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Britain's Landscape Symbols and Mysteries: Alderley Edge & Bardsey Island

Alderley Edge has been a sacred site for many thousands of years and has many legends attached to it. King Arthur and his men are said to sleep somewhere beneath the sandstone cliffs.

A local story tells of a farmer who was on his way to Macclesfield Market to sell a fine white mare. Along the way he met a Wizard who offered to buy the mare for a good price. The farmer refused hoping that he could get a better price for such a fine animal at the market.

Once at the bustling market it seemed as though he had been bewitched, not a single offer was made for his mare although lesser animals where sold quickly for good prices. Dejected the farmer returned home and came across the same wizard who again offered to buy the horse. The farmer agreed and the wizard led him through a woodland to a steep sandstone cliff face. The wizard touched the rock with his staff and the rock parted with a thunderous sound to reveal a huge cavern. Inside the cavern rows and rows of warriors lay in deathly sleep.

Every warrior bar one had a horse standing next to him. The wizard proffered the farmer a bag of golden coins for his horse and the farmer fled out of the cavern through the wood and home. He never saw the cavern or the wizard again.

For a more in depth account of the tale please consider the article, The Wizard of Alderley Edge.

A natural spring is situated in the wood below the sandstone cliff which is carved with a bearded face and the following words:

Drink of this and take thy fill,
for the water falls by the wizards will.

The date of the carving and the text are unknown but the spring has been known as a wishing well for many years.

Bardsey Island is also known as the island of the currents and the saints. There are said to be the graves of 20,000 saints interred on the island, and legend suggests that anybody buried here will not go to hell no matter how wicked his deeds.

As well as being the burial place for monks and saints, it is said to be the final resting place of Merlin, who sleeps in a cave guarding the treasures of Britain, waiting for a time when he is needed again.

The legends about this island differ. One says that Merlin is buried here. Another is an adaptation of the cave legend, where he is trapped not with Arthur and the sleeping knights and not by an evil enchantress. Here he lives in solitude by his own volition. A variation of this legend has Merlin living in a magical house of glass. This "Isle of Glass" legend incorporates Celtic mythology about the otherworld that is also manifest in the legendary Avalon.

The island was colonized by St Cadfan in 516, and was the home to an Augustinian Abbey. A place of pilgrimage for many years three trips here was said to equal one trip to Rome. The actual trip over to Bardsey Island was very treacherous due to the unpredictable currents within Bardsey Sound; the pilgrimage must have been a hair-raising experience.

The isle is said to be haunted by ghostly monks, sometimes seen on the shore at night. Their appearance is said to foretell misfortune in the area.

St Mary's Well on the Island has a curious tradition associated with it. If you went to the well, got a mouth full of water, walked back up the steep steps leading to the church, and then walked around the church three times still holding the water in your mouth you would be granted a wish.

Sources :

Mysterious Britain & Ireland


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