The Devil’s Arrows

by MJ Wayland
The Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge

Standing nearly 22 feet in height, the three Bronze age monoliths, The Devil’s Arrows are the tallest standing stones in the United Kingdom apart from the Rudston Monolith. The stones are devilishly black with deep grooves running from top to bottom, the victims of countless years of corrosive rain on their millstone grit. The grooves are a testament to their age and mystery, many believe the stones were created with grooves to add phallic symbolism or that they stand on a cross roads of ley lines through North Yorkshire. Originally four stones, their name has been traced back to 1721 when they where known locally as The Devil’s Bolts.

Legend claims that one day the Devil stood on Howe Hill and fired our arrows to destroy Fountain’s Abbey near Ripon but they fell short of their intended target. Since Antiquarian William Stukeley’s time it has been believed that the arrows are in a straight line, running North to South. The fact is that they’re visibly not. When they were dragged across from miles of countryside from Knaresborough (seven miles away), the stones where constructed to not be in line, but to be slightly “westward.”

In the 1970’s Paul Devereux wrote in The Ley Hunter’s Companion that “the functions of the monoliths was to act as a multi-directional sighting or reference instrument.” Devereux also quotes G Bernard Wood on “the Devil’s arrows stand in line “with an ancient ford across the River Ure.”

There is also evidence that the local village of Aldborough held their St Barnabas Solstice fairs between the arrows and the village of Boroughbridge, a tradition that may have been passed down since the Bronze Age. So far from being three stones in a Yorkshire field, the stones are great to visit and are truly a place of mystery.

Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge (Tom Jolliffe) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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