From humble medieval ruins to the grander Windsor Castle, the UK is home to hundreds of castles. Mass castle building in Britain dates back to the Norman era when William the Conqueror had large stone castles built for protection.
Here is our guide to Britain’s most haunted castles to visit (if you dare!), with a look at the spooky history behind each one.
Fyvie castle, near Turriff, Aberdeenshire
Dating back to the 13th century, Fyvie castle now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland but, like so many British castles, it has a dark past. Its ghostly Green Lady is thought to be Dane Lilias Drummond, who died of a broken heart when her husband Sir Alexander Seton began having an affair. Her name is carved into the castle walls and its claimed this act was carried out by her angry ghost after he death.
The castle also boasts its own Grey Lady, said to be the ghost of Lady Meldrum. After her death in the 13th century she was buried in the castle grounds but when her skeleton was found in 1920 and given a traditional grave her ghost began appearing. A ghostly trumpeter has also been seen, apparently another victim of a broken heart. Finally, the castle is claimed to have three ‘weeping’ stones, that stay wet when all around them are dry. 13th century psychic Thomas the Rhymer claimed these were sacred stones which should never have been used in the castle’s construction and meant the castle was cursed never to have a male heir live to maturity.
Said to be the most haunted castle in Britain, Chillingham is claimed to be home to various spectres. The White Pantry Ghost was first spotted by a footman, who’d been locked into the pantry overnight to guard the family silver. He reported her as begging for water and it’s now thought she was a victim of poisoning.
In the chapel, the voices of two men are often overheard talking but can never be traced. Visitors say the ghosts are often friendly. The castle holds special ghost tours throughout the year and groups of ten or more can enjoy a candlelit meal by a roaring fire in the Minstrels’ Hall beforehand.
Berry Pomeroy castle, Devon
Once the seat of the powerful Seymour family, the castle has two reported apparitions – the White Lady and the Blue Lady. The White Lady is said to be Margaret Pomeroy, who’s believed to roam the dungeons of St Margaret’s Tower, where she died after being starved to death by her jealous sister Eleanor. It’s claimed the Blue Lady is the daughter of one of the Norman castle lords and that she lures people into various parts of the castle to get them lost. Berry Pomeroy is owned by English Heritage and is open daily from June to October, and on weekends from November to March.
Muncaster castle, Cumbria
Muncaster castle is a Mecca for paranormal researchers, with visitors complaining of being haunted in the Tapestry Room, by a child crying and a woman singing. There are also many tales revolving around Tom Fool, aka Thomas Skelton, who is rarely seen but believed to play tricks on staff and visitors. The Muncaster Boggle, or White Lady is supposedly the ghost of Mary Bragg, a young girl killed in the early 1800s on a road near the Main Gate
Muncaster castle runs a Haunted Halloween week each year – this year’s is from the 26th to the 31st of October. Visitors are encouraged to come in fancy dress and bring a torch.
The castle also holds ‘scientific ghost vigils’ every year but they sell out well in advance, so if you want to join the next one it’s worth contacting the castle directly.
Glamis castle, Scotland
Perhaps better known these days as the childhood home of the late Queen Mother, Glamis castle was the setting for Shakespeare’s chilling tragedy Macbeth, who begins the play as Thane of Glamis, before murdering his way to power. Just as Macbeth was overcome by visions of the ghost of Banquo, so Glamis is still said to be haunted by many ghosts. A woman with no tongue has been seen in the grounds and staring from a barred window, gesturing at her terrible injuries. The Grey Lady is believed to be the ghost of Lady Glamis, who was burned at the stake in 1537 for being a witch.A young servant boy has been seen several times, while local legend has it that the ghost of Earl Beardie is in a secret room in the castle, gambling with the devil for all eternity. This Halloween you can spend a spooky evening at Glamis on October 28 and 29, with an interactive walk through the Bewitched Wood, and haunted tours of the castle.
Tutbury castle, Staffordshire
This beautiful castle was once prison to Mary Queen of Scots, beheaded under the orders of Elizabeth I for treason. The Scottish queen has been ‘seen’ at Tutbury numerous times, once by a group of 40 witnesses, who initially thought she was a reenactor of some kind only to discover otherwise… The Keeper, said to wear a full suit of armour, has been seen in John the Gaunt’s Gateway, bellowing “Get thee hence” – the most recent sighting was from a visitor who, again, thought it was a reenactor, telling him to ‘get over the fence’! The King’s Bedroom is also said to be one of the most haunted rooms in the UK.
Craig y Nos castle, Powys
Said to be haunted by the ghost of famous Victorian opera singer Adelina Patti, Craig y Nos castle holds regular ghost tours and ghost hunting nights. After Patti’s death the castle became a hospital for tuberculosis patients, and visitors have reported hearing the cries of children and babies, as well as the sounds of youngers playing. The castle is so popular with ghost hunters that it now maintains a separate website as a one-stop shop for paranormal enthusiasts, where you can read all its ghost stories in more detail. Visitors can take a three hour ghost tour and then stay overnight, or even take part in an all night ghost hunt, if they dare…This Halloween there are two special overnight ghost tours on Saturday October 28 and Tuesday October 31.
Dover castle, Kent
Visitors to Dover castle have reported seeing the ‘lower half of a man’ walking through the doorway of the King’s bedchamber, while the ghost of a crying woman in a red dress has been spotted in the west stairway of the keep. There have also been sightings of a figure in blue in the mural gallery, although no one has been able to say whether it’s a man or a woman. There have also been drumming sounds heard from the battlements and the figure of a headless boy. This is thought to be Sean Flynn, a young drummer boy who was attacked and beheaded by two soldiers for the money he was carrying while on an errand. There have also been many sightings of ghosts in the tunnels under the castle. This year there is a Halloween ghost hunt at the castle on Friday October 27, running from 9pm to 3am.
Pengersick castle, Cornwall
Laying claim to the title of Cornwall’s most haunted castle, Pengersick is said to be haunted by a number of ghosts. John Milliton, who built the castle’s Tudor tower, is believed to be the Dark Lord of Pengersick, a dabbler in black magic, who once summoned a demon to the roof of the tower and his ghost has been reported by many visitors. Others say they’ve seen a monk, possibly murdered by lord of the manor Henry Pengersick in the 14th century, and the ghost of Henry himself has been sighted too. Our favourite claim is that sailors from the wreck of the St Anthony, which foundered in Gullwalloe Bay in 1527, haunt the gardens, looking for their lost treasure.
Pengersick castle is open by appointment, and there are also ghost tours organised by Ghost Hunting Cornwall. The next ones are on September 13 and October 28 and run from 9pm to 3am.
Dudley castle, West Midlands
With a history dating back some 1000 years, Dudley castle has been claimed by ghost hunters to be one of the most haunted places in the world.
Like Dover castle, it maintains it is home to the ghost of a drummer boy, killed by a musket during the English Civil War, who drums at night. It’s meant to be bad luck to see or hear him. The Grey Lady was the subject of much speculation when a visitor to the castle claimed to have caught her on camera recently. She is thought to be the spirit of Dorothy Beaumont, who lived at the castle before dying shortly after giving birth. She’s said to be unable to rest because the requests she made on her deathbed were not granted.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
Dating back to the ninth century, this Scottish fortress has been the location of many bloody battles and gruesome torture. Hidden deep in the castle, there still remains the dark and damp dungeons once used for imprisonment and suffering. So is there any wonder there have been so many claims by visitors and staff members, to have been touched or had the feeling of being watched.
To make the most of Halloween in this spooky city, why not take a haunted night walking tour of the Old Town, where you’ll be told stories of Edinburgh’s bloody past.
Carlisle Castle, Cumbria
Dominating the city of Carlisle for 900 years, Carlisle Castle plays a prominent role as one of Cumbria’s best-known landmarks.
There have been a few strange happenings over the years and a number of different accounts of paranormal behaviour. One of the most commonly told is that a ghostly sentry sits on guard just inside the archway of the inner keep.
To see if you can witness the sentry with your own eyes, why not visit Carlisle this Halloween, where you can take part in a torch lit tour of the castle, or a Halloween ghost tour.
Hever Castle, Kent
Hever Castle is renowned for being the former home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and it is she who is said to roam the castle to this day. Her favourite spot is apparently the old wooden bridge over the River Eden. Stay at Hever Castle for nine days over Halloween, which will be packed with lots of fun and games for the whole family – including workshops, creepy trails and castle tours.
Lancaster Castle, Lancashire
Lancaster Castle‘s central hilltop location dominates the city of Lancaster. Immersed in nearly 1,000 years of history, the castle sits on the site of three successive Roman forts.
Visitors to Lancaster castle often report they have felt someone or something invisible pushing them. The only reports of ghosts to been seen here are those of children – it is said they have been seen and heard running through parts of the castle.
To get involved in the castle’s Halloween celebrations, head to their website (above) which offers a range of creepy trails, tours and theatrical interpretations.
Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland
With its impressive architecture and rich history, Stirling is one of Scotland’s grandest castles, dating back to the early 12th century. Stirling was home to many Stuart monarchs and played an important role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots.
There are a few reported spirits at Stirling castle; the most common sighting is of the Highland ghost, often seen wearing full traditional costume. Many staff and visitors have claimed to see the Highland ghost and he is sometimes mistaken for a tour guide.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
As one of Europe’s largest castles, Windsor Castle is also host to more paranormal activity than any other haunted building in Britain. The spirits even out-number the many ghosts of the Tower of London. However, this may not be surprising with 10 monarchs buried at the castle.