We all love a good story, and when it comes to local legends and folklore, the Lake District has its fair share of tales to tell! For this post, we thought we'd share just a taste of some of the intriguing myths and legends that relate to the area's best known sites, and if you want to discover more, why not take a Lakeland Ghost Walk - more details below!
Aira Force, Ullswater
Legend has it that there was once a young couple in the Ullswater area, Emma and Sir Eglamore, who were very much in love. Eventually, Sir Eglamore had to go to war and, shortly after, Emma received the terrible news that he had died in battle. Sent into a deep depression, she began to sleepwalk. Sir Eglamore, who hadn't really died, returned to find her by the beck one night and so approached her, unaware of the news she had been given. Believing she was seeing Eglamore's ghost, Emma was so startled that she slipped on the banks and fell over the waterfall, sadly dying in his arms a short time later. Heartbroken, Sir Eglamore spent the rest of his days living as a hermit in a cave by the pool of the waterfall.
Aira Force is now one of the most popular visitor spots around Ullswater. This beautiful 70-foot waterfall can be accessed on a short walk from the car parks above and below, and there is also a National Trust tearoom in the lower car park.
Long Meg and her Daughters, Little Salkeld, Penrith
Long Meg is the third largest stone circle in the country, with Long Meg herself, a red sandstone pillar standing at 12 feet tall, the tallest of the stones. Apparently, Meg was a witch, and she and her daughters were turned to stone when her daughters danced mischievously at a time when they shouldn't have - the Sabbath! It is also said that later on, in the 19th century, the local landowner instructed workers to clear the stones, and just as they were about to be blown up, thunder and lightning came from nowhere, causing complete terror amongst the men. As a result, the stone circle still stands on its original site, and although several reasons are given as to why, you're advised not to count the stones twice!
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The 'Luck of Muncaster', Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass
The 'Luck of Muncaster' dates back to 1464 when, following the Battle of Hexham, Sir John Pennington gave shelter to King Henry VI after he was found wandering in the area by shepherds. Legend has it that on departing, the king left behind his drinking bowl in gratitude, and said that as long as it remained unbroken, the Penningtons would continue to thrive at Muncaster. The Venetian glass bowl, otherwise known as the 'Luck of Muncaster', is still intact to this day, but we wouldn't want the responsibility of dusting it!
Muncaster is one of Britain's most haunted castles, with many tales relating to Tom Fool, or Thomas Skelton, who was its court jester in the 16th century - you can find out more about Tom's ghostly presence on a tour of the castle!
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Levens Hall, near Kendal
There are believed to be several ghosts at Levens Hall and in the surrounding grounds, with the most famous being a gypsy woman who is said to have died cursing the house. She claimed that no male heir would inherit until the River Kent stopped flowing and a white fawn was born in the park. Strangely enough, the estate did pass through the female line for four generations, and when the next male heir Alan Desmond Bagot was born in 1896, the river froze over and a white fawn was born in the park! All the male heirs since have also been born on freezing winter days!
Levens Hall is a delight to visit, with its famous topiary garden containing the oldest topiary in the world! It will open for the 2017 season in April.
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The Claife Crier, Windermere
The very noisy Crier of Claife is believed to be the spirit of a monk whose role was to save the souls of 'fallen' women. He fell in love with one of the women but was rejected, went mad and died. He's now famous because he reputedly hasn't stopped wailing about it since!
The tale doesn't end there though. A long time before the modern Windermere Car Ferry, residents and visitors were taken across the lake on wooden ferryboats with large oars. Although ferrymen in Bowness usually ignored calls from the other side of the lake at night, believing them to be the Crier, one night a young ferryman answered, and when he arrived there was no one there. Nobody knows what he saw, but some say that it aged him by 30 years overnight, and others that he died shortly after. Whatever happened, the people of Bowness were so shocked that an exorcism was performed, and the monk is believed to have been banished to a local quarry.
Although most visitors to the South Lakes will know the distinctive form of Claife Heights, which can be seen from Bowness-on-Windermere, few people are aware of the scenic walk along the western shore of Windermere, which can be taken from Wray Castle to Claife Viewing Station.
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If you'd like to find out more...
If ghostly tales in particular spark your imagination, you may like to join a Lakeland Hauntings Ghost Walk, and follow 'The Lady', a professional actress and storyteller in Victorian mourning dress who will take you on a tour of one of the market towns of Keswick or Cockermouth. 'The Lady' shares her carefully researched stories with you, which are all based on local legend, myth, folklore, real events or eyewitness accounts. The stories are written with adults in mind, but are described as 'broadly accessible' to children aged 10 and above.
We hope that you've found our introduction to Lake District folklore, and the area's ghostly tales and legends, of interest! If you haven't yet booked your very own Lake District getaway, you can search for your perfect cottage using our online search facility.
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