Tucked in the savage heart of Bannau Brycheiniog on Skirrid’s legend-soaked slopes, itself known as ‘Sacred Hill’ by locals for its soil’s allegedly supernatural properties, the Skirrid Mountain Inn has long been renowned among paranormal enthusiasts as one of the most haunted places in the world. Claiming to be the oldest pub in the UK with a history dating to the 12th century, when the inn provided shelter to pilgrims on their way to nearby Llanthony Priory, the inn’s hauntings are most commonly connected to its stint as a courthouse in the 17th century. Under the iron-fisted rule of Judge Jeffries (also known as the “Hanging Judge”), over 180 prisoners were sentenced to death here for assorted petty crimes, the executions then being carried out by summary hanging over the building’s staircase, where rope marks can still be seen on the ancient wooden beams.
Wales is famous as a land of legend: ancient faeries, Celtic rune-stones littering the landscape, and a dragon so mighty it became the country’s national symbol. It has experienced invasion, bloodshed, and war, its verdant valleys and arcadian towns holding the memories of the centuries of struggle and toil that forged this hardy nation. It is no wonder then that Wales has long been considered one of the most haunted countries in the world, populated by everything from half-man, half-bull spectres to phantom soldiers to nocturnal ladies-in-white roaming castle halls. The usual trip to Wales is something of a peaceful, rejuvenating retreat into nature, but if you want something on the more unusual, adrenaline-pumping side, here’s our guide to seven of Wales’ most haunted spots that you can visit. But only if you think you’re brave enough.
- Skirrid Mountain Inn (Monmouthshire, South Wales)
- Aberglasney House (Carmarthenshire, South Wales)
- Roch Castle (Pembrokeshire, South Wales)
- Maesmawr Hall (Montgomeryshire, Mid Wales)
- Beaumaris Gaol (Anglesey, North Wales)
- Pembrey Woods (Carmarthenshire, South Wales)
- Plas Nanteos (Ceredigion, Mid Wales)
Skirrid Mountain Inn (Monmouthshire, South Wales)
Judge Jeffries’ reign of terror at the inn never really ended and, to this day, his apparition is seen lurking on the building’s upper floors. Some guests have even reported a tight strangling sensation on their necks during the night, leaving behind raw, rope-burn like welts in the shape of a hangman’s noose. Glasses have also been launched at guests by unseen hands (the owners estimate that some ten to fifteen are broken this way every week!) while other, less violent, spirits include the benevolent presence of a local clergyman and a Lady in White believed to be a former inn-keeper who likes to make sure her guests are still being catered for. If you fancy a stay, three ensuite rooms are available throughout the year and regular ghost tours are arranged.
Aberglasney House (Carmarthenshire, South Wales)
Today the home of some of the most wonderful gardens that Wales’ ‘Garden County’ has to offer, Aberglasney House dates to the early Tudor era and was brought to national attention by the BBC television series A Garden Lost in Time, which followed the property’s restoration after decades of abandonment, dereliction, and disrepair during the twentieth century. Home to such colourful characters as a knight, a bishop, a poet, and a colonel over its 500-year history, many seem to have found the gorgeous, ten-acre property so charming that they simply never left and today some 90 to 120 spectres are said to haunt the grounds!
There’s no shortage of ghouls to encounter then, but there is one legend above all others that has become synonymous with Aberglasney: that of the canwll corffe, or corpse candle. A Welsh folkloric classic that exploded in popularity during the eighteenth century, the corpse candle is an eerie glowing light said to appear in the middle of the night as an omen portending imminent death. Having allegedly terrorised families living at Aberglasney for centuries (the land the home was built on is said to be cursed, having been the site of two particularly gruesome battles in the 13th century), the ominous apparition gave its most famous show in the 1630s when five white flames were seen hovering in the home’s maids’ quarter. The following morning, five of the house maids were discovered dead in their beds, having been killed by toxic fumes from a stove that was left to burn overnight. Their spectres are still seen roaming the hallways, alongside their 100-odd ghost-fellows inhabiting the Tudor home.
Roch Castle (Pembrokeshire, South Wales)
Most people come to Pembrokeshire chasing its semi-Mediterranean coastlines. However if you want to inject a bit of fear factor into your south-coast visit, why not stay at Roch Castle? Nowadays a luxury hotel perched magisterially over idyllic St. Brides Bay, the castle was originally built in the 12th century by a Norman knight named Adam de Rupe, whose bloodline occupied the home for nearly 300 years. According to legend, de Rupe built the castle when a native witch warned him that he was destined to die of a snake bite within the year, however promised him a long and fruitful life if he found a way to surmount the prophecy. De Rupe subsequently locked himself in the castle’s upper-most room for months on months believing himself to be there safe, only to pass away when a bundle of wood brought by a servant to keep him warm in the winter months carried with it a hibernating snake that bit him in retaliation. A disgruntled de Rupe is said to continue to torturously reside in these upper floors.
The castle’s most famous ghost, however, is that of Lucy Walter, a noblewoman and consort to King Charles II whose family took the home over from the de Rupe’s in the 17th century. Her figure, draped in a flowing white gown, is often seen and heard wandering the hotel hallways at night.
Roch CastleOriginating from the 12th century, Roch Castle provides lodging for guests, situated atop a rugged cliff that provides a stunning view of St Brides Bay. The castle also provides complimentary parking and WiFi for its guests.
Maesmawr Hall (Montgomeryshire, Mid Wales)
Another historic home turned luxury hotel, the land surrounding Maesmawr Hall has been occupied since Roman times due to its strategic position along the River Severn, with excavations having revealed the remains of a Roman road bisecting the area. The hall itself was erected in 1535 at the height of the Tudor period, built in the black-and-white timber-frame style so iconic of the period.
What makes the purported hauntings at Maesmawr Hall so interesting is that the ghosts are said to be human, animal, and everything in between. On our side of things is the spirit of an Elizabethan housekeeper, a man and a servant in the cellar, two sisters who used to own the hotel, and Roman legionnaires who have been sighted marching the route of the old Roman road. As for the animals, there is the apparition of a white horse that has been seen galloping through the grounds and a phantom dog that has been reported in the cellar too. Most bizarre (and terrifying), however, is Robin Drwg, or ‘Bad Robin’, the malevolent spirit of a once-wicked man who was drowned in the nearby woods and is said to assume a half-bull, half-human form.
Maesmawr Hall HotelThe charming historical residence is under private ownership and direct supervision of the resident proprietors. Constructed in 1535, the hall holds Grade II listing and has managed to preserve numerous authentic characteristics over the years.
Beaumaris Gaol (Anglesey, North Wales)
Built in the medieval seaside town of Beaumaris in 1829 and in use until 1878, Beaumaris Gaol has a reputation as a dark stain on Welsh criminal history. An imposing Victorian Gothic fortress of human misery, having been the site of one of the last penal treadmills in the UK (an archaic mode of punishment in which prisoners were made to ascend an ‘everlasting staircase’ in the form of a rotating treadwheel), two hangings, and various other practices described as “inhumane”, whippings, chain restraints, and jet-black isolation cells included.
Nowadays open as a popular tourist attraction in the UNESCO-heritage town where visitors can learn more about this dark past, Beaumaris Gaol’s phantoms are so notorious that they made national television when the Most Haunted crew visited in 2007 and had rocks pelted at them by an unseen force. The Haunted Rooms team, meanwhile, have reported a “constant feeling of dark energy” in the gaol, while the most commonly-reported spirit is that of a former jailer who can be heard knocking on cell doors and whistling along, as if still going about his daily checks.
Pembrey Woods (Carmarthenshire, South Wales)
Pembrey County Park is an idyllic day out in sunny South Wales where coast meets countryside: 500 acres of Green Flag-awarded woodlands, eight miles of gossamer-golden, Blue Flag-winning coast, and countless family activities, from crazy golf to dry skiing to toboggan riding. However, get caught here after dark and you might have an encounter of another kind. The gorgeous natural scenery of the woods belies a gruesome, blood-stained history. Locals will be familiar with the legend of the “little hatchet men of Pembrey”, a group of cut-throat criminals who occupied the area in the 18th and 19th centuries and lured lost ships toward the rugged coast with lanterns and bonfires to get them to wreck. Once they had done so, they would enter the ship wielding small hatchets and strip it bare, leaving all those aboard the damaged vessels to drown. The ghosts of these murdered sailors are now said to roam the shores, while other hauntings have been connected to the nearby RAF airfield. According to local rumour, several damaged planes crashed in and around Pembrey Woods trying to make it back to base during World War II, and nowadays the apparitions of mutilated soldiers can be seen aimlessly wandering the forest, forever trying to find their way home to camp.
Plas Nanteos (Ceredigion, Mid Wales)
One of the most historically significant county homes in Wales, Plas Nanteos is a Grade I-listed mansion originally built in 1739 by William Powell and whose estate, at its height, spanned 31,000 acres of land, encompassing most of what is now Aberystwyth and providing employment to the majority of county residents. Staying in the Powell family for over 200 years, its members reported bizarre activity as soon as they moved in, most ominously that of a Grey Lady brandishing a candelabra and whose appearance always preceded a family death, similar to the corpse candles of Aberglasney House.
And, like Aberglasney, the land that Plas Nanteos was built on was already soaked in lore and legend before the home appeared, perhaps explaining the density of paranormal activity that has since arisen there. According to local lore, when the nearby Strata Florida Abbey was dissolved in 1539 by King Henry VIII, seven of its monks escaped to the building that preceded Plas Nanteos carrying an ancient relic known as the Nanteos Cup, alleged to have been made from the wood of Christ’s cross and reputed to be the Holy Grail. It is believed that the monks are still buried beneath Plas Nanteos’ cellar, guarding the cup from beyond the grave.
Other spirits reported at Plas Nanteos are a phantom horse and carriage, the ghost of the Powell family harpist whose music can still be heard in far-off rooms, a spectral huntsman, and the spirit of the ‘Jewel Lady’ Elizabeth Powell, a former family matriarch so-called for the elaborate gemstone collection she amassed over her lifetime. Before she died, she is said to have risen from her bed and hid her jewels in an unknown location; her form, wearing a long, flowing dress, still today wanders the hallways trying to reunite herself with her precious stones.