The Devils Arrows

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The Devils Arrows

The largest of the stones is now sheltered in a small copse of trees next to the main road into Boroughbridge from the A1 side

In the somewhat unromantic location of a field just off the A1 stand the Devil's Arrows. These weatherworn spears of rock are among the most enigmatic standing stones. The tallest clocks in at 22.5 feet - making it the second tallest menhir in Britain and taller than anything at Stonehenge.

Today, 3 of the Arrows remaining standing but it is thought that originally they numbered 5. Visitor accounts from John Leland and William Camden as late as the 16th century describe 4 stones. The latter, writing in the 1560s, described how one of these stones had been recently pulled down by locals who evidently felt they were connected with some kind of 'treasure'.

It is thought that this stone eventually wound up being used nearby as part of the base of a bridge over a river - although recently pieces of stone of the same kind were found in a local garden, suggesting that it may simply have been broken up. A wedge taken out of one of the remaining stones suggest that still further attempts were made to disrupt the Arrows - possibly for use as building materials.

Their appearance today - fluted and grooved - is actually just the result of natural erosion, as opposed to any sculptural notions of the ancients.

In terms of layout, the stones form a line more or less running straight along a SSE/NNW axis. Unlike some more complicated sites, there seems to be only one fit with any noticeable astronomical event - the midsummer moonrise. That aside, the purpose of these silent sentinels is, like many of their kin, a complete mystery to us today.

According to local legend, walking clockwise around all 3 stones 12 times will awaken the Devil, so take care when visiting in case you arouse Beelzebub!

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 28th August 2014 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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