Tarr Steps

Tarr Steps is the name given to a stone bridge that crosses the River Barle on Exmoor.

The bridge dates to at least medieval times, and according to legend was built by the Devil himself, for his own use. He carried the stones there in his apron, and completed the bridge in a single night.

He swore no one else would cross it, and when the local people sent a cat across, it was torn to pieces. But the local parson then stepped onto the bridge, and the Devil met him halfway, saying,

“You’re a black crow.”

To which the priest replied:

“I’m no blacker than the devil.”

The two then traded insults of such ferocity that the trees around them wilted; but in the end the Devil beat a retreat, and ever since the bridge has been safe to use.



2 thoughts on “Tarr Steps

  1. I love this bridge, there’s a similar one at Dovedale. I find it fascinating the way that these stories hang around water crossings, I wonder if the notion of devils / sprites harks back to the worship of ancient water deities in these areas, or if it is simply an explanation for the number of folk who have drowned in an area? Either way this is a great story and I hadn’t heard it before so thanks so much for sharing – I might have to do a spin-off! (If I do, I’ll link back here) 🙂

    • Thanks Bia – it’s an interesting one, the question of bridges and water crossings. Of course, traditionally the Devil can’t cross running water, so presumably he’d need a bridge of some kind. The bridge is also such a great metaphor, the liminal space between one world and the next. I know that part of Exmoor has been flooded out in the past, and the bridge has been damaged and had to be repaired, so folk may well have drowned there in times gone by. I’ll have to investigate the bridge at Dovedale – thanks for bringing it to my attention 🙂

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