The Myths Behind the Mountains .... Shuttlingsloe, Cheshire.



I have always been fascinated by the history of things, not only the history of buildings and people but how things are made, how the majestic mountains or vast lakes were formed. I love being out exploring beautiful places knowing what caused something to be there or why something has such an unusual shape. I thought it would be fun to take a look in detail at some of the local places we’ve explored during lockdown and some of the exciting places we plan to visit on our Embark adventures and peer into their long and fascinating past.


This week I wanted to explore the history of Cheshire’s own Matterhorn; Shuttingsloe, set within the ancient Macclesfield Forest and on the edge of Britain’s oldest and original National Park – the Peak District.

Cheshire is a county in the north of England whose county town is Chester. The name ‘Cheshire’ is originally derived from an early name for Chester and was first recorded a Legeceasterscir in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which translates as the ‘Shire of the City of Legions.’ It covers a boulder clay plain separating the hills of North Wales and the Peak District, this clay plain is sometimes referred to as the Cheshire Gap. The area was formed following the retreat of ice age glaciers leaving the area dotted with kettle holes, known locally as meres (have a look in our gallery for some stunning pictures of Tatton Mere.)


Shuttlingsloe is the third highest peak in Cheshire and is fondly nicknamed ‘Cheshire’s Matterhorn’ due to its distinctive shape, it does not however live up to its majestic namesake in height as at 506m tall the famous Cat and Fiddle Inn sitting on the hillside opposite is actually at a higher elevation.

The name Shuttlingsloe derives from the old English ‘Scyltel’s Hlaw’ which translates to Scyttel’s (A name) Hill. It was formed from alternating layers of mudstones and coarse sandstones (grits) which were laid down around 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous period as part of a delta system. A delta is where the mouth of a river reaches another body of water, such as an ocean or a lake, and form when the sediment supplied by the river is accumulating faster than it is being redistributed by the tides or waves of the body of water, the sediment accumulates in layers and ultimately forms landforms.


The peak of Shuttlingsloe is thought to be a nunatak, an area which remains uncovered by ice when everything around it is glaciated. During the ice age, the area surrounding Shuttlingsloe would have been covered in ice, its peak protruding from the ice would have been somewhat of a glacial refuge for vegetation and a centre of reoccupation once the ice receded (kind of like the Noah’s Ark of the natural world.) However, as post-glacial weathering may destroy any evidence of such on the peaks, it is hard to identify a true nunatak.


Shuttlingsloe has been an important focal point for many years. During the Saxon era the many lows of the Peak District including Suttlingsloe, alongside Bleaklow and White Low are thought to have signified ancient burial sites.


One of the most popular routes to Shuttlingsloe takes you through Macclesfield Forest, once part of a royal hunting ground, and across open moorland where the impressive peak rises before you. The last few hundred yards to the top are quite steep and there is a bit of a scramble but the views from the summit are breathtaking on a clear day spanning Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and sometimes as far as North Wales, making the climb and the scramble more than worthwhile.


Next week we will take a look at the myth, magic and legends surrounding Alderley Edge in Cheshire. Let us know in the comments if there’s anywhere in particular you would like us to explore, in the meantime take care Embarkers and happy exploring.

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