A local legend states that the Devil himself offered to help build Durham Cathedral. As the Devil, he had the ability to fly, and spent time flying up and down the length of the Dene collecting stones for the building project. His intention was to construct the foundations using the crumbly rock found in the Dene gorge, which would cause the cathedral building to collapse, killing everyone inside.
One day as he was flying up and down the Dene collecting the rocks for his diabolical plan, the leather apron he was using to carry a big, heavy stone snapped. The stone came hurtling down, and the Devil snatched at it as it fell. But his attempt to catch it failed, and all he managed to do was leave deep scratch marks in the stone’s surface. It is said that if you look closely at the stone you can still see the scratch marks and the drops of the Devil’s blood on the surface of the stone.
While the truth is probably that the boulder was carried along the gorge at some point in the past, it is still interesting because of the bonsai-style beech tree which clings to the Eastern end of the rock, with its roots sunk into the cracks in the moss-covered boulder.
Know Before You Go
The Devil's Lapstone is found in the largest area of semi-natural woodland in the North East of England. It is one area where you can enjoy the "wildwood" of magnificent yew and ancient oak trees that once covered much of Britain.
Along the Yew Tree Trail that runs through the nature reserve you will pass Kissing Frog Stones, Pegjellima's Cave, Blunts Beck Waterfalls and various metal plaques set along the trail.