By: Blonde Two

Blonde One and I are well known for our love of maps. Although between us we probably have enough maps to carpet Devon, we both agree that our very favourite one is Ordnance Survey’s OL28 (Dartmoor of course).

Ordnance Survey are very good at putting all the information we need for an interesting and safe walk on their maps but imagine if OL28 also had all the legends and stories associated with Dartmoor marked on it.

There would be drumming for the Foggintor Quarry drummer boy, gruesome hounds bounding across Foxtor Mires (supposedly the inspiration for the Hounds of the Baskervilles), and a hirsute hand hovering just along the road from Postbridge.

I have put creating such a map on my to-do list but in the meantime am finding inspiration from a much older map. The Carta Marina (et descriptio septentrionalium terrarum) was first published nearly five hundred years ago. It shows the seas and lands of Scandinavia including Finmarchia, Scrifinia, and Islandia. In the bottom southwest corner, it even shows Scotland as a rather misshapen Scoti Pars (region of the Gauls).

The good news is that Scotland doesn’t seem to be home to any lurking monsters. However, beware of sailing to the west of the Orkneys because there floats the dreaded Polypus. On my next visit north, this octopus/lobster may well be causing me to review my outdoor swimming strategy.

Looking north to somewhere else I have swum. Northern Norway apparently has its own demons. Rosmarus, the sea elephant hangs there on the cliffs; presumably waiting to pounce on unsuspecting sea-goers. Perhaps I need to place Mr. B2 as a look-out next time I visit the chilly fjords.

Sailors have always been great at telling stories but of course, many of these sea monsters are almost certainly based on creatures that still exist today. I am however not convinced by the swimming pig with four dragon feet and extra eyes on both flanks. I will perhaps stick to paddling when I eventually get to visit Shetland.

If you fancy a bit of desk exploration, I can recommend this interactive version of the Carta Marina. It’s truly fabulous, dangerously absorbing, and won’t do anything at all to stop you longing for travel!