Stories of Robin Hood, perhaps our most famous outlaw, are always popular and there is a constant battle between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire as to which county was truly his home territory or perhaps his birth place.

His reputed association with Nottingham appears to be centred upon his constant struggles against authority in the shape of the Sheriff of Nottingham with Robin being supported by his band of Merry Men camouflaged in their Lincoln green clothing.

A touch of the aristocracy occurs when some writers suggest the outlaw was of noble birth (ie The Earl of Loxley) while Maid Marian enters the stories to provide the necessary romantic element. This is all the stuff of legendary fiction.

Despite the popularity of this character in books, films and television programmes we are still uncertain whether he actually existed. So is Robin Hood merely a wonderful myth with a heroic if unorthodox way of life, or was he a real person? Did he really rob the rich to give to the poor, or was he nothing but a travelling villain who preyed on innocent people when they dared to venture into the forests in which he lurked with his band of supporters?

As a child in Glaisdale in the North York Moors, one of my regular playgrounds was our local greenwood, ie Arncliffe Wood, where I would go to search for Robin Hood’s Cave. I never found it even though local folklore said it was definitely somewhere in that wood along with an underground tunnel that reached all the way to Robin Hood’s Bay. I never found that tunnel either. To add to the strength of the tales, there were locations on the North York Moors where he was said to have practised archery.

Robin Hood’s butts appear above Robin Hood’s Bay from where he fired an arrow that landed in the bay, a sign that he should make good use of that seaside village. There are also some Robin Hood’s butts near Danby-in-Cleveland and a local pub that used to trade in nearby Castleton was named The Robin Hood and Little John with Robin Hood’s Howl not far away near Kirkbymoorside .

Robin Hood’s Howl is sometimes suggested as evidence that Robin had some association with Hartoft near Rosedale. It was Bernard Miles, the actor (later Lord Miles) who said that having married Marian, Robin came to live at Hartoft where he was once accused of poaching.

It was to Robin Hood’s Bay that the outlaw is said to have constantly fled on those many occasions he was being hotly pursued by the law. He was given shelter by local people and the legend suggests he went to sea with the fishing fleet to avoid capture, on one occasion defending a fishing boat against raiders through the skilful use of his famous bow and arrows.

Also in this locality are stories of him practising his archery on local beaches along with an account of him and Little John firing arrows from the top of the tower at Whitby Abbey. This arose due to a challenge as they were shooting cliff foxes that plagued the local farms; Robin and John were well known in and around Hawsker but never wore their famous Lincoln green costumes. Even though the local people were aware of their identity, Government officials and constables never knew.

One day when they were dinner guests of the Abbot of Whitby Abbey, someone challenged Robin and John to see who could shoot furthest from the highest point of the abbey, each firing 10 arrows.

To cut short a long story, it was actually Little John who shot the furthest. The fields in which their arrows landed were named Robin Hood’s Close and Little John’s Close.

The landing sites were marked with standing stones but in 1890 they were dumped in a ditch because they obstructed horse-drawn mowing machines.

Whitby photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe later found them and photographed them, and persuaded another farmer to re-erect them but in 1937 one was seen in use as a field roller near Hawsker church.

Today a pair of replacement stones bearing the names of Robin Hood and Little John stand beside a public footpath about 100 yards from Stainsacre Lane with wonderful views of Whitby Abbey. There is no guarantee they occupy the positions of the original stones.

Robin Hood has many associations with other parts Yorkshire, including Wakefield, Barnsdale Forest, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge, York and Foston near Malton . The location of his grave is widely accepted as being on private land within the grounds of Kirklees Priory near Huddersfield.

Perhaps the most intriguing suggestion is that Robin Hood and his Merry Men were members of the Knights Templar, a popular organisation established about 1129 and endorsed by the Catholic Church due to its charitable work, financial skills, military discipline and devout faith. In support of this, the Templars were present in many parts of Yorkshire, some sites still being recognisable because Temple forms part of their name.

So are those places really where Robin Hood lived and worked?