Residing near a town on the lower edge of the Lake District, in an area formerly known as the Vale of Nightshade, is Furness – an imposing abbey that, after nearly 900 years on this earth, has more than a few little secrets hidden below its surface.
From its earliest foundations under the tutelage of an early English king, to its mightiest moments in the Middle Ages when its wealth, power and status was second only to that of North Yorkshire’s much more famous Fountains, the monastery has seen men of all stations pass beneath its imposing arches. Fortunately for eager antiquarians, a few of these men have suffered from a slight case of butterfingers and startling archaic treasures, though rare, are still being unearthed in the estate today (the most recent being a ring and crozier, alongside the bones of their Cistercian owner, back in 2012).
Of course, no self-respecting historical site worth its salt would be complete without a haunting or two, and what Furness may lack in structural integrity it more than makes up for in spooky sightings. Rumours abound as to which ghostly figure really runs things around this place, but in truth, there’s more than enough room in the generous grounds for all these wraiths to run wild.
There are, naturally, a couple of phantom monks and it may thrill some to learn that one of these holy ghosts appears to have lost his head – supposedly lopped off by Scots in the early 1300’s. Not to be outdone by the boys, the spectral figure of a squire’s daughter is said to roam the ruins looking for her lost love who never returned from sea, while the ‘White Lady’ wanders through walls with her hooded head bowed low. No matter whether you believe in the afterlife or not, it’s hard not to let the mind drift into supernatural realms when night falls on the Gothic ramparts, the long shadows shift and the mist from the Cumbrian mountainsides descends.
There’s no (sensible) way to reach the abbey without driving through a little of the rolling Lake District landscape, and given that the main road practically tickles the southernmost point of the illustrious Lake Windermere, you really should plan to stop off for at least a fleeting glimpse of the place that inspired the likes of William Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome to wax lyrical. While it is also true that you aren’t likely to find ancient bits of bling simply lying on the ground, perhaps the more adventurous/optimistic among you will want to busy yourselves with yet another mysterious piece of gossip that has surrounded the abbey for centuries: that of the hidden tunnel which connects Furness to the island based castle of Piel, and which is thought to be the final resting place of none other than The Holy Grail. Happy hunting.