Britain’s spookiest places

THE UK is blessed – or cursed – with the greatest number of haunted places imaginable. From the crumbling battlements of ruined castles and grand royal palaces to cosy country pubs and individual houses, ghosts have been sighted, heard, felt and sometimes smelt the length and breadth of the land.

BORLEY RECTORY, ESSEX

Footsteps in empty rooms, a human skull in the library, lights in unoccupied parts of the building, slamming shutters, locking and unlocking doors, vanishing keys, ringing bells, mysterious voices, writing on the walls, a headless coachman and a phantom nun: Borley Rectory has everything you want from a haunted house.

Despite being burnt down and demolished in 1939 it still holds the reputation of being Britain’s most haunted place. Today the focus of paranormal activity has shifted to the nearby medieval church where organ music played by no living hand has been heard to entertain the empty pews.

2 THE TOWER OF LONDON

Charles Dickens called it “the stronghold of ghosts”. There have been reports of 54 separate hauntings at the Tower, from full-blown apparitions to some supernaturally unpleasant smells. The most famous ghosts include Henry VIII’s unfortunate wife Anne Boleyn – beheaded here in 1536 – and Sir Walter Raleigh, imprisoned for years in the Bloody Tower. The most heart-rending are the ghosts of the two young princes murdered in 1483 by Richard III and said to still walk together hand in hand.

The Wakefield Tower is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Henry VI and on the anniversary of his death his mournful figure is said to pace around until the clock strikes midnight.

The White Tower is haunted by the White Lady who has been seen waving at groups of schoolchildren. Her perfume lingers and the scent of it has made numerous guards physically ill.

The most bizarre non-human entity that has been reported was of a moving glass tube of swirling blue liquid seen in the Martin Tower. In 1817 it scared the life out of Edmund Swifte, keeper of the Crown Jewels, and his wife.

3 PENDLE HILL, LANCASHIRE

TV’s Most Haunted brought this hill to national attention with its Halloween special filmed in and around the area. Team members felt as though they were being strangled, one claimed to be possessed and presenter Yvette Fielding screamed as a seance went horribly wrong.

What brought them here was a 1612 witchcraft panic that had led to the hanging of 10 people on Gallows Hill near Williamson Park. Accused of murder by magic the alleged witches met at the now lost Malkin Tower in Pendle Forest but many other landmarks connected with the story are still standing and, like Lancaster Castle where they were incarcerated, are open to visitors. Every Halloween people still climb the hill looking for the Witches’ Sabbath meeting

4 BLICKLING HALL, NORFOLK

On May 19 every year a coach races up the long drive to this magnificent Jacobean hall. A headless coachman whips the headless horses and inside sits a queen, holding her head in her hands.

Anne Boleyn was born here and on the anniversary of her death she is said to return to roam Blickling until daybreak.

Anne’s father Sir Thomas Boleyn and her brother George, who was beheaded like Anne, are also said to haunt their former home.

Other ghosts include Sir John Fastolf – model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff – and politician Sir Henry Hobart. The National Trust describes Blickling as “the most haunted country house in Britain”.

5 THE ANCIENT RAM INN, WOTTONUNDER-EDGE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Built in the 12th century on the site of a pagan burial ground where human sacrifices were once performed (or so the story goes) this rambling inn is home to some formidable spirits.

The Bishop’s Room is thought to be the most haunted, claiming a murdered cavalier, a woman hanging from the ceiling, two monks, two nuns, a shepherd and his dog, and a frisky demon in the bed. Throughout strange sounds such as banging, dragging, clawing, panting and growling have been reported, as well as cold spots and strange dancing lights.

6 GLAMIS CASTLE, ANGUS

“The place,” said James Wentworth Day, a former Daily Express journalist and Ghost Club member, “is undoubtedly haunted.” He spent several harrowing nights in the late Queen Mother’s childhood home. Thought by some to be the most haunted castle in Scotland, Glamis claims a monster imprisoned in a secret room, the ghost of Earl Beardie playing cards with the Devil and the Grey Lady in the chapel. Outside a female phantom with no tongue rushes through the grounds, Jack The Runner races up the driveway, a spectre paces the Mad Earl’s Walk on stormy nights and a former Lady Glamis executed for witchcraft appears above the clock tower.

7 PLUCKLEY VILLAGE, KENT

This sleepy village, used as the backdrop for the TV series The Darling Buds Of May, is guaranteed to produce more than a restless night. With 12 spooks and 10 documented investigations it holds the Guinness World Record as the most haunted village in England.

Ghosts include a screaming man, a highwayman skewered to a tree at Fright Corner, a schoolmaster who hanged himself, a gin-tippling watercress seller who accidentally incinerated herself, a White Lady, a rare Red Lady and a monk.

8.CHILLINGHAM CASTLE, NORTHUMBERLAND

“It’s packed with troubled souls.” Before he bought the castle in 1982 Sir Humphrey Wakefield brought in a psychic. Of the ghosts he said that there were “far, far too many to deal with”.

Sir Humphrey ignored his warning not to buy it and is now the owner, not only of an imposing medieval castle with dungeons and torture chamber but also of the famous Blue or Radiant Boy, a White Lady, the ghost of Lady Mary Berkeley, mysterious whispering voices and more. The castle runs ghost tours and recent visitors have reported spooky goings on.

9 SKIRRID MOUNTAIN INN, LLANVIHANGEL CRUCORNEY, SOUTH WALES

Billing itself as Wales’s oldest inn, the Skirrid has been serving ale since 1100.

It is also claimed that more than 180 people have been hanged here, some of them possibly by the infamous Judge Jeffreys, the Hanging Judge. A hangman’s noose dangles in the stairwell where the grisly deeds took place.

Not surprisingly it is also believed to be haunted. Former landlady Heather Grant often had first-hand experience of the supernatural, including seeing shadows walking the corridors and dodging glasses thrown by invisible hands, while patrons have reported feeling strangled.

10 JAMAICA INN, CORNWALL

Lying on Cornwall’s lonely Bodmin Moor this 18th-century coaching house was once a den of smugglers and is still home to many lost spirits.

The sound of horses’ hooves still clatter in the empty courtyard, ghostly footsteps echo in the corridors, disembodied voices speaking Old Cornish are heard, a man in a green cloak walks through solid doors and the phantom of a murdered man has been seen sitting on the wall outside.

Visitors looking for a sleepless night should ask for either Room Four or Five, both said to be haunted.

Cruise through picturesque scenery on rivers of dreams

TRY a cruise with a range of activities from cycling to beer tasting, through peaceful rivers offering the ultimate relaxation.

 

ON YOUR BIKE

 

Pedal power rules on this trip with AMAWaterways (0808 223 5009/amawaterways.co.uk) through picture-postcard Provence, where you can ride towpaths bordering the River Rhône and pass through pretty vineyards lining the route.

 

Hillside villages, impressive Roman ruins and beautiful scenery are the hallmarks of this voyage through southern France on board AmaDagio.

 

This sleek 150-capacity vessel is chic and stylish with modern furnishings and cabins boasting French balconies.

 

There are easy-on-the-eye sights ashore too, especially in the evocative medieval city of Avignon dominated by its Gothic Palais des Papes, seat of the Papacy in the 14th century, and in Vienne, take a “mini-train” to visit the ruined Roman amphitheatre and medieval churches

 

A musician in her own right, Elisabeth will perform some of the most famous songs from the film and other pieces including Gregorian chants and even her own compositions.

 

One of the cruise stops is Linz from where passengers can visit the Sound Of Music city of Salzburg and see areas associated with the film.

 

One of the highlights is the chance for guests to take part in a singalong of the catchy tune Do-Re-Mi in the famed Mirabellgarten, where the original scene was filmed.

 

Meander down this famous waterway on board elegant ship River Beatrice in the comfort of lavish furnishings as you take in the fabulous views through the panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows.

 

A TASTE OF THE GOOD LIFE

 

Viking Forseti is one of Viking River Cruises (0800 319 6660/vikingrivercruises.co.uk) new longships with a contemporary and spacious interior plus an extensive sundeck with walking track and putting green.

 

During this sailing through deepest Bordeaux enjoy some of the fascinating excursions on offer including a truffle-hunting expedition.

 

This excursion is offered during a stop-off at Dordogne where passengers can visit Bergerac to learn all about truffles and why they are so highly prized by chefs.

 

Alternatively, cruisers can explore the medieval town of Saint-Émilion, famous for its atmospheric wine caves carved out of the plateau upon which it stands.

 

This is a region of rich cuisine, fine wines and a fascinating history tied to its love affair with the grape.

 

Wine tastings and château tours are de rigueur as visitors tick off travel treasures such as Margaux and Cognac.