It seems that the British have something of a preoccupation with the paranormal, not just at Hallowe’en but all year round. Go to any seaside fairground and you’ll find a Haunted House, and quite often a fortune teller who’ll attempt to connect you with those who have passed over to the ‘other side’. This love of things that go bump in the night extends to holidays too; the UK is literally stuffed with haunted hotels, ghostly guest-houses and other seriously spooky places to stay. If you’re looking for a ghoulish getaway in the UK and want to see if you can survive the night, here’s our pick of the places popular with poltergeists…
1. Jamaica Inn, Launceston, Cornwall
Dating back to 1750, Jamaica Inn stands isolated on the edge of the wild and beautiful Bodmin Moor. An ancient coach stop, the inn has a tempestuous history associated with smugglers who would store their contraband including tea and brandy at the Inn. Their story was immortalised in Daphne du Maurier’s famous novel, also titled Jamaica Inn. Ghostly goings on at Jamaica Inn have been attributed to a murder victim of long ago whose identity remains unknown but who has often been witnessed sitting on the inn’s outside wall. Landlords of the inn have often heard unexplained footsteps in the passage that leads to the bar; perhaps the dead man’s ghost returning for a final drink. And nobody can explain the sounds of horses hooves and coach wheels that echo across the empty cobbled courtyard in the dead of night…
If you happen to be holidaying on the beautiful Devon or Cornwall coast, why not pop in to Jamaica Inn for a night – they serve beer, wines … and spirits!
2. The Schooner Hotel, Alnmouth, Northumberland
Northumberland is a wonderful part of Britain for a holiday; a combination of coasts, national parks and historic buildings. Not only is the Schooner Hotel historic, it’s also one of the UK’s most haunted properties, laying claim to more than 60 individual ghosts and with more than 3,000 reported sightings. The ghosts have allegedly become more active in the last few years, and guests have heard unexplained screams, scratching and tapping sounds and have felt as though they are being watched by something or someone unseen. An ancient coaching inn with a horrible history of murders and massacres, the Schooner Hotel sounds like a good bet for anyone who doesn’t mind sharing their room with a few invisible guests.
3. Castle Stuart, Moray Firth, Scotland
What could be more romantic than an overnight stay in an authentic 17th century Scottish castle set in a stunning highland landscape? Not much, unless you choose to stay in the three-turreted bedroom at the top of Castle Stuart’s east tower. Many years ago when the castle was in the ownership of the Earl of Moray, a guest was sought to stay the night in this bedroom in order to prove that it wasn’t haunted. With a £20 reward at stake (a significant sum in olden days) a local poacher known locally as Big Angus rose to the challenge. Big Angus was reputedly fearless, and did indeed go to the turreted bedroom in order to sleep the night. The following morning his dead body was found in the courtyard below the smashed bedroom window, from which Big Angus had clearly leapt. His face was frozen in an expression of horror…
Who knows what fate befell the poacher that night in the three-turreted bedroom atop the east tower of Stuart Castle? Perhaps you could find out for yourself by staying in the very same room. If you dare.
4. The Langham Hilton Hotel, London
Built in 1864 this proud Victorian hotel accommodated guests such as Mark Twain, Dvorak and Napoleon but became unfashionable in the wake of grander London hotels and served as offices and accommodation for BBC personnel during the 1950s. In 1973 a BBC announcer, James Gordon, was staying in room 333 when he was awoken by the clear apparition of an Edwardian gentleman in full evening dress. Fleeing the ghost, Gordon sought help from an unsympathetic commissionaire who refused to enter the room with the announcer. Returning alone, Gordon found the ghost still in the room although it was now less distinct. Later, Gordon’s colleagues reported encountering the same spirit in the same room.
The Langham is now a luxury hotel once more, but room 333 remains haunted; in 2003 a hotel guest checked out at short notice, blaming paranormal activity for disturbing and waking her during the night.
5. The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
It’s perhaps no surprise that the oldest known purpose-built hotel in Britain might have picked up a few spectral guests down the years since its establishment in 1220. Set in the delightful English countryside of the Cotswolds, the rustic Grade I listed Old Bell Hotel’s most loyal guest is the ‘Grey Lady’ the ghost of a bride jilted at the altar who still wanders the hotel seeking her unfaithful groom. Perhaps the eight sarcophagi rumoured to be buried beneath this ancient building have something to do with the bizarre phenomena that guests have reported, such as a wine glass lifting itself and smashing against a wall. Or the movement of a wardrobe against the door of an empty bedroom, barring entry (staff had to climb a ladder and smash the bedroom window from the outside to gain entry and move the wardrobe from the door). Perhaps strangest of all is the tale of an American guest who, in the middle of the night, spoke with someone (or something) he believed to be his wife, only to find his wife asleep in bed when he returned to their bedroom.