Long before Halloween became a time when things went bump in the night, the Celts of Wales celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of winter with the ancient festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow inn’). As the days drew shorter and the nights darker and colder, it marked a time when the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and ghosts crossed over…
Snowdonia and the lands and islands around it were places where Samhain was celebrated by local people. Visit the region this autumn and explore some of the places where, according to stories, the dead still walk with the living.
The landlord of Beddgelert
In 1821 David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat Inn in Beddgelert, died suddenly and hadn’t left a will. Soon after he was buried Goat Inn visitors heard ghostly footsteps and strange noises such as the fire being raked, and the rattling of fire irons. Then people reported seeing the landlord wandering the village and appearing near Gelert’s grave.
He terrorised everyone in the village until one night he visited a farmer called Huw. Huw asked him why he was scaring friends and neighbours in the village where he once lived. Pritchard’s ghost told the farmer he had unfinished business, and gave Huw a message for his widow.
She heard the message and followed her late husband’s instructions, lifting the hearthstone in the bar room most affected by the fire raking noises. There she discovered a pouch containing a hundred gold guineas, Pritchard’s legacy to his wife and children.
The ghost of David Pritchard was never seen again – though villagers still claim to catch sightings of the restless landlord under the tree by Gelert’s grave.
The Angelystor, Llangernyw
Legend has it that the residents of Llangernyw, a village hidden along a lonely, winding road between Abergele and Llanrwst, learn of their impending fate from a supernatural presence that lives under the boughs of a 3,000-year-old yew tree.
Each year on Halloween and 31 July the Angelystor solemnly announces, in Welsh, the names of the parish members who will die that year.
Once upon a time a resident mocked the idea of a spectre living in the grounds of the village’s medieval church and he paid a visit to the yew tree on Halloween to prove it was just a myth. Yet when he arrived at the church yard he heard a deep voice reciting names. And the first name he heard was his own.
“Hold, hold, I am not ready yet!” he cried. But the Angelystor had spoken and he died later that year.
Llangernyw church is old, yet it stands on a site that has been sacred for thousands of years. The yew tree where the Angelystor hides is believed to be the oldest living thing in Wales.
The Anglesey Arms, Caernarfon
The Anglesey Arms occupies a prime spot in Caernarfon, by the quay near Caernarfon Castle and overlooking the Menai Strait. It’s the place to be on a sunny day – but it’s not always been a pleasant spot to spend time.
Previously the busy port’s customs house, it was built near the place where prisoners were executed.
Visitors to the Anglesey Arms claim to have seen a ghostly apparition hanging by the neck in the bar, and glasses moving by themselves or hovering slightly above the tables. Upstairs, guests have heard footsteps, door handles turning and keys rattling in locks.
The ghouls of Plas Mawr, Conwy
At the centre of Conwy’s medieval walled town, the Elizabethan townhouse of Plas Mawr is reputed to be home to ghouls, the restless spirits of two people who died in tragic and freakish circumstances.
Plas Mawr’s owner was an influential merchant by the name of Robert Wynn. He had two wives, both called Dorothy. The first died from illness but the second slipped down a narrow staircase and was killed with her unborn child.
When a doctor tried but failed to save her, he sought to escape up the chimney before Wynn returned, fearful that he might blame him, but he became trapped in the chimney and suffocated.
Some believe the doctor’s body remains behind the chimney and that both he and Dorothy haunt the building to this day.
The soldiers of the Roman Steps
The Rhinog Mountains are considered Wales’s last true wilderness, and there’s no doubt it sees far fewer visitors than other parts of Snowdonia.
One of the most popular walking routes around the range’s tallest peak, Rhinog Fawr, starts by following a medieval packhorse trail known as the Roman Steps. Even though the route isn’t Roman, Romans certainly came to Snowdonia.
This might explain the local legend which says that a ghostly patrol of Roman soldiers with mules can sometimes be seen trudging up the steps. Don’t let this put you off a sighting, though: anyone following the soldiers will be led to a secret stash of gold!
Can’t get enough of ghostly goings on? Why not read this blog from the archives which we published last year – you’ll find out even more about supernatural North Wales! Love wine and spirits? This blog is scarily good too!