The Barguest of Troller’s Gill
Barguests, headless hellhounds, portents of death. It seems these beasts love the Yorkshire Dales. Recently I wrote about the Black Dog of Ivelet Bridge. That one terrorised the northern dales but residents of the southern dales had no reason to be complacent. Troller’s Gill, near Appletreewick, matched Ivelet Bridge for Barguests, and added trolls, gnomes and plenty more for good measure.
Troller’s Gill is a small but steep limestone ravine near Appletreewick (pronounced ‘Aptrick’ by locals) and Skyreholme in Wharfedale. It is an out of the way spot, not often visited by walkers and other visitors.
So it is quiet. Too quiet. And eerie. Sinister. Chilling. Anyway, it’s all too easy to see why legends have grown up around the place.
Trolls … plus gnomes, boggarts, sprites pixies and imps
It all started with some pesky trolls prowling the dark crevices and caves. They cunningly disguised themselves as rocks in the gorge. Make too much noise and they woke in a fury to hurl huge rocks down on top of the unwary traveller. With that story, it’s no wonder the place became known as Troller’s Gill.
The legend grew, and over the years the Trolls were joined by blood-sucking gnomes, flesh-eating boggarts, nasty pixies and imps, monstrous rock sprites, and goblins as mad as hatters.
If a quiet, dark sinister place gets that kind of reputation, it stays quiet.
The Barguest of Troller’s Gill
As if that’s not enough, now came the Barguest. In the late 19th century Thomas Parkinson was telling the story in his book, Yorkshire Legends and Traditions. The ravine, he claimed, was haunted by a terrifying barguest, a gigantic, long-haired hound from hell with eyes like saucers and razor sharp teeth dripping with saliva.
There was also evidence. It was claimed that in 1881 a brave local man had decided to confront the beast. One windy, moonlit night he entered the gorge. As he made his way deeper into the dark, cold depths, he heard a shout, “Forbear“.
But that didn’t put him off. He kept going until he came to a huge Yew tree growing in a place where no light penetrated. He drew a circle on the ground under the tree, chanted charms of protection and kissed the damp ground three times. Guaranteed protection from a hellhound, everyone knows that. Then he shouted his challenge for the fearsome beast to appear.
Immediately a howling wind blew up, fire flashed from the rocks and the Barguest bounded out of the dark roaring its response to the challenge.
Amazingly, though, it seems all his protective preparations were useless against the vicious attack that followed. Who’d have guessed? His horribly mutilated body was found some time later by a shepherd. Across the dead man’s chest were strange marks “that had not come from the hand of man”.
Will you test out Troller’s Gill?
So, Troller’s Gill has it all, from predatory pixies to black beasts from hell, according to legend. There is no denying, however, that it is a quiet place, with a slightly creepy feel to it at times. Of course, that feeling may come with knowledge of the legends. But then again …
Why not visit and make your own mind up.