We head to the Lake District for our latest Curiosity of the Week, where a local legend known as the Bishop of Barf comes into play.
Barf fell is a steeply sloped mound that’s found near the south-western shore of Bassenthwaite Lake. It’s part of a group of fells that includes Lord’s Seat and offers views over the lake and across to Skiddaw. Situated at the northern end of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, this scenic area near Whinlatter Forest is popular with walkers and nature-lovers alike.
But apart from being a picturesque place to walk, Barf fell is also familiar to locals for another reason. A whitewashed pillar of rock can be seen on the lower slopes of the fell. It’s known as the ‘Bishop of Barf’ or ‘Bishop’s Rock’.
But why is there a painted rock on the fell and why is it known as the Bishop of Barf?
This painted stone is said to mark the spot where, if you wish to believe local legend, the Bishop of Derry was killed falling from his horse. The story goes that in 1783, after drinking in the nearby Swan Hotel, the Bishop of Derry drunkenly bet he could ride up to the top of the hill. But as we’ve mentioned, it’s pretty steep. And alas the Bishop did not make it, falling to his death.
The Bishop of Barf stone
The Bishop of Barf stone is whitewashed to commemorate the place where the bishop is reputed to have fallen. Both the Bishop and his horse are said to be buried near a smaller whitewashed stone, known as ‘The Clerk’. You’ll find The Clerk positioned nearer the base of the fell.
The stones used to be kept whitewashed by staff at the Swan Hotel, until the hotel sadly closed. The whitewashing is now carried out by members of Keswick Mountain Rescue.
For those wishing to check out the legendary stones, the Bishop stands at about 7ft up the shortest side of the fell. While The Clerk, a much smaller conical stone, can be found lower down. It’s half hidden by bushes, near the footpath. But if you’re not ready to head up to rocky path, you should be able to make out the stones from the road at the bottom.
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