamous komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is found only on three small Indonesian islands. It remained undiscovered until 1912. At over three meters (10 feet) it is the largest known lizard in the world. It kills large prey such as deer by the virulent bacteria in its saliva. Chinese pottery found on Komodo Island suggests this animal was known to seafarers from the orient.

Impressive though it is the Komodo dragon looked like a pipsqueak compared to its pre-historic relative Megalania prisca. This giant monitor lizard lived in Australia in the Pleistocene epoch and reached nine meters (30 feet). It evolved to feed on the giant ice age marsupials such as Diprotodon a rhino sized wombat, and Procoptodon a ten-foot tall kangaroo.

It was presumed that Megalania died out at least 10,000 years ago but the Aborigines have legends of Mungoongalli a giant lizard. Both natives and white settlers have recorded encounters with titanic lizards in the Australian outback. Even a herpetologist (reptile expert) has claimed to have seen such a monster.

In 1979 herpetologist Frank Gorden was hunting for small lizards called water skinks in the Wataigan Mountains of New South Wales. After a fruitless day’s search he returned to his land rover. He noticed a fallen tree on a verge next to his vehicle. Upon starting the engine Gorden saw this ” log” rear up on four powerful legs and lumber away into the bush. It was a giant lizard some 9 meters (30 feet) long. Gorden is but one of many witnesses who have reported such reptiles in the Australian bush. Some even speculate that mysterious disappearances in the outback can be blamed on the feeding activities of the lizards.

Recently part of a Megalania hipbone was uncovered that was sub-fossil. It appears to be only one to two hundred years old! Is this nightmarish beast still stalking the bush?

Monster reptiles make good dragons but they cannot cope with cool climates. Some reptiles such as cobras, pythons, and crocodiles may have been brought back to Britain by crusaders. If these beasts broke free the populace, who had no knowledge of such creatures, would consider them to be dragons. They would terrorize the community until the winter cold put paid to them.

The dragon of Wormingford (worm’s ford) in Essex is a good example. It is said to have been a “cockadrill” brought back from the crusades by Richard the Lion Heart for his zoo in the Tower of London. Breaking free it made its way through the county to the river Stour. Here it killed and ate Shepherds and sheep. No arrow or spear could penetrate its scales. Finally it disappeared into a marsh and was never seen again. There can be little doubt that this dragon was a Nile crocodile.

In August 1614 some strange reptile was at large in Saint Leonard’s forest Sussex. At nine feet long it was not large as dragons go, but it was very dangerous. It was a limbless, serpentine, creature with a bulge in the middle the size of a football. Whenever animals or humans approached him, records a contemporary pamphlet, he raised up his head and looks around in an arrogant manner. He was said to have killed men and dogs by casting forth poison, but he did not eat the bodies. Instead he fed on the local rabbit population. This dragon sounds like a cobra, rearing up its head in a threat posture when disturbed, killing with poison, and eating rabbits. It seems that this creature escaped from an early private menagerie.

There are several dragon legends that may be explained this way but the majority cannot. The dragons that inhabited Europe must have been something different.

Author Peter Dickinson postulated that dragons may have evolved from huge carnivorous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex. Dickinson believes that the dragons flew and breathed fire via the manipulation of hydrogen gas. The wings evolved from a modified ribcage and the chambered stomach was a huge gas bag. The dragon created hydrogen gas from hydrochloric acid in the gut mixed with calcium from the bones of its victims and ingestion of limestone. The dragon, according to Dickinson was essentially a living hot air balloon. It flew by inflating the expandable gut and using the wings to steer. To descend the gas was exhaled as fire. This also doubled up as a weapon.

Some think that hydrogen was too unstable a gas to be used in this way and that methane was more likely. After death the chemical factory in the dragon’s gut would dissolve the body. Ergo no fossils have ever been found. It is a neat if ultimately unproveable theory.

But looking at dragons as mortal flesh and blood creatures may be wrong. Perhaps they were something much stranger. Maybe the dragon exists as an entity in a reality different to our own. This would explain how they could appear, terrorize a community, and then vanish. We know that atoms vibrate at certain speeds. Could it be possible that there are entities composed of atoms that vibrate at a differing rate, slower or faster than the norm. Usually they would be invisible to us but under certain circumstances they, or us, could “speed up” or “slow down” becoming visible to each other for a short time?

Areas of intense Fortean phenomena are called window areas. Many of them were places of former religious importance that have now waned or fallen from use. Could the worship or occult use of an area over hundreds of years create a sort of artificial life form? Something that fed on the worship. When the worship is taken away the “thing” still needs to feed. It now feeds by creating fear with paranormal manifestations.

Another idea is that they are a massive, collective, sub-conscious, thought form. The thought form or tulpa is said to be a 3-D semi solid image created by the power of the mind. Buddhist llamas in Tibet are said to be able to summon up tulpas during intense meditation. Western explorer Dame Alexandra David Kneel was said to have created a tulpa of a monk whilst studying in Tibet. Polish medium Franek Klusk was said to have summoned up huge cats, birds, and even ape-men during séances. Perhaps, considering the types of beast he called up, he was creating tulpas.

If individuals can create tulpas imagine what the collective, gestalt mind of humanity as a species could do. Perhaps dragons are a giant worldwide thought form emanating from our innermost fears.

Several million years ago, our Australopithecine ancestors on the plains of East Africa had a struggle to survive. Our ancestors were being preyed upon by and were in competition with various formidable creatures. Crocodiles and pythons ate them as dig big cats, hunting dogs, and large birds of prey such as eagles. They competed against other primates such as giant baboons and other races of hominids some larger than them and some smaller.

All of these creatures can be slotted nicely into the universal monster template. There seems to be groups of monsters reported all round the world in every culture. These archetypes include dragons, giants, little people, monster birds, mystery big cats, and monstrous dogs. All of them have a direct link back to our ancestral horrors. Coincidence, I think not.

I believe that many of the world’s monsters are tulpas created unwittingly by our collective unconscious. Perhaps in certain “window areas” something affects the minds of those who enter. The mind is an electro-chemical computer, perhaps when “scrambled” it must “reboot” like any other computer. When in this primeval state perhaps the mind raises the prehistoric terrors of our past, raises dragons. This is not to deny that there are flesh and blood counterparts for each of the monster categories, there almost certainly are. But when these things manifest in places that could not support a “real” creature maybe we should look to thought forms for answers.

No one explanation is likely to hold the key to the riddle of the dragon. Dragon lore is a rich tapestry with many finely woven strands. But the dragon has always been with us: all throughout recorded history and back into the dim pre-historic past. I believe the dragon will always be with us no mater how “civilized” we think we have become. When your parents told you there were no such things as dragons they lied.

Below is a list of dragon legends in England, Wales and Scotland. The UK has one of the richest traditions of dragon lore in the world.

ENGLAND

CORNWALL

Padstow
Padstow is famous for its ‘hobby ‘oss’ that some think was originally a dragon. Padstow was also once inhabited by a far more aggressive dragon. Saint Petroc was said to have tamed it by placing a girdle about its neck. The dragon was then led down to the seashore and let loose. It swam away and never bothered anyone again.

Helston
Here a huge fire-breathing dragon was seen flying over the town, clutching a ball of flames in its claws. The dragon dropped the flaming mass just outside the town where it cooled down, forming a huge rock that is still there to this day.

DEVON

Exeter
An enormous winged dragon was said to fly nightly over the Exe Valley, lighting up the sky with its flaming breath. It flew back and forth between Dolbury Hill and Cadbury Castle guarding two hordes of treasure. A local saying goes…

“If Cadbury Castle and Dolbury Hill delven were
All England might plough with a golden share”

In this case no hero was forthcoming to do battle with the dragon.

Manaton
A winged dragon made its lair in an old tin mine here. The dragon’s hissing was said to be audible for miles around. It was finally slain in the mine but history does not record by whom. The story was recorded by the late 18th century writer Polwhele. Devonshire dragon stories all seem to be frustratingly vague.

Challacombe
Fire breathing, winged dragons were seen at night. They flew around snorting fire and would perch upon Bronze Age burial mounds. Perhaps they were supposed to be guarding the contents.

Winkleigh
Two 17th century writers recorded a brace of dragons here but there are no more details. A scant story even by Devon standards!

SOMERSET

Crowcombe
In Shervage wood near Crowcombe there dwelt a worm thicker about the middle than an oak tree. It fed on local livestock and then expanded its diet to humans, eating two gypsies and a shepherd. The locals became too afraid to enter the wood to pick the bilberries with which they made pies.

One old woman asked a woodcutter from the village of Stogumber, a few miles from Crowcombe, to pick some berries for her. The kind hearted man agreed. After picking an abundance of the fruit he sat down to eat bread and cheese, and to drink cider. The man thought he was sitting on a dead tree but when it began to writhe about he realized, to his horror, that the “log” was in fact the worm. He hoisted his axe and cleaved the monster in two.

Lucky for the woodcutter that the worm was disorientated. One half slithered off toward Minehead, the other half toward Taunton. So, rather than recombining, the segments both perished.

Kingston St Mary
A savage fire-breathing dragon terrorized this area until a champion came forth to tackle it. The hero rolled a boulder up a hill opposite to the dragon’s lair and shouted out to the monster. As the dragon emerged, jaws agape, the champion rolled the boulder down into its open maw, choking it before it could roast him with a jet of flame. Kingston St Mary is now part of Dorset, due to the changes in county boundaries, but it was in Somerset until quite recently.

Norton Fitzwarren
Here the Roman general Ostorius was said to have killed hundreds of ancient Britons. Over the centuries a dragon is said to have grown from the corruption of the rotting bodies (this spontaneous growth of creatures from rotting matter was a common belief in Medieval times). The dragon took up residence in an Iron Age hill fort and preyed on the populace until Fulk Fitzwarine, a 13th century knight, slew the creature. Despite his brave deed Fulk fell foul of King John and was exiled. He continued his adventures abroad when he saved the Duke of Iberia’s daughter from a dragon near Carthage.

Aller
The dragon of Aller was a terrifying beast. It spat both fire and venom and flew on vast leathery wings. It lived in a hillside cave just outside of Aller and, as western dragons are want to do, laid waste to the land.

The dragon was finally slain by John of Aller. There are two versions of the story; in one John is a knight, in the other a lowly peasant. He covered himself in pitch and wore a mask to protect himself from the dragon’s breath.

After a terrible battle, John was able to thrust a long spear down the dragon’s throat and kill the beast.  In one version of the story he is burnt to death by the dragon’s breath. In another telling, John survives and finds a brood of hatchlings in the dragon’s cave. The cave is subsequently blocked up.

Wievliscombe
In 1827, when the church here was being rebuilt, the devil manifested riding a green dragon and began hurling rocks at the church. Saint Andrew then materialized and drove them off with a cross.

Klive
A dragon called Blue Ben resided here and was supposedly the steed of the devil. He fell from a causeway of rocks and drowned in the mud. His skull (actually a fossil ichthyosaur) was uncovered and is on display in the local museum.

Carhampton
In Arthurian legend Saint Carantoc visited this part of Somerset whilst looking for his altar. He met with King Arthur who was worried about a dragon terrorizing the county. Arthur knew the whereabouts of the Saint’s altar and said he would reveal its location if Carantoc could rid him of the dragon.

Carantoc tamed the dragon by putting his stole around its neck and leading it to Dunster Castle. An angry mob wanted to attack the now placid beast, but the Saint would not let them. He released the dragon telling it never to harm anyone ever again.

Churchstanton
A dragon once resided in the place where Stapley Farm now stands. After causing the usual havoc it was slain by an anonymous knight. The lashing of the dragons tail is said to have carved out a hollow in a field known as Wormstall.

Trull
A dragon was supposedly slain on Castleman’s hill near Trull, but no details remain of it. The local church has a stained glass window showing Saints George, Michael and Margaret killing dragons.

Wells
Bishop Jocelyn supposedly drove out a dragon that had been terrorizing locals around seven holy springs. A cathedral was built next to the springs.

Castle Neroche
A treasure-guarding dragon once lived here, but that is all that remains of this legend.

HAMPSHIRE

Bisterne
Two versions of this story exist. The Bisterne dragon dwelt on Burley Beacon, a hill in the New Forest. In one of the stories the dragon is placated by being fed milk by the local villagers. They grow weary of paying this tribute and hire a knight, Sir Macdonie de Berkeley, to slay the monster. The knight takes a jug of milk to lure the dragon and a cabinet of mirrored glass to hide in. When the beast was busy slurping the milk, the knight stepped out from his hiding place and slew the dragon.

The second version of this story is far more dramatic. The knight is called Sir Maurice de Berkeley, and the dragon in this story was not to be fobbed off with milk. It gorged on livestock and man flesh. Sir Maurice fought it accompanied by two huge mastiffs. Prior to the battle he covered his armor in birdlime and ground glass. Both the dogs and the knight died along with the dragon.

Wherwell
A duck’s egg was incubated by a toad in the cellar of Wherwell Priory. It grew into a cockatrice and set about withering everything around. A reward of four acres of land was offered to anyone who could kill the beast. Several champions came forward only to be slain by the deadly glare of the cockatrice.

Finally, a Priory servant named Green lowered a polished steel mirror into the dragon’s cellar lair. Unlike most of its kin, the Wherwell cockatrice’s reflection was not instantaneously lethal to itself. It took its own reflection for another, rival, cockatrice and attacked it. Once it had exhausted itself fighting its own image, Green leapt down and killed it with a spear.

Up until the 1930s older residents of Wherwell refused to eat duck’s eggs!

JERSEY

La Hogue Bie
Seigneur de Hambye, Lord of the Manor, slew a fearful dragon after a long and awful combat. Whilst lying wounded and exhausted after the fight de Hambye’s squire crept up and murdered him. The squire returned to the village claiming to have killed the dragon after it had killed his master. He married his master’s widow and acquired his lands. His chicanery was found out later after he suffered nightmares and spoke in his sleep.

SUSSEX

Lyminster
Here we have another dragon legend of which three different versions exist. The dragon was known as the Knucker and inhabited a supposedly bottomless pool known as the Knucker hole.

In the first version, the dragon was terrorizing the area and had eaten all the maidens in the area, leaving only the King of Sussex’s daughter. The King offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who could deliver her from the dragon’s jaws. A wandering knight took up the challenge and slew the beast.

Others say it was a local lad named Jim Puttock who fed the dragon an indigestible pudding, then killed it whilst it was indisposed with a bout of bellyache! He got some of the dragon’s blood on his hand and, after wiping his mouth after a celebratory pint of beer, Puttock died.

In the third variation, Jim baked a poisoned pie so huge it needed a horse and cart to transport it to the Knucker hole. The dragon ate the pie, the cart, and the horse, and subsequently died.

Knucker is believed to derive from nikyr, Old Norse for water monster.

St Leonard’s Forest
This wild briar is a part of the once vast forest of the Weald. St Leonard himself was supposed to have fought a dragon in its depths. Where the Saint’s blood fell patches of lily-of the valley sprung up.

In 1614 another type of dragon appeared in the forest, a limbless worm some nine feet long that killed both man and beast with poison, and which for a while became infamous in the area. It was said to raise up its head and look in an arrogant manner about itself. It sounds very much like a cobra, possibly brought back from abroad by a traveler or merchant and which subsequently got free.

Cissbury
A prehistoric earthwork on the South Downs is supposed to contain a huge treasure horde. A tunnel reputedly runs from the earthwork to Offington Hall, two miles away. In the 1860s the owner of the hall offered half the treasure to anyone who could clear out the tunnel and find the horde. Several people tried but were driven back by huge snakes that sprang hissing at them with open mouths.

Bignor
A huge worm wrapped itself around Bignor hill and left the imprint of its coils on the hill.

Fittleworth
As recently as 1867 a worm was supposed to reside here and rush out hissing at anyone who passed by its lair.

ESSEX

Henham
Robert Winstantley of Saffron Walden wrote a pamphlet titled ‘A True Relation of a Monsterous Serpent seen at Henham on the Mount in Saffron Walden,’ published in 1699. The creature in question was a winged serpent (it would have been called a gwiber in Wales) that appeared in May of that year. It was around nine feet long and as thick as a man’s leg. Its eyes were as large as sheep’s eyes and it had several rows of sharp teeth. It was also furnished with small wings.

Despite having caused no trouble, its demeanor was sufficiently alarming that a group of villagers armed with farm implements and stones chased it off.

Horndon
The dragon of Horndon was said to have been imported in the Middle Ages by Barbary Merchants (presumably as a youngster) from whom it escaped. It set up home in the surrounding forest and grew to huge proportions.

It was eventually killed by Sir James Tyrell who managed to dazzle the dragon by wearing highly polished amour.

St Osyth
A broad sheet produced in 1704 refers to a dragon of “marvellous bigness” being discovered here during the reign on Henry II. Nothing more is known about this creature.

Saffron Walden
The pamphlet that deals with the Henham winged serpent also relates the story of a basilisk dragon that held siege to Saffron Walden centuries before. It was described as:

“…not about a foot in length, of colour between black and yellow, having very red eyes, a sharp head and a white spot hereon like a crown. It goeth not winding like other serpents but upright on its breast. If a man touch it though with a long pole it kills him: and if it sees a man far off it destroys him with its looks. Furthermore it breaketh stones, blasteth all plants with his breath, it burneth everything it goeth over; no herb can grow near the place of his abode.”

The basilisk killed so many people that the town was becoming severely depopulated. Finally a wandering knight delivered the townspeople by covering his armour in crystal glass. On seeing its own reflection, the monster died.

BERKSHIRE
Dragon Hill
Close to the more famous White Horse Hill this small flat-topped hill is one of the places where St George is supposed to have slain the dragon. The dragon’s blood burned the soil at the top of the hill so that no grass will grow there.

In fact St George was a Syrian con-man who never set foot in Britain, let alone fought a dragon!

GLOUSTERSHIRE

Deerhurst
The Deerhurst dragon was covered in impenetrable scales and fed on livestock. It killed villagers with its deadly breath. It was finally slain by a local laborer, the exotically named John Smith.

John set out a trough of milk for the dragon who greedily drank the lot. After its meal, the creature stretched out to sleep. Whilst sleeping, the dragon ruffled up its scales in the manner of a bird fluffing its feathers. Seeing his chance John took up an axe and struck between the beast’s scales, hacking off the monster’s head.

HERTFORDSHIRE

Brent Pelam
A mighty dragon made its lair under the roots of an ancient yew tree and wrought havoc in the surrounding countryside. Piers Shonks, Lord of the Manor of Pelham, fought it accompanied by three huge hounds. He finally triumphed by thrusting a long spear down the dragon’s throat.

At the moment of victory the Devil appeared vowing vengeance on Shonks for destroying his beast. He swore that he would have Shonks’ soul, whether he was buried inside or outside the church.

Shonks foiled the Devil by being buried in a cavity within the church walls, therefore being neither inside nor outside the church.

St Albans
This is the scene of one of Britain’s oldest dragon legends. Abbot Ealdred of St Albans, who succeeded office in 1007, rebuilt his abbey using the ruins of Verulamium, a Roman city nearby. During the course of the demolitions he was said to have flattened the lair of the dragon of Wormenhert. There is no information on the dragon itself, or on what it was doing whilst the Abbot destroyed its den.

Berkhamsted
St Paul, whilst visiting Britain, was supposed to have banished forever all snakes, dragons, and thunderstorms. He didn’t do a very good job!

SUFFOLK

Bures / Wormingford
Confusion and controversy surround this legend on the Suffolk / Essex border. Both the town of Bures and the village of Wormingford lay claim to the story as their own.

In a 19th century translation of a document from 1405, the story is told of a fearful dragon that had a hide impenetrable to arrows and which disappeared into the marsh after having caused “much hurt”.

Wormingford begs to differ, saying that the creature resided there and was finally killed by Sir George de la Haye.

The description of this dragon sounds very like a crocodile. Indeed, many think it was such a beast that got free from the Royal menagerie at the Tower of London and made its way to Suffolk. One can readily imagine the fear a 20-30 foot reptile would have struck into the hearts of the peasants.

Little Cornard
Two dragons did battle here. A spotted red dragon from Ballingdon Hill on the Essex side of the River Stour came down to fight a black dragon from Kedington Hill on the Suffolk side. After a long battle the red dragon won. Both dragons survived the fight and returned to their respective lairs.

A contemporary document recording these events is held in Canterbury Cathedral.

NORFOLK

Ludham
A fire-breathing dragon struck fear into the hearts of the Ludham residents. Upon discovering its cave they tried blocking the entrance, but the dragon merely tore away the rubble. Finally one man found a boulder that was the exact shape of the cave entrance and blocked it up whilst the dragon was out.

On finding its cave blocked the dragon moved to the vaults under the ruins of the Abbey of St Benadict.

WORCESTERSHIRE

Wolverley
A document dating to 1582 refers to a place called Drakelow as being inhabited by a dragon. Nothing, however, is known of either the dragon or of the place.

HEREFORDSHIRE

Mordiford
The story of the Mordiford wyvern is one of the most detailed dragon legends in Britain; it is also the one with the most variations, having no less than five.

A young girl called Maud was walking through the woods when she found a baby wyvern, bright green and no bigger than a cucumber. She took it home to keep as a pet, feeding it on milk. It grew very fast and began to eat chickens, then sheep, before graduating onto cows. Finally, as an adult, it turned into a man-eater, but it remained friendly toward Maud. It made its lair on a ridge in Hauge Wood and always followed the same path, known to this day as Serpent Path, to the river.

Locals now took steps to end its reign of terror. This is where the story diverges. In one variation, the hero is a criminal under sentence of death. He is promised his life and freedom if he kills the wyvern. He is lucky enough to find it asleep in its den and kills it, bringing the tongue back for proof.

Another version says the same hero hid in a cider barrel by the wyvern’s drinking place, the confluence of the rivers Wye and Lugg. He shot it through the barrel’s bung hole.

Another, more exciting, twist is that the barrel was covered with hooks and blades. The wyvern, spotting the man inside, coiled around the barrel but mortally wounded itself on the spikes.

In all of the first three of these variations, the hero dies from the wyvern’s breath.

Yet another ending has the wyvern gorging itself on a drowned ox, and then being surrounded and killed by villagers while it slept off its meal.

The final story says that the hero was not a criminal but a member of a distinguished local family, the Garstons.

The legend had such a hold over the locals that in 1875 the rector found two of his parishioners, a pair of old women, trying to drown some newts in the belief that they would grow into wyverns!

Brinsop
St George is said to have killed a well-dwelling dragon in a field called Lower Stanks.  A 12th century stone carving in a church shows him spearing a worm-type dragon.

Wormlow Trump
Dragons are said to guard treasures in two tumuli, Wormlow Trump and Old Field Barrows.

LINCONSHIRE

Castle Carlton
The Castle Carlton dragon was unique among British dragons in that it had only one huge eye, the size of a basin, in its forehead. It was slain by Sir Hugh Bardolfe, who fought the creature during a thunderstorm. A flash of lightning dazzled the dragon long enough for Sir Hugh to strike its one vulnerable spot, a wart on one of its legs.

Anwick
whilst ploughing a boggy field a farmer saw one of his horses sucked down into quicksand. Just as the horse vanished, a huge dragon flew out of the bog. The next day a boulder in the shape of a dragon appeared in the field.

Stories began to circulate that treasure was beneath the boulder and many tried to raise it, but none succeeded. The dragon was sometimes seen flying up from the bog, but never seemed interested in attacking anyone. The boulder is still there to this day, but has broken in two.

DERBYSHIRE

Drakelow
A dragon is mentioned in a document dating to 772 as being buried in a prehistoric tumulus.

Winlatter Rock
Two linked stories are attached to this area close to Chesterfield. The first concerns a dragon, reckoned to be none other than the Devil himself. He came from the north, burning and destroying all in his path.

A priest challenged him by climbing to the top of Winlatter Rock, spreading his arms in the form of a cross. The dragon called up great winds and storms to lash the holy man but the priest stood so firm that his feet sank into the rock. The dragon turned back and Chesterfield was saved. The priest’s footprints remained etched into the rock, and pilgrims visited them for years afterwards.

The story has a sequel. Years later the dragon returned and picked up were he left off, spreading destruction. Three brothers took a massive iron bar to the blacksmith and asked him to forge a sword.
“You won’t be able to lift it,” the smithy said.
“One can’t but three can,” the brothers answered.
Then they met a farmer as they were carrying the sword to Winlatter Rock.
“You’ll never carry it to the top of the rock,” he said.
“One can’t but three can,” the brothers replied.
On the rock they saw a shepherd and told him that they were carrying the sword to the summit.
“You’ll never get it up there” said the Shepard.
“One can’t but three can,” the brothers answered.
Once they were at the summit, one brother put the sword into the priest’s footprint. One ran to Chesterfield to call the men at arms. And one went to the church and climbed up the steeple to ring the bell when the dragon came into view.

The bells rang out as the dragon flew toward town, spewing fire and surrounded by a maelstrom of winds. It threw a lightning bolt at the sword and the weapon lit up like a torch. The men at arms converged on Winlatter Rock and all held up their swords like a forest of crosses. The dragon turned and fled down the Blue John Mines and remains there to this day. As he fled his tail struck the spire of Chesterfield church and twisted it out of shape. The twisted spire is still visible.

CHESHIRE

Moston
Sir Thomas Venables slew a water dwelling dragon here to save a child. He managed to kill it by shooting an arrow through the creature’s eye. His reward was a grant of the land that the fortunes of the Venables family were founded on. The family crest shows a dragon with a child in its jaws.

Runcorn
A dragon sporting tiger like stripes along its scaly body once lived on the banks of the Mersey. It was coated in impenetrable scales, and had eaten every single cow for miles around. One farmer had an idea. He put the hide and horns of a cow over a wooden framework and hid inside it, holding a sword.

The dragon saw what it thought was a cow and swooped down to grab the animal in its claws. The dragon lifted the faux cow and the farmer high into the air and was flying across the Mersey when the farmer stabbed his assailant in its one vulnerable spot, beneath the wing. Losing height rapidly, the mortally wounded monster reached the far bank and expired. The cow’s hide, complete with the slash made by the dragon’s claws, was displayed for a number of years at a local pub.

CUMBRIA

Renwick
A bat-winged cockatrice lived in an old church spire. In 1733 it objected to the church’s demolition and flew out to attack the workers.  All fled, except John Tallantine who slew the dragon with a stake made from hawthorn. For this deed he and his descendents were exempt from paying tithes.

YORKSHIRE

Cawthorne
A flying serpent dwelt in Serpent’s Well and would fly from there to Cawthorn Park.

Loschy Hill
Sir Peter Loschy did battle with a worm on this hill in the parish of Stonegrave. He covered his armour in razor blades before the fight. The monster could rejoin severed sections of its body so the knight brought with him his trusty hound that snatched up the pieces of the monster’s coils and ran off with them, thereby preventing the creature from rejoining. The dog ran to the village of Nunnington, one mile distant, to deposit the bits of the worm.

After the worm was vanquished the knight bent down to pet his dog and it licked his face. Both man and hound died from the monster’s venomous blood.

Slingsby
Slingsby is a few scant miles from Loschy Hill and the legend here is so like the previous one that they may share one root legend. The fight with the worm, assisted by the dog and the death by worm blood, is exactly the same. Here, however, the knight is Sir William Wyvill, whose family was known to have lived in Slingsby in the 14th century.

The worm’s lair, according to a 17th century document, was a great round hole three yards wide and half a mile from town. The worm was thought to be over a mile long.

Kellington
Though it is quite a way from Loschy Hill and Slingsby, the story of the Kellington worm runs much the same. Here the worm dwells in a marshy forest and is fought not by a knight, but by a shepherd called Ormroyd (Orm being Norse for dragon). Once again his dog aids him, and once again both die in the same manner. Perhaps dragon slayers should avoid bringing their dogs along!

Wantley
This was a fire-spewing, winged dragon that devoured not only humans and animals but ate up trees. The knight who battled him was almost as formidable. More of More Hall was a huge man who reputedly killed a horse with his bare hands after it had angered him; he then ate it.

The night before the battle More had a black-haired maiden of 16 anoint him.

His armour was covered, like so many other dragon slayers, with spikes, each six inches long. The fight raged between man and beast for two days and one night. Neither opponent could get a palpable hit on the other. The dragon finally grabbed More, intending to throw him high into the air like a rag doll. More managed to kick a spiked boot into the dragon’s only vulnerable spot, its backside!

Handale
The woods near Handale Priory were inhabited by a crested, fire-spitting worm with a sting in its tail. It made a habit of eating maidens, until being slain by a youth named Scraw. Scraw found an earl’s daughter in the worm’s cave and rescued her. His reward was her hand in marriage, and vast estates. The wood was known as Scraw’s Wood from then on.

Sexhow
A winged fire-breathing dragon terrorized the area and took up residence on a hill. It demanded the milk of nine cows every day. As well as breathing fire it spouted poison gas, killing anyone who ventured too close. After a long battle, a wandering knight finally killed the dragon.  He then continued on his way without demanding a reward, or even revealing his name. The dragon was skinned and its hide taken to Stokesley Church were it hung for many years. The hide vanished many years ago.

Filey
The dragon of Filey was defeated not by a knight but by a timid, hen-pecked little tailor named Billy Biter. One misty morning he fell into the dragon’s lair. As the dragon was about to eat him, Billy offered it some parkin – a sweet, sticky Yorkshire pudding. The monster liked it so much it demanded more.

When Billy told his nagging, over-bearing wife she insisted that she cooked the parkin and took it the dragon. The dragon so disliked Billy’s wife that it ate her as well as the parkin. Her cooking was so bad that the pudding stuck the dragon’s jaws together.

The dragon went to the sea, but was overcome by the icy waves. His bones turned to stone and became Filey Brigg, a promontory of rock that stretches a mile out to see. In the 1930s there was a report of a sea dragon seen, by a coastguard, on Filey Brigg.

Well
The dragon of Well was slain by a knight named Latimer, a local landowner. A dragon is featured on the Latimer coat of arms.

Bilsdale
A dragon was said to reside in a tumulus guarding treasure.

WESTMORLAND

Hayes Water
A dragon lived in a pond together with a giant char. It caused little trouble but would stir up the water on occasion.

DURHAM

Lambton
One of the best-known British dragon legends is that of the Lambton worm. The story goes that Sir John Lambton, the young heir to Lambton Castle, went fishing one Sunday morning instead of going to church. He caught a small, horrid snake-like creature on his line. Disgusted, he threw it down a well and forgot about it.
Sometime later he joined the Crusades and travelled to the Holy Land. Whilst he was away, the snake-like creature in the well grew to massive proportions and emerged to wreak havoc on the surrounding land. It ate livestock, sucked the milk from cows, and ate people. It had its lair on an island in the middle of the River Wear. Many tried to slay it, but it could rejoin severed portions of its body and hence always emerged triumphant.

The people began to pacify it with troughs of milk. Once the milk was watered down and the worm, sensing the deceit, went on the rampage.

Word of the worm reached Sir John Lambton who realized that the worm was the very creature he had caught, grown to mind boggling proportions. He returned from the Crusades and sought advice.

Sir John visited a wise woman, Elspat of the Glen, who told him how the worm might be bested. But before she gave him the information, she made the knight swear an oath. He must kill the first living creature that he met after the battle, or a curse would fall upon the Lambtons and nine generations of the family would meet with untimely deaths.

The witch said that he must weld spikes to his armour to prevent the worm constricting him. He must also fight it in the middle of the river Wear, where the current was strongest. This would wash away the segments of the worm’s body before they could rejoin.

Sir John followed the witch’s advice and arranged for his father to release a hunting dog for him to kill after the fight. The worm was fought in the middle of the river and all went to plan. The coils were severed and washed away before they could rejoin.

When he reached the bank, his father was so overjoyed that he forgot to release the dog and rushed down to greet his son. Sir John could not kill his father, and so the witch’s curse fell on the family. Nine generations of Lambtons did not die easily in their beds.

A portion of the hide of the Lambton worm was supposedly kept on display at Lambton castle, and was said to resemble cow’s hide. The specimen was lost when the castle was demolished in the 18th century.

Sockburn
Prior to the Norman Conquest Sir John Conyers slew a man-eating dragon of some type. Before he did battle he went, in full armour, to the church and offered up his only son to the Holy Ghost. Up until 1826 each newly elected Bishop of Durham was presented with the sword Sir John used in the fight, the Conyers Falchion. The sword actually dates from the 13th century, so it cannot be the original. It is probably a facsimile created as the older weapon rusted away over the ages.

Oddly, in recorded manuscripts and civil speeches, the exact species of dragon cannot be decided upon. The creature is referred to as a dragon, a flying serpent, a worm, or a wyvern. Almost the whole draconic gamut!

Bishop Auckland
The story here is very like that at Sockburn. But the species here is the limbless worm. The great serpent inhabited an oak wood and gobbled up man and beast. It was slain by a champion from the well-known local family, the Pollards. A falchion was the weapon of choice here as well. Whenever the Bishop of Durham entered the diocese, he would be presented with the sword.

Pollard was given a grant of land – as much land as he could ride around whilst the bishop was at dinner. Pollard sneakily rode around the bishop’s castle. The bishop refused to give up his home, so Pollard was given a far greater estate instead, much larger than he could have ever ridden around in the time allotted.

Durham
In 1563 a huge serpent was exhibited (presumably stuffed) in Durham. It had supposedly killed 1000 people in Ethiopia, and was almost certainly a crocodile.

NORTHUMBERLAND

Bamburgh
The Laidly (Northumbrian for loathsome) worm was once a beautiful princess named Margaret, who lived in Bamburgh Castle. Her stepmother was a witch who, due to jealousy, cast a spell changing the princess into a huge worm. The worm’s breath caused vegetation to shrivel, and it demanded the milk of seven cows every day.

Depending on which of the two versions you hear, the hero is either Margaret’s brother Child Wynd or a man named Kemp Owen. Not knowing that the worm was, in fact, the princess he sets out to slay it. When he confronts the worm it tells him to put down his sword and kiss it three times upon its ugly head.

“O quit your sword, unbend your bow,
And give me kisses three
For though I am a poisonous worm
No harm I’ll do to thee.”

Amazingly the hero co-operates and the worm transforms back into Margaret.

The curse rebounds and the witch is turned into a toad that hops off down a well. Some say the toad reappears every seven years and can be changed back into human shape by a hero kissing her after unsheathing Child Wynd’s sword and blowing three times on his horn.

Longwitton
A green dragon lurked by three holy wells in the grounds of Longwitton Hall. It had the power to make itself invisible and heal any wounds. It did not terrorize the area like others of its kind, but kept people away from the wells.

Sir Guy of Warwick was asked to free the wells and rode out to fight the dragon. It became visible when it attacked him. The knight was no match for the dragon’s flaming breath and teeth and claws. He barely escaped alive.

After recuperating, he and his horse returned for a second bout with the dragon. This time he noticed that on the few occasions his sword could penetrate the monster’s scales, its wounds healed almost instantly. He also noticed that it always kept the tip of its tail in one of the wells. Once again Sir Guy was almost killed. But he realized that the dragon was drawing healing power from the well.

After licking his wounds again he challenged the beast for a third fight, but this time Sir Guy had a plan. Feigning defeat, he staggered away from the well. The dragon followed and its tail drew clear of the well. Sir Guy positioned his horse between the dragon and the wells and took up the battle again. Finally, he was able to deliver a fatal wound to the monster whilst it was away from the healing power of the wells.

Gunnarton Fell
A dragon protects a barrow on Money Hill. No more is known of this legend, but the name Money Hill suggests it was guarding a treasure horde.

WALES

GLAMORGAN

Penllin
Brilliantly coloured flying serpents were said to inhabit the woods of Penllin as recently as the mid 19th century. People who were old men and women at the beginning of the 20th century recalled them well from their youth. They were prone to raid chicken coops and as a result were hunted into extinction.

Penmark
Another colony of the winged serpents resided here. One old woman said her grandfather had killed one after a fierce fight. She recalled seeing the skin preserved at his house when she was a girl. To the horror of cryptozoologists, it was thrown away upon his death.

Cardiff
A worm was supposed to live at the bottom of a whirlpool in the River Taff. It was said to drown people and suck down their bodies to eat.

DYFED

Trellech a’r Betws
A gwiber is supposed to guard a prehistoric tumulus in the area.

Newcastle Emlyn
A flame-spewing wyvern lived in a ruined castle, and was covered in impenetrable scales. A soldier waded into the river with a large piece of red cloth. The wyvern reacted to the cloth like a bull (or a male robin) and swooped down to attack it, allowing the soldier to shoot it in its one vulnerable spot. Like the dragon of Wantley, the vital spot was its rear end!

Castle Gwys
In one of the strangest British dragon legends, the beast here was a cockatrice whose body was covered in eyes. For some unexplained reason the estates of Winston were up for grabs to whoever could look on the freakish thing without it seeing them.

One resourceful chap hid inside a barrel and rolled into the cockatrice’s lair. He shouted out “Ha, bold cockatrice! I can see you but you cannot see me!”

He was granted the estates. What happened to the multi-eyed monster is anyone’s guess.

POWYS

Llandelio Graban
A dragon roosted in the tower of Llandelio Graban church until a local ploughboy worked out a way of destroying it. He carved a dummy dragon out of oak, and had the blacksmith cover it with steel hooks and spikes. It was then painted red and erected on the tower whilst the dragon was away hunting.
Upon returning, the dragon saw what it thought was a rival and savagely attacked it. The real dragon coiled about its facsimile and tried to squeeze the life from it. The genuine dragon was fatally wounded, and both the monster and the fake dragon came crashing down from the tower to their ruin.

GWYNEDD

Betws-y-Coed
A monster known as the Wybrant gwiber terrorized the neighbourhood. An outlaw from Hiraethog tried to kill it, but it bit him, tore out his throat, and flung him into the river for good measure!

CLWYD

Llarhaeadr-ym-Mochant
A gwiber brought a reign of terror to the area until the surviving locals studded a huge megalith with spikes and hooks and swathed it in red cloth. The red colour enraged the gwiber who attacked, becoming fatally entwined on the hooks. The megalith is known as the Red Pillar, or the Pillar of the Viper.

Penmynydd
In this detailed story a rich nobleman invites a soothsayer to the celebration feast after his son’s birth. The sage foretells that the boy will die of a gwiber’s bite. The boy is sent away to England for safekeeping, and his father offers a reward to whoever can slay the last gwiber in the area.

A clever lad digs a pit on the path were the gwiber usually slithers. At the bottom he places a highly polished brass mirror. He covers the pit with sticks and grass then waits. The gwiber falls into the pit and sees its own reflection. Thinking it a rival, it attacks the mirror until exhausted; then they boy leaps into the pit and hacks off the gwiber’s head.

Years later the nobleman’s son, now a spoilt teenager, returns and is shown the gwiber’s skull. He contemptuously kicks it and one of its long, dead fangs slices through his boot. The fang retains traces of venom and, as prophesied, the boy dies.

Cynwch Lake

A wyvern dwelt in this lake beneath the slopes of Moel Offrum. It emerged to poison the countryside and devour whatever it could catch. The Wizard of Ganllwyd employed a group of archers to kill it, but the wyvern always eluded them.

One day a shepherd boy named Meredydd found the wyvern sleeping on the hill. He ran two miles to Cymmer Abbey and borrowed a magick axe. He hacked the wyvern’s head off while it was asleep.

Nant Gwynant

After the Roman Legions left, Vortigern became the first British king. He decided to build a stronghold on the Iron Age hill fort of Dinas Emrys. Every time work began upon Dinas Emry, it would be destroyed by earthquake-like disturbances. Vortigern’s wizards said that in order to stop these events, the ground should be sprinkled with the blood of the son of a virgin. A boy was found whose mother had apparently been magically impregnated by a spirit. He was about to be sacrificed when he went into a trance and announced that beneath the hill was a lake. In the lake dwelt a red dragon and a white dragon who perpetually fought.

Vortigern’s men dug down and found the lake. When the lake was drained they found a pair of dragons. The two great reptiles fought until, at last, the white dragon gave way and fled. Seeing this as an omen that his forces would defeat the invading Saxons, Vortigern adopted the red dragon as his emblem.

The boy was none other than a young Merlin.

Llyn-y-Gadair
In the 18th century a group of men were swimming across this small lake close to Snowdonia. One of them was grabbed and devoured by a worm.

SCOTLAND

ROXBURGHSHIRE

Linton
The Linton worm was perhaps the laziest British dragon. It lived in a cave on Linton Hill and instead of actively hunting prey; it would suck passing animals and people into its waiting maw.

After eating it would crawl out of its lair and coil around the hill, leaving deep impressions. Local peasantry offered a reward to whoever could slay the worm. The knight who took up the challenge was the Laird of Linton, who was from the Somerville.

He attached a lump of peat to a wheel that he then fitted to the end of his lance. He dipped the peat in boiling pitch, brimstone, and resin. He set light to the concoction and charged at the worm, ramming it down the beast’s throat.

He was also rewarded by being given the post of Royal Falconer to the King of Scotland.

KIRKCUDBRIGHTSHIRE

Solway Firth
A sea dwelling worm devoured fish stocks that the local people depended on. Not satisfied with seafood, it crawled ashore to eat farm animals and humans. People from the villages along the shore built a huge palisade of sharpened stakes and erected it at low tide. When the worm came in with the high tide it impaled itself on the spikes. Its roaring and death throes lasted for three days. Sea birds ate its carcass.

Dalry
The worm here was white in colour and this legend may have inspired Bram Stoker’s novel ‘Lair of the White Worm’. It wound itself around Mote Hill and got up to the usual tricks.

A local blacksmith made a suit of armour covered with retractable spikes. He allowed the worm to swallow him and then wriggled so violently in its gut that the monsters intestines were shredded.

ANGUS

Strathmartin
Here a dragon guarded a well. It ate, one by one, nine maidens who came to draw water. It was finally slain by a man named Martin who had been the lover of one of the devoured girls.

ARGYLLSHIRE

Ben Vair
The hero of this story was a sea captain, Charles the Skipper. He came up with a trap to rid the area of a dragon that was the bane of all. He anchored his ship a little way offshore, and built a bridge from the vessel to the beach. The bridge was made of barrels lashed together and studded with metal spikes.

Then he began to roast some meat on his ship. The smell wafted to the dragon’s lair and it came swooping down to the beach. As it began to crawl across the bridge of barrels, the spikes pierced its hide and one struck the vulnerable spot. The massive beast expired on the bridge long before it got to the ship.

ROSS & CROMARTY

Loch Maree
Until the middle of the 18th century bulls were sacrificed on August 25th (St Maerlrubha’s Day) to dragons that dwelt in the lake. These may have been akin to the creatures still reported in other Scottish Lochs to this day.

SUTHERLAND

Conc-na-Cnoimh
The story here is very like that of the Linton Worm. The hero was a farmer named Hector Gunn. He used a spear seven ells (585 inches) long. He fitted a lump of peat to the end and dipped it in boiling pitch. The fumes were so bad that they stopped the worm from attacking him. He rammed it between the worm’s jaws and in its death throws its squeezing coils were wrapped about the hill. Gunn was rewarded by the King with lands and money. The King was said to be King William the Lion who reigned in the 12th century.

Conc-na-Cnoimh means Hill of the Worm.

ORKNEY

The Orkneys
The Stoor Worm rivals the Norse Jormungand or Midgaurd Serpent for sheer size. It was so vast that when it yawned the earth shook and great waves spewed over the land. Its breath was a vast cloud of poison that withered crops on the land. The monster’s tongue was so huge it could sweep whole villages into its mouth.

In desperation a wizard was consulted, and the village was told that the only way to keep the Stour Worm at bay was to feed it seven virgins each week. This was duly done until the time came for the king to sacrifice his own daughter. He offered her in marriage to anyone who could slay the worm.

The young hero, Assipattle, then appeared on the scene. The youngest of seven sons of a well-to-do farmer, he had been branded a good-for-nothing dreamer all his life. He stole his father’s fastest horse and rode away from the farm. Then he stole an iron pot of burning peat from an old woman. Finally, he stole a boat and went to sea.

He got close enough to the Stoor Worm that when it yawned he was drawn into its mouth. He traveled for miles down the vast gullet. Eventually, he came upon the worm’s liver, glowing with an eerie phosphorous light.  He cut open the liver and thrust the red hot pot inside. The liver ignited and began to boil fiercely.

In its death throes the worm vomited up its stomach contents, including Assipattle. The thrashing of the worm caused tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. When it died its teeth formed the Orkney Islands and the Shetlands. Its body became Iceland, and its tongue the Baltic Sea. The still burning liver became Iceland’s volcanoes.

Somehow Assipattle survives all this and marries the Princess.

If you want to know more about dragons these books are highly recommended.

Bord, Janet and Colin, Alien Animals, Granada, 1980
Dickenson, Peter, Flight of Dragons, Pierrot, 1979
Eberhart, George M, Mysterious Creatures; A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, 2002

Freeman, Richard, Dragons; more Than a Myth? CFZ Press 2005

Freeman, Richard, Explore Dragons, Heart of Albion, 2005
Greer, John Michael, Monsters, Llewellyn, 2001
Gould, Charles, Mythical Monsters, W H Allen, 1886
Newman, Paul, Hill of the Dragon, Kingsmead 1979
Simpson, Jaqueline, British Dragons, B T Blasford 1980
Whitlock, Ralph, Here be Dragons, George Allen & Unwin 1983

We are very grateful to Richard Freeman for allowing us to publish his articles. Richard’s recent book – Adventures in Cryptozoology: Hunting for Yetis, Mongolian Deathworms and Other Not-So-Mythical Monsters, is available to purchase here