A £1.75m five-bedroom bungalow, set in 4.25 acres of woodland within the North York Moors National Park, has looked very enticing on our property pages in recent weeks, but even more fascinating was the artfully angled drone picture showing the property, at Heathwaite near Swainby, in the foreground because looming over it in the background was the unmistakable shape of Whorl Hill.


The conical hill rises 236 metres (or 773ft) from the floor of the Vale of Mowbray and probably gets its name from a Norse word, “hvirfill”, which means “high hill with a rounded top” – a perfect description.

The Northern Echo: Red Oaks - Swainby - Knight Frank

Red Oaks in the foreground with Whorl Hill in the background. Picture: Knight Frank

But other sources say the hill gets its name from the terrible dragon – or wyrm – that once inhabited the hill, coiling its fearsome body around it when it slept, forcing the hill to take on its distinctive whirly shape.

The fire-breathing dragon regularly flew over the surrounding landscape on the edge of the Cleveland Hills torching any farmstead which caused it displeasure. It only ceased its fiery rampage if someone brought to it its favourite breakfast, of nine cows’ milk.

The story has a couple of endings. In one, an unknown knight just happened to be passing through the area on a day when the dragon was at its most unpleasant, burning farms and people at will, so, after a terrific tussle, he ran it through with his sword. He would accept no reward, but carried on his way, leaving the local people rejoicing.

Apparently, the nearby village of Sexhow was also unfortunate enough to be troubled by a dragon which was also killed by an unknown knight who refused any reward. When the heroic knight departed, the pelt of the Sexhow scorcher, though, was left on display in Hutton church.

The Northern Echo:

The alternate ending to the story of the wyrm of Whorl Hill is that it was slain by a knight from the de Meynell family, who lived in Whorlton Castle (above), overlooking the A172, in the shadow of Whorl Hill.

It seems that in the past, the North East was very vulnerable to dragon attack. Up in Northumberland, there was the Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh, which terrorised people from a rocky outcrop near Bamburgh until a brave knight kissed it thrice and it turned into a beautiful damsel.

The Northern Echo: Legend of the Lambton Worm.

Near Chester-le-Street, the Lambton Worm coiled itself around Penshaw Hill (or perhaps Fatfield Hill), overlooking the A1(M), until it was slain by a brave knight, and at Sockburn, in a remote loop of the River Tees, there lived a dragon which also demanded nine cows’ milk for breakfast until it was slaughtered by Sir John Conyers, who still sleeps in stone in Sockburn’s ruined church. The Sockburn wyrm probably inspired Lewis Carroll, of nearby Croft, to create the Jabberwock dragon story for Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The Northern Echo: The tumbledown Saxon church at Sockburn near where a dragon was killed

The ruined church at Sockburn, on the outskirts of Darlington, where a dragon once lived

It is believed that most of these stories originate from Viking times. The ruthless invaders probably looted, raped and pillaged, and while they may not have had fire literally coming out of their mouths, their incendiary words meant they had to be taken out by the bravest knight in the district.

The Northern Echo: The jabberwock, from Lewis Carroll\'s Through the Looking Glass, is based on our local dragon stories

The jabberwock was Lewis Carroll's version of our local dragon stories

A stronghold like Whorl Hill could have been a great location for the Vikings to have launched their appalling attacks from – it had once been used by the Romans as a military position because of its great vantage points, and in the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians used its lofty prominence to bombard the Royalists in Whorlton Castle.

So the whirly wyrm hill in the shape of a whorl really must be a selling point for the attractive Red Oaks bungalow that is just about in its shadow.