For centuries ferrymen rowed passengers across Lake Windermere, between Ferry Nab and Sawrey. This 500m crossing saves miles on the journey from Windermere to Hawkshead and beyond.The wooded heights on the west bank of the lake are known as Claiffe Heights and legend has it that in the 15th century this was home to the Claiffe Crier.
The chilling call of the Crier of Claiffe has been heard long since it was the custom to call for a rowing boat when transport was required across the lake. Even today there are stories of walkers being followed at dusk by a hooded figure on Claiffe Heights. Among them is one involving a schoolmaster from Colthouse who, late at night, left home to pass by the quarry and was never seen again.
The origin of this ghostly tale lies in the events of one particular stormy night, when a voice called out into the night, “Boat, boat!” from Ferry Nab in Bowness. It was answered by a dedicated ferryman and rowed off in the direction of Claiffe Heights to collect his passenger. He rowed across the lake, only to return in a state of extreme shock and an empty boat.
The following day, he developed a rapid fever and died.Since that day, no other boat owner would respond when they heard strange calls for a boat from what came to be called the Crier of Claiffe. Eventually, a priest exorcised the Crier of Claiffe to a quarry on Claiffe Heights, but occasionally the ghostly calls for a boat can still be heard.
Reputedly the Claiffe Crier was the ghost of a monk from Furness Abbey who lived in the Middle Ages. His job was to save the souls of immoral women, and he fell for one of his clients. Tormented because he loved a lady he could never marry due to his monastic vows, in turmoil he retreated to the Heights of Claiffe to die of grief.