Fairy Steps, the legendary stone steps that were once used to haul coffins up the rockface ~
From Beetham village, England, a path climbs to Beetham fell and leads to the so-called Fairy Steps. The second of two flights of stone steps, where the narrow passage squeezes between two sheer rock faces via a flight of natural stone stairs is so named because of a legend.
Apparently, if you descend this narrow stone stairway without touching the rocks on either side, the local fairies will grant you a wish.
Other legends talk about the fairies using the steps to escape a witches’ cauldron, and it is said that those with a “second sight” can see the fairies playing on the steps.
In any case, with the arrival of the railway in the Victorian era, coach loads of visitors would flock to the area and attempt to get their wishes granted by the fairies. But the gully cut into the limestone rock is only 30 cm wide in places at shoulder height, so you would really need the stature of a fairy in order to pass without touching the sides and get your wishes granted….
These days visitors are a little more skeptical, but the steps are in any case a nice walk.
Actually, this cleft in the limestone was used for something a little more macabre: the steps are situated on one Lakeland’s corpse trails, along which the coffins of those who died in more remote and inaccessible wildernesses of the neighbourhood, would be carried for burial in the nearby churchyard.
The slender stairway is in fact part of one of the coffin trails in the area, once used as a shortcut to transport the deceased from Arnside to the burial ground at St Michael and All Angels Parish Church in Beetham.
Yes, that’s true. It’s hard to imagine carrying coffins up such a narrow passage but, if you look closely, you’ll notice the iron rings that were used for ropes during the coffin-hauling days.
Days that came to an end in 1866 when the church of St James was built in Arnside, and the locals of the town could now travel a less arduous journey to the new church. The fairy steps turned into the stuff of legend….
Images from Web – Google Research