What better to celebrate Halloween than with a visit to one of England's many haunted castles? Our green and pleasant land has more than its fair share of frightening fortifications - which is good news if you and the kids have a penchant for all things spine-chilling.
During Halloween, England's castles come into their own, lighting up in spooktacular displays. There are plenty of ways to keep the family entertained, from ghoulish ghost hunts to guided tours of all those scary nooks and crannies that other guided tours fail to reach. In other words, they're the perfect day out for October half term.
Take Battle Abbey, in East Sussex, for example. This half term they are laying on all sorts of activities for families who fancy a bit of ghost spotting. Built on the site of a bloody battlefield, paranormal activity is practically the norm according to those in the know. Visitors have claimed, for example, that they have seen a monk gliding through the abbey, with shadowy figures regularly spotted in the undercroft and cloisters.
Then there's the eerie Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, where a disembodied face of a drowning victim can be glimpsed in the water of the well...
But with so many spooky things going on this Halloween, how are you meant to choose where to turn? We asked English Heritage to name the the top spots around the country to spend a little time getting spooked out this half term and here's what they said. For full details on events, visit englishheritage.org.uk.
Haunted castles for Halloween
Ten spooky days out for Halloween
With an extensive past of past residents, including royal visitors and prisoners, Carisbrooke has its fair share of haunting tales. Amon its ethereal inhabitants are a ghostly figure accompanied by four tiny lap dogs, who is often spotted in the courtyard of the castle, and the disembodied face of a tragic drowning victim reputedly visible in the well water.
Halloween happenings: Let the kids scare themselves silly this half term with creepy crafts, spooky activities and ghost hunting galore.
Built on the site of a bloody battlefield, paranormal activity and Battle Abbey have long gone hand in hand. Many visitors claim to have seen the figure of a monk gliding through the abbey, and shadowy figures have often been spotted within the undercroft and cloisters. When it rains, the battlefield appears to be awash with blood due to iron oxide in the soil mixing with rainwater...
Halloween happenings: Head to the Haunted Abbey event every day during half term for activity trails, ghost hunting and creepy crafts.
A turbulent history stretching back over 2,000 years has produced plenty of spooky goings-on at one of England’s most haunted castles. Look out for a mysterious lady in red and the tragic figure of a Napoleonic drummer boy - just two of the spirits who roam within the walls of Dover Castle, while the labyrinth of underground tunnels provides numerous strange sightings and sounds.
Halloween happenings: The castle is running a Haunted Castle event every day during half term.
This magnificent building is the former home of Sir Charles Cavendish, and some say that ghost of the owner still likes to wander the halls of his restored fantasy mansion. Visitors and staff at Bolsover Castle have also reported the distinct aroma of horses in the empty former riding school, and experienced mysterious pinches or slaps from unseen hands.
Halloween happenings: Bolsover is giving visitors the chance to explore the castle at night on Fridays and Saturdays during half term, with the chance to wander the castle by torchlight and look for signs of previous residents…
A long history of military residence, siege and assault has left its mark on Carlisle Castle, where gruesome discoveries await and unexplained happenings often occur. A Grey Lady and the ghostly apparitions of various soldiers who have inhabited the castle through the centuries are among the spirits who appear to those who brave this fortress.
Halloween happenings: Join torchlight tours that
bring to life some of the creepy, gruesome and surprising tales during half term.
They say that the sound of horses' hooves can regularly be heard at this coastal castle, allegedly a legacy from when occupants were forced to slaughter their horses for food during Civil War siege. The sound of furniture being moved in an upstairs room has also been reported, and workmen once spotted a woman walking across Pendennis Castle when it was closed, only to find that she had then disappeared.
Halloween happenings: Spooky trails and ghost hunting adventures are taking place throughout the week of half term, as well as spooky tours.
As the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it's no surprise that these evocative gothic ruins contain their fair share of ghost stories. A coach pulled by headless horses has been seen travelling through Whitby Abbey before plunging off a nearby clifftop, and rumour has it that the abbey’s founder, St Hild, can sometimes be seen appearing in the upper windows of the ruins.
Halloween happenings: The abbey will be illuminated with coloured floodlighting from Wednesday 26 October until Saturday 29 October. You'll also get the chance to meet costumed characters and hear their gruesome tales.
This spectacular ruin once played host to many extravagant parties – and no-one is entirely sure that all the guests have gone home. Visitors at Witley Court have commented to staff about a gentleman peering out of an upstairs window, despite there being no floors, and the empty ballroom often echoes with the haunting music of a string quartet.
Halloween happenings: During half term, families can discover the rare and wonderful world of bats and take part in a fancy dress competition.
If you take a tour at Eltham Palace, be sure to check that your guide is among the living… it is said the spirit of a former guide sometimes takes groups for a walk around the grounds. Watch out for a royal encounter too – the Art Deco palace was built around Henry VIII’s boyhood home and regular visitors believe his presence still lingers.
Halloween happenings: Half term horrors include creepy crafts, a costume competition and pumpkin carving sessions.