The Fairy Stones – Burdale


   The Fairy Stones are located in a valley at Burdale, 3 mile to the north of Fridaythorpe in East Yorkshire.

  The Fairy Stones are a group of large rocks sitting high up on the valley side. The valley itself is called Fairy Dale, and the Fairy Stones are the only visible rocks in that part of the valley. The stones are pieces of a weathered outcrop of a Breccia type rock, made up of chalk, limestone, and flint fragments, fused together.

  The fairy name of the stones and the dale point to this location being connected with the fairy folk in the past, however, any folklore about them appears to have been lost. The Fairy Stones name does appear on the first edition OS map (1854), and in his ‘East Yorkshire Folklore‘ John Nicholson notes that …

“The superstitious among men, in order to see their future love, would hie them to the fairy stones, at Burdale, and there, with the full moon brightly shining, at midnight, would see the one who should be all the world to them.” (Nicholson, 1890)

  Although not mentioned directly, it seems likely that the fairy folk originally played some part in these visions of the future. At the Fairy Pin Well on Brayton Barf Hill near Selby, young women would drop a pin into the well, and in return the fairies would grant them a glimpse of their true love, or future husband, reflected in the water of the well.

The Fairy Stones above the Fairy Dale

  The tops of the Fairy Stones are quite flat and level, and seeing them for the first time brought to mind the ‘Fairy Table’ folklore (See the Kilburn Fairy Table). There are examples of flat topped rocks in Britain and Europe where fairies were said to hold their revels and dance on top of the stones.

Fairy Tables?

  In some locations, distinctive rocks were also said to be the entrance to a fairy dwelling (see the Nafferton Slack Fairy Stone), and there was a more general belief that the fairies lived within ancient burial mounds. It is worth noting that there are numerous prehistoric burial mounds and earthworks spread across the Yorkshire Wolds, with several barrows located in the area around the Fairy Stones. At Wold Newton (13 miles to north east) there is a large burial mound called Willy Howe, which folklore records as being a fairy dwelling. A local story tells of a farmer seeing a doorway in the side of this mound, and inside he could see the fairies feasting. The man was offered a drink by the fairies, but being afraid, he grabbed the cup and fled.

The Fairy Stones from the valley floor

  Following these old traditions, it seems likely that the Burdale Fairy Stones were believed to be either the entrance to a fairy dwelling or a place where they congregated to hold their revels. Unfortunately, like many locations, the folklore seems not to have been recorded before it died out.

  Any one wanting to confirm the fairy connection can maybe pay a visit to the stones at midnight on a full moon – they may even get a glimpse of their true love!

Flint, chalk and limestone fused together
Shades of a Sámi Sieidi ?

Nicholson, J. (1890) Folklore of East Yorkshire.

The Lay of the Land


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