button to main menu   West's Guide to the Lakes, 1778/1821

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Page 63:-
Wrynose, and the rocky point of Kirkstone; the overhanging cliff of Hardknot [1], uniform mass of Fairfield and Rydal-head, with the far-extended mountains of Troutbeck and Kentmere,- form as magnificent an amphitheatre, and as grand an assemblage of mountains, dells, and chasms, as ever the fancy of Poussin suggested, or the genius of Rosa invented. The island is the centre of this amphitheatre, and in the opposite point, directly over the extremity of the lake, is Rydal-hall, sweetly situated for the enjoyment of these scenes, and animating the whole in return. The immediate borders of the lake are adorned with villages and scattered cots. Calgarth-park [2] and Rayrigg grace its banks.
Windermere by boat
After enjoying these internal views from the bosom of the lake, I recommend sailing
[1] Langdale-pikes, Wrynose, and Hardknot, are named as being in the environs, and in the western canton of this amphitheatre, yet in reality are not seen from this island, being intercepted by a process of Furness-fells.
[2] The old mansion here is built much in the style of Levens and Sizergh. Some of the rooms have been elegantly finished; but having been a long time in the possession of farmers, who occupy but a part of it, it is much gone out of repair, and has on the whole but a melancholy appearance. This circumstance, in concurrence with the superstitous notions which have ever been common in country places, and the particulars mentioned below, have probably given rise to a report, which has long prevailed, that the house is haunted. And many are the stories of frightful visions, and mischievous deeds, which the goblins of the place are said to have performed to terrify and distress the harmless neighbourhood. These fables are not yet entirely disbelieved. Spectres are still seen, and there are two human skulls, which have lain in the window of a large room as long as can be remembered, whose history and reputed properties are far too singular not to contribute something to this story of the haunted house, and to let them pass over in this note.
It has been a popular tale in these parts, of immemorial standing, that these skulls formerly belonged to two poor old people, who were unjustly executed for a robbery; that, to perpetuate their innocence, some ghost brought them there, and that they are for that end indestructible, and, in effect, immoveable. For, it is said, to what place soever they were taken, or however used, they were still presently seen again in their old dormitory, the window. As the report goes, they have been buried, burnt, powdered, and dispersed in the wind, and upon the lake, several times to no purpose, as to their removal or destruction. So far says common fame. Certain it is human remains still exist. And it would be thought an impeachment of the taste and curiosity of the nymphs and swains of the neighbouring villages, if they could not say they had once seen the skulls of Calgarth.
As a more rational account of the matter, (though still lame and unsatisfactory,) is told by some, that there formerly lived in the house a famous doctress who had two skeletons by her, for the usual purposes of her profession; and the skulls happening to meet with better preservation than the rest of the bones, they were accidentally honoured with singular notice. But be their origin what it may, their legend is too whimsical and improbable to deserve being recorded, otherwise than as an instance of the never-failing credulity of ignorance and superstition.
Calgarth-park was purchased by Dr. Watson, the late bishop of Llandaff, who built an elegant mansion thereon, which, with the other improvements in that fine situation, makes it one of the most elegant places of residence in this country.
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gazetteer links
button -- "Calgarth Park" -- Calgarth Hall
button -- station, Belle Isle N
button -- station, Windermere by boat

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