10 Great places to visit at Halloween (UK)

If you’re looking for some ideas on where to go this Halloween, here is a list of places worth visiting:

Chillingham Castle dungeon (Ok, so I’ve not actually been here, but it’s high on my to-do list)

Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe (Spooky…great for the kids)

The real Mary Kings Close & Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh (Spooky as hell)

Highgate Cemetery (Serene rather than spooky)

Leeds Castle (Not in Leeds)

Brighton Ghost Walk

Haunted house, York (A bit cheesy but at least there’s a shop!)

Oxford Castle

Chester Ghost Walk

Warwick Castle (Quite commercial) & Kenilworth Castle (Ruin)

For more great spooky ideas, visit: mumsnet

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Highgate Cemetery…

a journey into the unknown. This is exactly what the architects of the magnificent Highgate Cemetery were aiming for when landscaping the enormous site, and they certainly achieved it.

Highgate Cemetery

Built in the 1830’s Highgate was one of seven sites across London allocated for one of the new style cemeteries. The seven, which came to be known as the magnificent seven, also included Kensal Green and Tower Hamlets but Highgate soon became THE place to be buried.

Highgate Cemetery

The West cemetery is only accessible via one of the many guided tours, and much as the idea of being led around by a grouchy tour guide didn’t really appeal to me, it soon became clear that without a guide, we wouldn’t have appreciated anywhere near as much about the rich history of the site. And far from the grumpy guide I was expecting (thanks to tripadvisor) we were lucky enough to be taken around by John Waite. His passion and knowledge were enlightening and we couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

Victorian Coffin

Victorian Coffin

Our journey began in the courtyard, where a set of stone steps led us up to the labyrinth of grave lined pathways that ran in all directions beneath a dense canopy of trees. We were told that within more than 50,000 graves lay over 150,000 bodies, so you can appreciate the size and scale of the place. Laid to rest within that vast site are all the most important people of their day, and although most of their names mean little to us now, we still benefit from their achievements today. 

Highgate Cemetery

The highlights of the cemetery have to be the Egyptian Avenue, and the catacombs. Unfortunately, of the thousand coffins that once rested within those vaults, only a couple of hundred remain. The rest fell victim to grave robbers and vandals.

Highgate Cemetery

Because of the Victorian gothic architecture, the location proved to be the perfect setting for 1970’s horror movies. Taste the blood of Dracula and Tales from the Crypt are just a couple of the films they shot here.

Highgate Cemetery

The cemetery fell into decline and was locked away for over fifty years. It was taken over by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, a group of volunteers set on restoring and preserving the site. Although the restoration is an ongoing project, more and more of the cemetery is opening to the public, giving a new experience each and every time you visit.

Ok, who dropped a house on the graveyard?

Ok, who dropped a house on the graveyard?

This place is truly fascinating and well worth a visit. For more information visit: Highgate Cemetery

Ghost hunting in Oxford

Well, with Halloween approaching fast, it seemed rude to not track down one of the UK’s oldest cities and see what delights lay within its ancient walls. For the past few years a small group of friends have hunted down some of the most haunted cities and proceeded to take in the spookiest sights on offer.

After all the fun of Edinburgh in ’10 and York in ’11, Oxford was the destination for this year’s spook-fest. So, last Saturday morning, three of us arrived in time for a hearty breakfast of Apple pie and custard before descending on the bustling streets of Oxford. The city of Oxford is beautiful at the best of times, with the stunning Oxford stone university buildings that sprawl across the city. Students roam around the campuses dressed in gowns and mortarboards and you take pleasure in the knowledge that the stunning buildings are still being used for the purpose they were created for.

We took in the sights as all good tourists should, before heading for a nearby graveyard. I found St Thomas’s church yard to be a peaceful place with an air of sadness to the northern quarter. I felt something and said to my friend that either a squirrel just pooed on me or I just got tapped on the shoulder. After inspecting my back, she concluded that it must have been a ghost. (I prefer to rule out any other scientific explanation as just too dull).

Over a pub lunch we made the decision to save the main part of the castle–or prison for the next day, we opted to just climb the motte and take a look at the well room. I was very disappointed that the room was inaccessible, but managed to take a few pictures of the well through the bars. Although my pictures seemed fine when I took them, when I tried to recall them on my camera, they were both just black.

Another trip to another pub ensued and whilst in deep conversation with my buddies, I saw a bright flicker of light on the wall, just like a fluorescent tube firing up but when I looked up, there was no light source there at all. My friend also ‘saw the light’, so to speak.

The evening was spent on Bill Spectre’s organised ghost tour. As great fun as it was, it was more about theatrics than ghost stories. Although both of my friends saw shadows in the window of a house we were standing by. Again, no scientific explanations are required, thank you!

Afterwards, I couldn’t really recall any good stories that were told. I did, however manage to snap a great ghostly picture. See what you think. I know who I think it looks like, but can you see the likeness?

Maybe a closer look (in the dark section).

On Sunday we visited the main part of the castle and thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour. There is a lot of history to that site and it is well worth a visit. My only disappointment was that the main part of the prison is now being used as a hotel, so is therefore inaccessible to the public.

All in all we had a great, if exhausting weekend. Now we need to figure out where to go next year.

Halloween has a sense of humour

Living in a town with such few landmarks it didn’t escape my attention when one of our most famous landmarks suddenly took on a whole new look.

With Halloween just around the corner, it seems someone has taken it upon themselves to spooky up our beloved concrete cows just a little bit. Vandalism or art? I think the answer to that is very subjective. Whatever you call it, it’s made a lot of people laugh, which can’t be a bad thing. Of course, the Parks Trust don’t appear to possess such a sense of humour and plan to wipe the smiles off our faces and return our cows to their traditional look as soon as possible, but until then we will enjoy this unexpected spook fest on the count down to Halloween.

Ghost Hunting 2012

How I love this time of year. The cool darker evenings are so atmospheric after the long (if disappointing) summer. Incense and candles need lighting and there is a distinct calling to venture out into the darkness.  Soon I will gather my friends and stalk some lowly graveyards snapping pictures and musing over the grave inscriptions – can’t wait.

To add to our slightly excentric pre-halloween excitement, I just booked up for our little group of amateur ghost hunters to go on our annual trip away.

This year we will be descending upon the beautiful, historic town of Oxford. We’ll only be staying for one night though so we’ve got lots to fit in. We’ve still got a month before we go so I’ve got plenty of time to reasearch.

Last year we sampled the delights of York and I got some awesome orb shots in the séance room in the haunted house. The year before that we were lucky enough to fly to Edinburgh where we stumbled across the awesome Greyfriars Kirkyard, and I fainted like a real drama queen in the middle of the Burke and Hare talk (it’s just a blood sugar thing). I still don’t think anything could possibly top that location, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Our Spooky Weekend in York

What a weekend! So, I’m back from a lovely weekend milling around York with friends; sight seeing, shopping, eating, drinking and – yes – Ghost Hunting!

We started our weekend by visiting Clifford’s Tower. The tower is renowned for the mass suicide/massacre of hundreds of Jews during the twelfth century. Although the wooden keep as it was, is no longer there, the beautiful stone keep still holds the memories. The walls list heavily and climbing the spiral staircases really made my head spin. The stone walls that are said to run with the blood of the Jews are dank and blackened by pollution but you can really get a vibe of unease within them. One of our cameras failed to work at one point so when we tried another, a large orb came out clearly on the photo – spooky!

http://www.cliffordstower.com

We followed the city walls to our next stop, the grave of the famous highwayman – Dick Turpin. Now, to me he is most famous for riding his horse, Black Bess, from London to York in one day, but if this feat was ever to have been achieved, it wasn’t by Turpin. It was by a fellow highwayman named John Nevison, although it’s very unlikely that it ever actually happened at all.

In 1739 Dick Turpin was hanged by the short drop method meaning he suffocated as his windpipe was crushed. His body is said to lie in St Georges graveyard but there is a fair amount of doubt as to whether this grave is authentic. To be honest, it didn’t look real to me.

A drink in the Guy Fawkes Inn, High Petergate, followed. Well it was 5th November so we just had to stop into the pub built on the spot where the famous traitor was born. Several of the rooms within the Inn are said to be haunted (well I don’t think we managed to find a pub that didn’t claim to be ‘the most haunted pub in England’) but we didn’t notice anything accept a very intrigued passer by who pressed her face against the window we were sitting by.

http://www.gfyork.com

So without wanting to push ourselves too far, we then wandered a few hundred yards back up to street to The Hole In The Wall pub, for a hearty lunch. Of course The Hole In The Wall is also haunted, by footsteps no less. Originally known as the Board Inn, the pub is said to have had a secret passageway leading to a dungeon and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre in York Minster Cathedral.

http://www.holeinthewallyork.co.uk/

Saturday afternoon was spent mostly at the Haunted House on Stonegate. What a find! The house is relatively small but haunted by former owners and their servants. The house is said to be the site of the murder of a servant girl who’d been knocked up by her master (nice!).

We took the audio-guided tour around the darkened rooms, which were all laid out as they would have been hundreds of years ago. The most frightening room was the séance room, at the top of the house. Sitting at a huge round séance table with a crystal ball in the center and several ouija boards dotted around the outside is pretty unnerving but put us right in the zone. I took several photos and if you believe that the orbs are spirits then you’d have a field day with my photos.

Check out the live web-cams: http://www.hauntedhouseyork.co.uk/cameras.html

After the tour of the house, we each had a tarot reading, which although short and sweet, was shockingly accurate. Of course we were all told that we would be rich some day soon so it must to be true!

The three of us then purchased suitable witchy paraphernalia before leaving the haunted house of Stonegate behind us.

In desperate need for further refreshments while waiting for the climax of our day – the ghost tour, (well it had been a couple of hours since visiting a pub) we opted for the Golden Fleece, Pavement. Reputed to be (yes you guessed it) – the most haunted pub in the country, we made ourselves comfortable in the warm cozy pub while waiting for the ghost tour to begin. The Golden Fleece has made it onto TV’s most haunted, an episode which I did manage to catch recently. The only spirits we encountered there, had been drunk in vast quantities by the middle-aged ladies by the window, who thought it hilarious to give passers by a sight they’d never forget.

http://www.thegoldenfleeceyork.co.uk/

So onto the ghost walk. With so many to choose from and only one evening, we had to decide which of the many ghost tours to join. We opted for one starting at the bottom of the Shambles opposite the Golden Fleece, well it made sense.

Our comedy guide managed to keep his perfect Dickensian accent most of the time but would slip into his native Yorkshire accent on words like chance/past/dug up, which I’m ashamed to say killed us in a very childlike manner every time.

We were taken on a route march of the old streets of York, taking in the Shambles, Stonegate, the Cathedral area etc. All in all it was a little long winded for the few stories we were actually given but hugely entertaining.

We were told about a little girl who was abandoned in her locked bedroom by her parents who suspected her of having the plague. Crying, she would scratch at her bedroom window to alert passers by but the huge red cross painted on the front door prevented anyone from entering. She died alone. Her ghost can still be seen clawing at the window, crying.

Sunday morning was spent mainly in the stunning Botanical gardens and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey where, although we were unable to access the graveyard, numerous Roman stone coffins litter the grounds with no particular explanation. The perfect blue sky contrasted beautifully with the ancient stonework and wildlife was in abundance. I found it almost inconceivable to see relics of the abbey, beautiful hand crafted pieces of stonework being used to hold back the flowerbeds like common rocks.

After another trip to the Haunted House shop and a wander around the Shambles, Sunday lunch was had in the no frills ‘Last Drop Inn’ on Colliergate, where we ended our fantastically spooky weekend.

For more information on any of these places copy and paste the links I’ve provided.

Click on the images on the flickr account to the right of this page to take the tour. Like I said, if you like orbs, then you’ll like my pictures.