Reap what you sow: Visit rural Britain's most haunted

Our rural communities are filled with myths, legends and folklore which has been passed down through the centuries by story-tellers.

Halloween, love it or hate it, is usually when they resurface; Reincarnated by our thirst for the unexplained and rooted in society by our rural traditions.

The Gaelic celebration of Samhain was, and is, traditionally celebrated at this time of year to mark the end of harvest with bonfires, feasting and story-telling and has evolved over time into the fun-filled, sugar-fuelled ghastly event of the year, Halloween. The celebration was taken across the Atlantic to America by our ancestors, whose folktales were what kept the 'Old World' alive in their hearts and cemented the event in popular culture, whether they meant to or not.

(Find out more about Halloween's origins on our Pinterest board.)

Much like the event itself, the tales have evolved too, new ones have surfaced, the paranormal has become almost normal in some areas and ghosts, like many tourist attractions, are accessible all year round.

Whether you're exploring at Halloween or not, here are a few highlights that will trick or treat any rural traveller:

Bodmin Jail, Cornwall


Bodmin Jail

Currently undergoing a £30m restoration, Bodmin Jail is a historic former prison, situated on the edge of the legendary Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, which has a few folk tales of its own to tell.

Built in 1779, the Grade II listed building has been described as the UK’s most haunted public space.  It was once the site of hangings by renowned British executioner, Henry Albert Pierrepoint and executions were held in Bodmin Jail right up until it closed in 1927, so it's no wonder that paranormal activity is part of the package.

The heritage of the site will be included in the interpretation of the visitor centre when the restoration work is completed but until then, the jail hosts evening events and talks with their resident medium, Mark Rabli.

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Cornwall

Witchcraft and magic

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

- The Rural Travel Guide

Britain's long history of sorcery is perfectly 'spelled' out at The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, which boasts the World's largest collection of artefacts relating to witchcraft, magic and The Occult; from ancient runes to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Founded by Cecil Williamson in 1951, it's a hub of superstition, folklore and wiccan memorabilia that delves into the darkest history of witchcraft.

A particularly moving and haunting feature is a list of all the women and children who were executed for witchcraft in Britain. Some of the better-documented cases are highlighted, reminding visitors that many were persecuted for their beliefs (sometimes based on a mere coincidence) until very recently.

The Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham


Redworth Hall Hotel

The Redworth Hall Hotel, part of The Cairn Collection, was built in 1693 as the home of the Crosier family and is said to be haunted by two ghosts - both with hauntingly sad tales to tell. The property was a private home until 1929 when its then owner, Major Henry Surtees, was appointed High Sheriff of Durham and arranged to sell Redworth Hall to Durham County Council.

Legend has it, in the 18th Century, Robert Surtees, an ancestor of the Crosier family who owned the hall at the time would chain his child, who suffered from a mental illness, to a fireplace in the family home. Visitors have claimed to have heard a child’s anguished cries and laughter throughout the property.

The second ghost who is said to haunt Redworth Hall lost her life at about the same time. She's said to be a housemaid who threw herself from the Jacobean tower when she discovered she was pregnant by the aforementioned Robert Surtees. However, there is an air of mystery surrounding this death as the tower was added to Redworth Hall in 1899, almost 100 years after Lord Surtees' death.

In the 20th Century, Redworth Hall became a residential school, before being turned into a 17-bedroom hotel in 1987. In 1989, the property was extended to the 143-bed property it is today.

St Botolph's Church, Lincolnshire

'The Demon Church' as it was dubbed in the 1970s, St Botolph's in Skidbrooke sits isolated and abandoned on the edge of the Lincolnshire marshes and has a rich history of satanic worship and sacrifice.

The Grade I listed building dates back to the 13th Century and has been redundant for more than 40 years but has remained in the public eye due to the amount of paranormal activity surrounding the site. Reports of a ghostly monk, strange lights and unexplained noises have attracted ghost-hunters and Satanists since its closure, earning it its eerie nickname.

Ardoe House Hotel & Spa, Aberdeen

Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa near Aberdeen is a former stately home steeped in history and once belonging to past Kings of Scotland.


Ardoe House Hotel and Spa

Haunted by the 'White Lady', who is rumoured to be Katherine Ogston, the wife of the previous owner, Colonel Ogston, a ghostly figure is often reported walking the halls of the hotel at night.

The area is no stranger to folklore and throughout Autumn, the hotel is running a 'Fireside Stories' package which includes a self-guided walking tour of the area's spookiest spots, followed by a tipple in Blairs Restaurant as part of an overnight stay.

For those looking for an Autumn getaway, the package is available until the end of November. Find out more on their website.

Bisham Woods, Berkshire

Ancient woodlands are a key feature in folklore and Bisham Woods in Berkshire is just one of many across rural Britain with a harrowing tale to tell.

Haunted woods

If you go down to the woods today...

- The Rural Travel Guide

The story begins at Bisham Abbey which was reportedly cursed by a former bishop who was dragged from the alter during Henry VIII's Reformation. Since then woe has befallen the families living there; Most notibly young William Hoby, who was beaten severely and tied to a chair by his mother, a close friend of Elizabeth I, for being slow at his lessons.

She locked him in the tower room with instructions to rewrite them but was then urgently called to London, forgetting to inform anyone where William was. When she returned days later the boy was dead.

It's now said she still wanders the Abbey and woodlands, trying to wash the boy's blood off her hands.

Take a look at the Woodland Trusts' list of haunted woodlands for a full list of forbidden forests.

Plas Teg, Flintshire

Plas Teg is a Jacobean house in North Wales which is supposedly haunted by more than a dozen ghosts and has been featured on many paranormal activity programmes, including Ghost Hunting with Girls Aloud.

Most occurrences tend to be moving objects and unexplained noises but there's no real explanation as to why so many ghosts have chosen to haunt that particular site, which dates back to about 1610.

Although the house is privately owned, paranormal events are held most weekends and can be booked via their website.

Megan is the owner of Rural Roots Media, specialising in rural tourism, where her passion for travel, heritage and a great visitor experience inspired her to start 'The Rural Travel Guide'.

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.