Where are Britain's spookiest castles? Here's the hauntings to head for this Halloween

·4 min read

Watch: Ghost tours: Edinburgh, the haunted city

As Halloween looms, it seems the nation's thoughts are turning to hauntings. Google searches for ghostly places are through the bat-infested roof, according to pop culture retailer, Lost Universe, and spook-seekers are also keen to discover terrifying stories of ancient revenge and unquiet spirits. 

While there's plenty of shivery tales about old pubs and strange houses, however, it seems the most haunted rooms of all in Britain are located in our old castles.

Many of these medieval fortresses and crumbling homes of royalty and aristocrats through the centuries are still just about standing - some are even open to the public, for actual in-person hauntings. 

No wonder stories of headless ladies, haunted horsemen and transparent tenants abound.

Here's five of the spookiest castles in the British Isles, guaranteed to put a shiver in your moss-covered step.

1 Ballygally Castle, Northern Ireland

circa 1890:  Ballygally Castle in County Antrim.  (Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ballygally Castle, Country Antrim, in arond 1890. (Getty Images)

Built in 1625 and housing nearly 400 years of spine-chilling history, Ballygally Castle has recently been converted into a hotel, and is reputed to host several ghosts. 

The stories allege that there are three ghosts residing within the walls, one of whom is the spirit of Lady Isabella, who fell to her death from a window trying to escape from imprisonment at her husband’s hands.

2 Cabra Castle, Co. Cavan, Ireland

Cabra castle
Cabra Castle is now a luxury hotel - but were the ghosts refurbished? (cabracastle.com)

Read more: Ghost 'sightings,' as explained by science

Cabra Castle is the home of several gruesome stories throughout its history. Now converted to a hotel, guests can stay in the location where, legend has it, a servant girl was brutally killed thanks to a forbidden relationship that took place in the 1780s. 

Many people say they feel a ‘presence’ in the courtyard rooms, and one guest even saw a solider from the early 20th century striding down a corridor.

3 Colliston Castle, Angus, Scotland

colliston castle
The very smart guest house that is Colliston Castle. But are there are unexpected visitors? (Colliston Castle)

Colliston Castle is a 16th-century Z-plan tower house, which was altered and extended in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It has recently been turned into a guest house, although guests will find themselves bedding down in the very house where the owner was found dead in the hall with his gun beside him in 1929. 

Could he still be walking the halls today?

4 Dudley Castle, England

Stop saying 'Dudley' in a silly accent, this building is scary. (Getty Images)
Stop saying 'Dudley' in a silly accent, this building is scary. (Getty Images)

Dudley Castle was built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and is said to be the home of the Grey Lady, thought to be the spirit of Dorothy Beaumont, who died in the castle, along with her baby, shortly after childbirth. 

Many tourists claim to have captured her ghostly presence in photographs and even seen her appearing in windows.

5 Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

The historical landmark Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, set against a stormy sky.
If you can face the climb, you may meet a Scottish spook or two. (Getty Images)

With a settlement sitting on Castle Rock since around 860 AD, the dark and troubled history of Edinburgh Castle is a long one. There are many terrifying stories linked to the castle, but one of the creepiest is certainly that of The Boy Piper, who was sent to explore the tunnels under the Royal Mile… only to mysteriously disappear.

Other sites that made the list were Gwydir Castle in Llanwrst, Wales, Muncaster Castle in Cumbria, Warwick Castle and Airth Castle.

Read more: Unhappy Halloween: Britain's 8 most haunted locations

Lost Universe also analysed search data to uncover the ghostliest UK cities, as it was revealed that searches for ‘exorcisms’ and ‘haunted house’ are up by 29% and 5% respectively across the UK since 2020.

Britain's most haunted cities are topped by London, home to ghosts of all eras, with stories abounding around The Tower of London and crumbling, romantic Highgate Cemetery. 

Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London, England. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West Cemetery and the East Cemetery at Highgate Cemetery. The architectural highlight of gothic Highgate Cemetary is when the Egyptian Avenue opens out into the Circle of Lebanon. It's a magnificent structure of twenty sunken tombs built around the roots of an ageing and ancient Cedar of Lebanon tree, from which the Circle gets its name.
Haunted Highgate cemetery is prime hunting ground for ghosts. (Getty Images)

Others include Leeds, where the old Armley Woollen Mill is said to be full of ghosts, with visitors reporting 'a small boy crying' and a woman in black, and Manchester, where haunted sites include Old Wythenshawe Hall, and Wardley Hall, one of the oldest buildings in the North West and previously known as 'Skull House.' Reassuring.

Bringing up the rear are spooky cities Birmingham and Liverpool. 

But if you can't get to any of these places for Halloween, fear not. (Or fear a lot, ideally). Britain is said to be a very haunted country - so simply polish up your ghost hunting kit and wait until the stroke of midnight on Halloween, wherever you happen to be.

Watch: Ghost hunting at Camp Hero, the site that inspired 'Stranger Things'

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