The Penhill Giant was very big and notoriously grumpy. He kept a herd of high altitude pigs and a big bad dog with the usual legendary bad dog equipment i.e. teeth like nails, jaws like a steel trap etc.
Occasionally the Giant popped down the hill for a spot of sheep rustling, but he mostly kept himself to himself.
One day a girl was bringing the sheep down from the high moor beside Penhill when one of her flock ran off. With a muttered curse about the intelligence of woolly things she trudged off in pursuit up the hill. Suddenly a cold grey shadow fell over her and when she looked up all she could see was a sky full of giant.
He carried her, kicking and screaming, up the slope and set her down on the hilltop. He was licking his lips as he looked forward to having his wicked way with her, when his (up till now) faithful hound bit him on the leg. The big bad dog had reconsidered where his loyalties lay and, while he wouldn’t say no to a nice slice of half-inched mutton, he drew the line at allowing his master to terrorise young girls.
The dog chased the giant round and round the hilltop nipping at heels and buttocks until the giant tripped over a boulder and pitched headfirst over Penhill Crags. There was a nasty crunching sound and that was that.
I presume the dog and the maiden lived happily ever after.
About the Penhill Giant
I first came across the story of the Penhill Giant in Tom Stephenson and Mike Harding's great book Walking The Dales. They tell the story of a giant who lived on the heights of Penhill - which rises up between Wensleydale and Coverdale - and how he is brought down by his dog. Its a very moral tale in which the giant hopes to have his wicked way with a young maiden, but his dog not only leaps to the girl's defence, but ends up chasing the giant to his death on Penhill crags.
Its one of a series of tales about giants and ogres - from Jack and the Beanstalk to Shrek - and it is echoed in the festival of Burning the Bartle which happens close to Penhill in the village of West Witton. Here an effigy is burned on St. Bartholemew's Day to the accompaniment of a rhyme which goes:
On Penhill Craggs he tore his rags;
at Hunter's Thorn he blew his horn;
at Capplebank Stee he 'appened his fortune
and brake his knee;
at Grisgill Bek he brak his neck;
at Wadham's End he couldn't fend;
at Grisgill End we'll mak his end;
Shout lads Shout.
The connection to the legend of the giant is clear. On Penhill there is a barrow which is known as The Giant's Grave and giants also crop up in other places around the North East. The Carlow Stone at the end of Semerwater was thrown at the Devil by a giant on Addleborough, Consett in County Durham is name after a giant and Roseberry Topping was apprently created by the Giant Wade after scooping out the Hole of Horcum.
If you want one of the nicest walks in Yorkshire climb Penhill. You won’t be disappointed.