The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Samson’s Toe, Langcliffe, North Yorkshire.

Samson's Toe Glacial Erratic Boulder, Langcliffe, North Yorks.

Samson’s Toe Glacial Erratic Boulder, Langcliffe, North Yorks.

Os grid reference SD 8321 6565. About 1 mile to the east of Langcliffe village, near Langcliffe High Mill, in The Yorkshire Dales National Park, stands a huge glacial erratic boulder that is locally called Samson’s Toe. It is located in an area of limestone ridges and scars known as ‘Whinskill’, which is probably a Scandinavian name. Here, in this barren, rocky land, there are a number of large boulders known as “rocking stones”. To the north the great bulk of Pen-y-Ghent can be seen as can the flat-topped Ingleborough further to the north-west – when the weather is fine and sunny that is! The town of Settle is 2 miles to the south-west.

The great boulder can be found in a limestone-strewn area called ‘Whinskill Rocks’ just west of Henside Lane and close by a wooded area. Lower Whinskill Farm can be seen a bit further to the west. The glacial boulder called Samson’s Toe is approx 8 foot high and it stands (pivots) upon little limestone stilts that, because they have been protected have not eroded away, at the edge of a ridge of limestone. It is said to be possible to “rock the stone” but you would need many strong men to do this! The boulder has, however, suffered from graffiti some of which could date from the Victorian age.

The boulder is apparently shaped like a giant’s toe – the giant in question being Samson. According to legend, he lost his footing when jumping across from Langcliffe Scar or Ribblesdale, breaking off his toe whilst attempting this. But, in fact, the boulder was deposited here at the last Ice-Age 12,000-13,000 years ago or more by retreating glacial flows moving from north to south – the boulder being picked up by the glacier somewhere to the north, perhaps the Lake District, or a bit closer to home. The great boulder is made from something called “greywacke”, a grey-black hard sandstone made up of fine pebbles, quartz, feldspar and other rock fragments. There are two other boulders nearby, just to the east over on the opposite side of Henside Lane, that make up the Whinskill Rocks –  these are also referred to as “rocking stones” on ordnance survery maps of this area.


Cook, David & Kirk, Wendy., Pocket Guide Rocks & Minerals, Larousse, London, 1995.

Click on the following link


The Linton Stone, Linton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire

The Linton Stone, North Yorkshire

The Linton Stone, North Yorkshire

SE0042 6317. Standing in a field just opposite St Michael & All Angels church at Linton near Grassington is a 6 foot high boulder. The limestone boulder is round-shaped and covered in large holes or pockmarks along with grooves caused by erosion over thousands of years. In the same field there are other recumbant stones though these are much smaller in size. And built into a wall not far from the banks of the river Wharfe, there are three smaller limestone boulders. The largest of these is obviously a glacial erratic that was deposited here by the retreating ice flows some 11,000-13,000 years ago at the last Ice-Age.

It could be that the boulder and whats left of these other stones originally formed a pagan stone circle; these stones being moved in to position in prehistoric times by a tribe of ancient people living beside the river. The boulder and the other scattered stones form an alignment, but many have been robbed away by local farmers. Near the entrance to St Michael’s church on church road stands the stump of an Anglo-Saxon cross which means the site was Christianised at some point between the 7th-9th century AD.


The Great Stone Of Stretford, Gorse Hill, Manchester.

The Great Stone of Stretford

The Great Stone of Stretford

SJ8041 9553. At the lodge entrance to Gorse Hill Park on the Chester road (A56), Stretford, stands the curious ‘Great Stone’. The rectangular-shaped stone, made of millstone grit, is 3 feet high, 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep and the two large holes (slots) in the top are roughly 7 inches deep. Locally called the plague stone it is, in fact, a glacial erratic boulder that was originally deposited at Great Stone Road close by at the last Ice Age – perhaps up to 13,000 years ago.

According to legend and local folklore the holes in the top of the stone were filled with vinegar or holy water, perhaps vinegar in one hole and holy water in the other. Coins given by plague victims were placed in the vinegar to steralise them; the holy water  hopefully cured the victim of the disease. Legend says that the stone was thrown by a Saxon giant called Tarquin who lived in the castle at ‘Castlefield’ in Manchester – the holes being for his finger and thumb. He was apparently killed in a local battle by Sir Lancelot. But other theories suggest that the stone is the base of a Saxon cross or a mile stone for the Roman road leading to their fort at Northwich (Condate).