Cotswolds haunted locations: 23 of the scariest places to visit
- Credit: Archant
Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations to visit if you dare
Oxford Castle has a history spanning 1000 years with plenty of fascinating ominous stories entrenched in its stone walls. The execution, murder and war of its past may have led to the many alleged hauntings that have been experienced throughout the years all within the grand ruins of the Norman medieval castle that stand today.
One such witnessed event was that of poltergeist activity in the 1970s. A group conducted a séance in one the castle’s prison cells and a priest was later called to exorcise whatever had been awoken following some terrifying repercussions.
Just a stone throw’s from Cheltenham lies Prestbury, supposedly England’s most haunted village. Prestbury is reportedly home to more than a dozen ghosts that haunt the area. One of the most infamous is Black Abbot who is regularly spotted in the church and churchyard treading the same path each time.
There’s also the charging horseman who has been seen upon his galloping horse in Shaw Green Lane and the Burgage; and the Headless Horseman who, according to local legend, was a royal dispatch rider who was beheaded after interrogation of the Roundheads of Prestbury.
Prestbury has many strange tales to tell, and a tour around the village is bound to leave you with a chill down your spine.
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The medieval city of Warwick has historic charm aplenty; however, the buildings that have stood there hold many chilling tales of death and murder as well. It is hardly surprising that ghosts have been spotted roaming the streets.
The city can be explored at night on a paranormal ghost tour. These tours will reveal the dark history surrounding Warwick, so expect to be scared when you discover the stories of these ghosts that haunt the city.
• Tudor World Musuem, Stratford-on-Avon
According to Horrible Histories author Terry Deary, Stratford-Upon-Avon is home to the most haunted building in England, the Fallstaff. The haunted building which now houses the Tudor World Museum, has a very spooky history and the Most Haunted television team experienced spine chills when visiting.
Explore the rest of the medieval market town at night with a ghost tour through the streets which includes chilling stories of the haunted buildings and the spirits that linger there.
The picturesque Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water is extremely popular with visitors due to its wealth of honey-coloured cottages, the tranquillity of the River Windrush and beautiful bridges.
It’s also home to some particularly spooky tales including ghosts, murder, bloody battles, witchcraft and religious persecution.
• HM Prison, Gloucester
Gloucester’s former prison has a long history of death, executions and burials, and the cells have held some of the country’s most notorious criminals.
One apparition that has been spotted is the ghost of a woman who was held in the cells of a nearby abbey who would taunt the inmates. She is said to have been searching for an inmate that killed her.
Mystery lies behind the pretty Regency facades of Cheltenham, and the town is home to many unexplained supernatural events including one of the most documented and highly researched cases in British paranormal history: The Morton Case. During the 1880s, what became known as the Cheltenham Ghost was the spectre of a tall lady dressed in black who haunted a 19-year-old girl for years.
Experience the darker side of the town where supernatural maids, a murderous butler and the medieval witchcraft and torture in Puckham Woods are all supposedly still active.
• Woodchester Mansion
Woodchester Mansion, a 19th century Victorian gothic masterpiece, lies hidden in a secluded Cotswolds valley. An architectural dream, the Grade I listed building was mysteriously abandoned mid-construction.
Visited by the Most Haunted team, the mansion has experienced plenty of supernatural happenings from a phantom horseman who rides along the mansion’s driveway, a floating head has manifested in one of the bedrooms and female guest have been grabbed by the ghost of an elderly woman in the darker parts of the mansion.
• Littledean Jail, Gloucester
Slamming doors, heavy footsteps and menacing shadows are part and parcel of a ghost hunt in Gloucester’s Littledean Jail. Known as the Alcatraz of the Forest, the controversial correction house has been used as a courthouse, police station and prison during its 225 year history and therefore infamy exudes upon visiting.
We recommend visiting The Littledean Jail to peruse the fascinating Crime Through Time Collection and the huge array of bonkers memorabilia that can be found there.
Ghost hunts can be booked throughout the year with paranormal activity more than likely. Expect an evening of ghostly experiments, séances and use of specialist ghost hunting equipment.
• St Briavels Castle, Lydney
Built in the early 12th century, St Briavel’s was once an important royal castle on the frontier with Wales and lies on the edge of a steep scarp above the River Wye.
The castle’s rich history has certainly left its mark on its wearied walls, and there’s no surprise that ghostly goings-on are frequent. Guests have felt their clothes being tugged in the Oubliette room, the pitiful cries of a baby and many have felt the terrifying sensation of being strangled while in The Hanging Room.
For those after a particularly spooky evening, head to St Briavels Castle for a Ghost Hunt & Sleepover organised at various times throughout the year. Joined by a medium throughout the investigation, attendees will be able to partake in paranormal investigation experiments and use specialist ghost hunting equipment in a search for the paranormal.
• The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge
Dubbed as one of the most haunted buildings in the country, if not the world, The Ancient Ram Inn in Wotton-under-Edge, is home to a whole host of paranormal activity. A popular legend surrounding the Inn is that of a witch burned at the stake in the 1500s after taking refuge in one of the rooms.
There has also been evidence of devil worship, ritual sacrifice and the skeletal remains of children under the staircase. One of the most haunted rooms in the entire inn is visited by ‘The Bishop’ – the ghost of a monk who has scared guests so much that some have fled during the night.
For a terrifying experience of paranormal activity, a ghost hunt at the Ancient Ram is ideal. Ghostly goings on have been documented in the Inn dating back to Pagan times so expect a very spooky evening.
• Minster Lovell Hall, Minster in Oxfordshire
In a beautiful rural setting beside the River Windrush lie the picturesque ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, a former 15th century Oxfordshire manor house. Built in the 1430s, after several changes of hands the hall was abandoned and eventually demolished in the 18th century, leaving the remains that stand today.
Expect an eerie atmosphere while exploring the ruins on a misty autumn evening.
Several spooky legends surround the medieval ruins including the haunting of Lord Lovell. After the battle of Stoke, he went into hiding and was cared for by one faithful servant. When the servant passed away, Lord Lovell starved to death. After repairs in 1718, a vault was uncovered in which a skeleton and a dog’s skeleton was found. To this day, the ghostly figure of Lord Lovell has been spotted walking through the ruins accompanied by the sound of rustling paper.
• Manor House Hotel, Moreton-in-Marsh
In the historic market town of Moreton-in-Marsh, the label of the town’s most haunted building belongs to Manor House Hotel nestled on the high street. Dating back to the 16th century, the hotel has a particularly gruesome history.
Before the second World War the building was owned for over a 100 years by the Creswykes, a family of wealthy landowners. Towards the end of the 17th century Dame Creswyke was horribly murdered in the house and her ghost supposedly still haunts the building.
The most memorable sighting of Dame Creswyke was in 1987 when her ghostly figure materialised outside the front door.
• Macdonald Bear Hotel, Woodstock
The beautiful Macdonald Bear Hotel is based in the pretty town of Woodstock, nestled in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside. The hotel exudes rustic character; patrons have been enjoying homemade dishes and pints of ale since the 13th century.
Originally a coaching inn, the Macdonald Bear Hotel’s history hasn’t always been so pleasant.
Two ghosts reside in the hotel: Elizabeth Downing who died in 1768 and her eight year old son Christopher Downing. On several occasions guests have spotted Christopher walking the halls hoping for someone to play hide and seek with him. Crying has been heard from one of the bedrooms – rumours say it might be the young Christopher or the illicit grandchild of the hotel’s owner born during the Civil War.
• The Tudor House Hotel, Tewkesbury
The Tudor House Hotel is a gorgeous oak beamed wonder, with views spanning the River Avon, that sits in the middle of Tewkesbury’s high street. The 16th century Tudor building has a rich history so there’s a little wonder that a few spectres have decided to linger long after death.
The most frequent reports are of the ‘Grey Lady’ who has been spotted walking the corridors of the hotel on several occasions, and then vanishing. She is believed to be a ghost of a maid who once worked there and upon cruel treatment by her mistress, became severely depressed and jumped out of a window on the top floor before plunging to her death in the garden below. Guests have also woken up to the banging of a kettle drum thought to by a small drummer boy.
Tewkesbury is also home to a few more spooky locations with apparitions at the Berkeley Arms, The Royal Hop Pole Hotel and Ye Olde Black Bear Inn being spotted.
• The Ragged Cot Inn, Cirencester
Cirencester’s wonderfully shabby chic inn boasts nine delightful bedrooms to relax in and delicious wholesome dishes to enjoy. The Ragged Cot Inn has been serving patrons since the 17th century and is steeped in history with plenty of scary events that have occurred within its walls.
It has been claimed that the inn is haunted by the ghosts of ex-landlord Bill Claver’s wife and child. Guests have heard strange noises in the hotel, and on occasion there have been sightings of two ghostly apparitions.
Local legend says in 1760 ex-landlord Bill Clavers decided to rob the midnight stagecoach travelling to London. To give himself the necessary courage to rob the coach, he got drunk on rum and staggered in the direction of the coach with two loaded pistols. His wife, with their child in his arms, tried to dissuade him of robbing the coach but was pushed aside and fell down the stairs. After robbing the coach, he arrived back to the hotel to see the bodies of his wife and child slumped dead at the bottom of the stairs and their ghosts have remained at the inn ever since.
• Sudeley Castle & Gardens, near Winchcombe
The statuesque Sudeley Castle is a wonder to marvel at; playing an integral part in English history for over 100 years, it is easy to while an afternoon away in the castle’s many exhibits and glorious gardens.
Sudeley Castle is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds: Katherine Parr. Katherine’s ghost is said to still wander the corridors of the castle and there have been frequent reports of a tall lady in a green dress seen around the castle nursery.
Her appearances are often accompanied by the faint smell of apple-scented perfume and occasionally accompanied by the heart-rending sobs of a crying child. Read more ghostly tales from Sudeley Castle here.
• Café Rene and Dick Whittington’s, Gloucester
For those eager to spot a ghost or experience some paranormal activity, Gloucester holds many haunted locations with spine chilling stories to tell.
People have spotted dark shadows lingering in the basement of Café Rene and a hunched figure seen walking around the cellar is one of the many ghosts seen in The Dick Whittington.
• Blackfriars Priory, Gloucester
Gloucester’s hidden gem is a beautiful example of a 13th century medieval Priory site, buried in the heart of the city. Built in 1239, Blackfriars has a long history with plenty of spooky activity to send shivers down your spine.
The oldest resident of the Priory is The Bleeding Friar who has been spotted creeping down the corridors with an open head wound leaving a trail of blood behind him. People have also reported unexplained shuffling noises and doors mysteriously locking themselves.
• Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Over the years, a rich history has been played out within the walls of the beautiful Nomadic Berkeley Castle.
A remarkable castle to enjoy a visit, Berkeley is also well-known for the gruesome murder of King Edward II. Ordered to death by his wife Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, the King was pinned down onto a table and murdered with a red hot poker.
The room where King Edward faced his horrible end can still be visited today and his blood curdling screams have been heard on the anniversary of his death.
• The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury
The Old Bell Hotel can be found in the Cotswolds market town of Malmesbury. Being one of England’s oldest hotel, there is little wonder that the hotel has a rich history with guests spending the night since 1220.
Although the hotel boasts luxury and quality hospitality, guests might also experience activity of the paranormal kind during their stay.
The ghost spotted most often is that of the ‘Lady in Grey’ who glides silently through the hotel looking forlorn. Rumour has it that if her name is repeated three times she will appear before you. Guests have also reported seeing mysterious objects move round the room and sheets being ripped from the bed at night.
In the charming town of Burford visitors can expect beautiful architecture and plenty of independent stores to browse. In addition to exploring Burford, it is worth discovering the town’s spooky history.
The priory housing Anglo-Catholic nuns and the nearby Old Rectory have reputations for being haunted. Spine chilling screams and the sounds of monks singing is often heard in the night.
People have also spotted the ghostly figures of an old fashioned game keeper and a small monk.
• Newark Park, Wotton-under-Edge
Newark Park is nestled in an unspoilt corner of Gloucestershire countryside. Most famous for its impressive views, the Tudor Lodge and its scenic surrounding gardens also have a set of spooky tales to tell.
One rumour is that the spirits of the monks of Kingswood Abbey were brought here with the stones from their old abbey.