Cumbria Fells Elizabeth Gaskell
Cumbria Fells, Cumbria


Affording breath-taking sights from their summits, the fells and mountains of Cumbria are one the most outstanding parts of the Lake District, which is located in the north west of England. Although now part of Cumbria, the fells were originally part of Cumberland, one of England’s historic countries established by the Normans that helped to define local culture and identity. The fells are beautiful and a popular walking and hiking site, but they can also be very dangerous particularly as weather conditions can change very quickly. 

Gothic heritage

Although Elizabeth Gaskell is now well-known for her realist novel, North and South, her Gothic ghost stories  also contributed to her popularity during the nineteenth century. Published in Charles Dicken’s magazine Household Words, her ghost stories often incorporate regional dialects and speech, and an awareness of cultural differences and a sympathy for the working class. This is apparent in “The Old Nurses Story”, a tale about an orphaned girl, Rosamond, and her Nurse. Following the death of her parents, Rosamond and her nurse are moved not to the comfortable home of her guardian, but to her ancestral home at the foot of the Cumberland Fells:

“We had left all signs of a town, or even a village, and were then inside the gates of a large wild park--not like the parks here in the south, but with rocks, and the noise of running water, and gnarled thorn-trees, and old oaks, all white and peeled with age”

It is here that one night Rosamond goes missing, and searching for her the nurse discovers “two little footprints” outside in the snow: “when I came again into the moonlight, there were the little footmarks going up--up to the Fells.” Not only grappling with the harsh, and dangerous conditions of the Fells, the nurse must also protect her ward from the ghosts that inhabit it. 

Other Literary heritage

Cumbria has a rich literary history, particularly throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and perhaps the most notable association arises from the Lake poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. Cumberland is used as the location for Limmeridge House in Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White (1859), while the Lake District was later used by Beatrix Potter in many of her famous Peter Rabbit books. See also ‘The Lake District’.

Further information

As well as the Lake District and the Cumbria Fells, Cumbria is home to many historic sites such as the ruins of Furness Abbey, Carlisle Cathedral, and Brough Castle.

Interesting fact

The legacy of Cumberland can be seen today through the traditional Cumberland sausage, but also the formation of the USA: Thomas Nelson Jr., who was one of America’s Founding Fathers and signed the Declaration of Independence, was born in Cumberland.

For Visitors

You can find more information about visiting the Cumbria Fells and the Lake District at the following links: