The Key of the Castle


The Giant’s Castles at Treryn, remarkable as a grand example of truly British Cyclopean architecture, was built by the power of enchantment (from Hunt, Popular romances of West of England)

castle-keyThe giant to whom all the rest of his race were indebted for this stronghold was in every way a remarkable mortal. He was stronger than any other giant, and he was a mighty necromancer. He sat on the promontory of Treryn, and by the power of his will he compelled the castle to rise out of the sea. It is only kept in its present position by virtue of a magic key. This, the giant placed in a holed rock, known as the Giant’s Lock, and when ever this key, a large round stone, can be taken out of the lock, the promontory of Treryn and its castle will disappear beneath the waters. There are not many people who obtain even a sight of this wonderful key. You must pass at low tide along a Granite ledge, scarcely wide enough for a goat to stand on. If you happen to make a false step, you must be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Well, having got over safely, you come to a pointed rock with a hole in it; this is the castle lock. Put your hand deep into the hole, and you will find at the bottom a large egg-shaped stone, which is easily moved in any direction. You will feel certain that you can take it out,—but try! Try as you may, you will find it will not pass through the hole; yet no one can doubt but that it once went in. Lieut. Goldsmith dissolved one bit of superstition by foolishly throwing the fatal Logan stone from off its bearing; but no one has ever yet succeeded in removing the key of the giant’s castle from the hole in which the necromancer is said to have placed it when he was dying

It is not known what powerful magician raised this Giant’s hold, though it was believed that its security depended on a magic stone called “the key of the Castle,” respecting which Merlin had something to say, as well as about many other remarkable stones in the neighbourhood (from Bottrell, Traditions and hearthside Stories..)

The key was an egg-shaped stone, between two and three feet long, which was contained in the cavity of a rock with a hole facing the sea, through which it might be turned round; and the opening appeared large enough for it to be passed through. Many attempted to get it out, but they always found it to hitch somewhere; and lucky (according to old folks’ faith) that it did, because the sage Merlin prophecied that when the key of the Castle was taken out of the hole, Men Amber (the holy rock) would be overthrown, the Castle sink beneath the ocean, and other calamities occur.

The key was situated near the bottom of a deep chasm called The Gap, which is passed on approaching the Logan Rock by the usual path. It required a sure-footed climber, of strong nerve, to reach it, and this could only be done from land, at low water, or nearly so.Surging waves occasionally changed the position of this magic stone, and from the direction of its smaller end, as it lay in a trough of water, prognostics were drawn with regard to the seasons, &c.

Few persons had sufficient hardihood to descend the precipitous cliff and risk being caught in The Gap by a flowing tide; and the key of the Castle remained a mysterious and venerated object till Goldsmith’s mischievous tars, or the dockyard men who were employed in erecting machinery to replace Men Amber (as the stone they overthrew was formerly called) heard of it and the traditions connected therewith. Then, one day, some of these wretches, on farther mischief bent, entered The Gap in a boat, and, being provided with crow bars, they broke away the edges of the rock that enclosed the key, ripped it out, and tumbled it down among the sea-washed pebbles! Some calamity has surely befallen these wretches ere this, or Bad Luck is a mere name, and powerless as an avenging deity.

Part of Merlin’s prophecy was fulfilled, however, yet not in the order predicted.

The venerated nodule was what is called, among miners, at “bull’s eye,” or “pig’s egg,” of large size. It appeared to be a closer-grained and harder stone than what surrounded it.