Whitton Dean in the Rothbury Forest and Simonside area of Northumberland was once known as a haunt of the fairies according to Tomlinson. According to his Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (1888), "Whitton Dene is said to have been one of the haunts of the fairies in olden times." He also mentions the mysterious rocks marked with concentric circles, but does not explain if these are also connected to the fairies. Unfortunately this is all I have been able to find out about this site, though I wonder if perhaps the names have gotten muddled over time as there is also a Whittle Dene in Northumberland, also known as a dwelling place of the fae.
We parked up in the Simonside Car park opposite the ancient hill fort remains and wandered to Whitton Dean. It's a rather rocky trail with amazing views over the hills, and at this time of year the hills are covered with beautiful purple heather, with busy bees and butterflies flittering around.
If you look carefully you can find Hare Bells, also known as Scottish Bluebells, or Fairies Thimbles. These delicate blue bell shaped flowers were once said to be rung by the fairies to warn of an approaching hare, perhaps due to the lore that witches used the juice from Hare Bells to transform into hares.
It is clear to anyone who visits this area why it has become associated with the faery folk. The hills are scattered with mysterious ancient rocks, many with cup and circle markings, and ancient burial cairns. In days gone by folk often associated these ancient sites with the fae, and thought that the fairies made cups in the rocks to make their porridge! The Simonside Hills are also said to be home to the duergars (see Duergars of Simonside), dangerous dark dwarves who led travellers to their deaths.
Follow the slope down the other side of the hill, passing the old mossy stone wall and windswept thorn trees. It's here that we became a little pixy led and couldn't for the life of us find where the footpath had vanished off to. We ended up retracing our steps back up the hill and eventually found the path again. Unfortunately I didn't have the sense to remember to turn an article of clothing inside out to see if that improved matters, an old remedy for being pixy led. We passed some lovely old gnarled and mossy trees, and a hidden little sparkling stream.
Sources & Further Information
Tomlinson's Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland
Streetmap - Location of Whitton Dean