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Troller's Gill, Appletreewick


The caves of this deep limestone ravine are the haunt of trolls and sprites. The Gill is also associated with a black dog legend.

Parkinson in his Yorkshire Legends and Traditions (1888-9) tells how the ravine is haunted by a fearsome barguest: a huge long-haired dog with eyes the size of saucers and razor sharp saliva flecked maw. The story runs that a man who lived in the area decided to spend a night in the Gill to witness the barguest for himself. One windy moonlit night he set off down the winding ravine, as he crept into the dark depths of the ravine he heard the shout" Forbear". This did not daunt him and he walked on until he came to a huge Yew tree, where no light penetrated. Under the tree he drew a circle on the ground, chanted charms of protection and kissed the damp ground three times. He then called on the fearsome beast to appear.

At once a howling wind blew up and fire flashed from the rocks as the barguest appeared and attacked the unfortunate man - his protective circle having no power to repel the creature. His body was discovered later by a shepherd with mysterious marks on his breast that had not come from the hand of man.

The story is said to have been recorded in 1881. This is obviously a local legend as there were no witnesses to describe his movements.


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Ian Topham
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Re: Troller's Gill, Appletreewick

Yorkshire Legends and Traditions’ by Rev Thomas Parkinson (1888)

The Bargest of the Troller's Gill.

This legend belongs to the same neighbourhood as those of 'The Devil's Bridge' and 'The Devil's Apronful', to that of the wild gills, or ravines, which intersect the bleak moorlands forming the watershed between the head waters of the tributaries of the Wharfe and the Nidd. Following up one of the streams, which murmur or roar through these ravines, from near the village of Appletreewick, or, as it is locally called, Aptrick, by Skyreholme, for about two miles, a deep fissure through the limestone rock is reached. This is known as the Troller's Gill. A wild, weird, lonely spot, where after heavy rains the torrent rushes for half a mile between masses of rock, sixty or seventy feet high and only a few yards apart. The place has been called the 'Gordale of Appletreewick,' as distinguished from, yet compared with, The Gordale of Malham and, compared by some for its grandeur and gloom — not to the favour of the latter.

In the whole of this neighbourhood, belief in the bargesty or spectre hound, has held a prominent place in popular superstition and folklore. The usual form assumed by this apparition was (is?) that of a large dog, with long hair, immense eyes, large as saucers and bright as fire. Often he dragged with him, fixed to his feet, or round his neck, a chain, whose clanking, in the stillness and darkness of night, added much to the terror which he inspired. Many are the places which he 'haunted', and many are the legends of his appearance; but one of his favourite spots was the dark Troller's Gill, and the following poetical version of the legend of his appearance there, to a dare-devil son of the neighbourhood, is given by the late Dr. Dixon in his 'Stories of Craven Dales,' and is probably from his own pen :

On the steep fell's crest did the moonlight rest,
The beams illumined the dale ;
And a silvery sheen clothed the forest green,
As it swayed to the moaning gale.

From Burnsall's tower the midnight hour
Had tolled ; and all was still,
Save the music sweet, to the tiny feet
Of the elfin band, from the fairy land,
That tripped on the rounded hill.

From his cot he stepped, while the household slept,
And he caroll'd with boisterous glee;
But he no hied to the green hill side
The £Eury train to see.

He went not to stray with his own dear May
Along by a pine-clad scar:
And loving gaze on the dazzling rays
That shot from the Polar-star.

On what intent is the Troller bent ?
And where is the Troller bound?
To the horrid gill of the eerie hill,
To call on the Spectre Hound.

And on did he pass, o'er the dew-bent grass,
While the sweetest perfumes fell
From myriad flowers, where forest bowers
O'ershadow that fairy dell.

And before his eyes did the dark gill rise.
No moon-ray pierc'd its gloom;
And his steps around, did the waters sound,
Like a voice from a haunted tomb.

And there as he slept, a shuddering crept
O'er his frame, scarce known to fear.
For he once did deem the sprite of the stream
Had loudly called “Forbear!”

An aged yew in die rough cliffs grew,
And under its sombre shades
Did the Troller rest, while with charms unblest,
He a magic circle made.

Then thrice did he turn, where the streamers bum.
And thrice did he kiss the ground;
And with solemn tone in that gill so lone,
He called on the Spectre Hound.

And a whirlwind swept by and stormy grew the sky.
While the torrent louder roared;
And a lurid flame o'er the Troller's stalwart frame
From each cleft of the gill was poured.

And a dreadful thing from the cliff did spring;
Its wild bark thrilled around;
And a fiendish glow flashed forth I trow,
From the eyes of the Spectre Hound

When on Barden's height glowed the mountain light,
And borne on the mountain air,
The priory bell did the peasants tell,
Twas the hour of the matin prayer.

By shepherd men, where the lurid glen
Doth its rugged jaws expand,
A corse was found, where a dark yew frown'd.
And marks were imprest on the dead man's breast.

But they seemed not by mortal hand.
In the evening calm a funeral psalm
Slowly stole o'er the woodland scene;
The hare-bells wave o'er a new-made grave
In Burnsall's churchyard green.

That funeral psalm in the evening calm,
Which echo'd the dell around.
Was his dirge o'er whose grave blue hare-bells wave.
Who call'd on the Spectre Hound.



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