Yorkshire Dales England Holidays

Inspirational cottage holidays in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales

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Come and celebrate Burning Bartle

west witton dry stone wall

The weekend when Bartle is burned in August is described as a fun weekend – something to celebrate and be joyous about.  But who was Bartle and why is he ceremoniously burnt on an annual basis in West Witton?

Bartle is a legend, some people think that he was a sheep stealer who was caught escaping on Penhill Crags, the 600 ft hill backing West Witton, and put to death.  Perhaps his body was burned at the time, no one really knows? The lack of historical evidence has made little difference to this centuries old custom and gives the people of this Yorkshire Dales village a reason for a party on a Saturday around about the third week of August (or the nearest Saturday to St. Batholomew’s Day).

Today’s Bartle is an effigy similar to Guy Fawkes or the effigies made in Lewes Sussex for the Bonfire Parades. There must be a basic instinct in man that makes the burning of symbols of our enemies an exciting proposition. The straw filled body of Bartle is dressed in male rural clothing and adorned with a mask and sheep’s wool hair and beard. He has glowing orbs for eyes as if forseeing his impending doom.

On the day of the burning, people gather in their hundreds at dusk to escort Bartle down the road to his fiery end, a chanter reads out Bartle’s rhyme, followed by shouting and singing and stopping for frequent refreshment en-route, all accompanied by another rendition of the rhyme.  Burning Bartle can be thirsty business.  By the time Bartle reaches his fiery furnace, vocal cords have been well-lubricated and the singing of traditional Yorkshire songs reaches its height.  Poor old Bartle is sat down unceremoniously against a dry stone wall and set alight.  A bit of merriment and singing  follows before the Bartle followers disband to local hostelries.

Burning Bartle Weekend begins in a family-friendly way earlier on the Saturday with activities for children, beginning with games, displays of rural craft and contests. There could be a fancy dress competition and games or anything else that the organising committee has thought up.

For tourists, this is a chance to see an old Yorkshire tradition enacted and a spectacle to entertain on holiday. West Witton is a pleasant place to stay in the east of the Yorkshire Dales national park with the opportunity to visit Aysgarth Falls, Bolton Castle and other nearby tourist attractions.