The earliest traditions of Halloween are rooted in Celtic legends. In Wales, Calan Gaeaf was the predecessor of All Hallows Eve, when people celebrated the harvest and spirits roamed the land. Visit Snowdonia at this time of year and you can almost sense those spirits around you, as the autumn winds moan through bare trees and broken castle walls.
Spend a short break in Snowdonia and scare yourself with a Halloween visit to one of this area’s spookiest places. Let’s explore some places where things go bump in the night…
Plas Mawr, Conwy
An easy day or half-day trip from The Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis, Conwy’s historic Elizabethan townhouse Plas Mawr is haunted by two women and a doctor. The first woman died of illness and the second fell down the stairs while carrying her new born baby. A doctor was called and locked in the bedroom under an instruction that the woman and her child must be saved at all costs. Both sadly died and when the bedroom door was unlocked the doctor was nowhere to be seen. Legend has it that he tried to escape up the chimney and suffocated.
Today, visitors report seeing a ghostly face peering out of the bedroom door, and on the second floor two women spirits have been encountered…
Other guests at Plas Mawr have recorded poltergeists throwing items and a strong smell of tobacco, even though there is no smoking anywhere in the building. Scariest of all perhaps, some visitors have been touched by unseen hands. Creepy!
Plas Mawr is open throughout the year and annually hosts special Halloween events – see below for more details.
Conwy Castle, Conwy
Make a day of it in Conwy and combine a visit to Plas Mawr with a wintery wander through the dark winding stairs and draughty halls of Conwy Castle.
As well as a fortification, Conwy Castle has been used as an abbey, a house for royalty and as a prison. No wonder it’s claimed to be one of the most haunted places in Wales. Within its eight towers, some visitors have claimed to have been overcome with an unexplained fright. Another common sighting is of a monk dressed in a hooded robe, appearing in dark corridors. Shadowy figures have been seen staring at visitors and people below the walls from the windows. In the old chapel, some people have smelt incense, even though none has been burned.
Conwy Castle is open throughout the year and is great to combine with a walk along Conwy’s medieval town walls.
Gwrych Castle, Abergele
Just 20 minutes west of Conwy, Gwrych castle is the fine hillside Georgian residence (a castle folly) that greets most visitors to North Wales along the A55 above Abergele. Once derelict, a local charity is slowly bringing the castle back to life – and with it, its ghosts!
A renowned paranormal hotspot, Gwrych Castle boasts a varied history giving rise to its ghostly reputation. Built as an extravagant home between 1819 and 1825 for the Dundonald family, the Government used the building during World War II to house 200 Jewish refugees. Later it became a bizarre training venue for English World Middleweight boxing champion Randolph Turpin, who himself had a paranormal experience. By 1985 the castle fell into neglect and its ghosts were left alone – until recently.
Visitors report seeing a Lady in Red, who appears briefly before an ear-piercing screech is heard. The story goes that a woman fell off a horse while riding the grounds and died, but her wishes to be buried at the castle were not honoured. The ghost is the spirit of the woman returning.
Restored areas of Gwrych Castle are open to visitors daily, and it hosts special halloween events (see below).
Beaumaris Gaol, Anglesey
It’s hard to believe when standing outside Beaumaris jail that this formidable building was also used as a police station and a children’s clinic. Given its chequered history, it’s no surprise perhaps that its rooms and corridors are haunted.
Jail prisoners were subjected to a horrific ordeal and were often whipped, manacled to the walls and isolated in a dark cell for days. Visitors can go inside a cell with the lights off, just to get an idea of how terrifying this must have been. Two inmates, Williams Griffiths and Richard Rowlands, were both hanged here and buried in the prison grounds. Their spirits haunt the jail and communicate with guests via a Ouija board. From its time as a children’s clinic, a ghost called Bridget wanders the corridors looking for her child who died within the walls.
Night visitors report a heavy, menacing atmosphere enough to make even the most seasoned ghost hunters uneasy. Whistling and moaning can be heard at the dead of night within the jail’s eerie halls.
Visit the Beaumaris Gaol website here.
The Black Boy Inn, Caernarfon
Tucked away in historic Northgate Street within Caernarfon’s medieval walls, The Black Boy Inn (built circa 1522) is believed to be one of the oldest inns in North Wales.
People report seeing the ghost of a nun passing through the inn to the nunnery, which used to be at the rear. Some punters claim to see a spectral drinker at the bar, while others hear the phantom cries of a child in one of the bedrooms.
The Black Boy Inn is one of Caernarfon’s most characterful pubs and well worth a visit at any time.
Halloween Events 2019
From October 27 to October 31, Llanberis Lake Railway is running a Halloween Hunt. Familes can take a ghostly train journey through spooky Witches Wood along the shores of Llyn Padarn. More details here.
From October 26 to November 3, Penrhyn Castle is hosting a spooky silhouette trail, together with puppet crafts and scary storytelling. See the National Trust’s website for details.
Families are invited to solve the Curse of Gwrych Castle and help save this fabulous fortification on October 31. From 4pm to 9pm there will be a children’s trail, fireworks, refreshments, stalls, fancy dress competitions, carved pumpkin competitions, mini fairground, children’s crafts and more. Book tickets here.
For the grown-ups, you can join Gwynedd Paranormal Investigations at Plas Mawr in Conwy on 28, 29 and 30 October for a scientific paranormal investigation, with specialist equipment provided. Book through CADW here.
Images courtesy: Crown Copyright, Visit Wales, 2019. Black Boy Inn by geograph-2301976-by-Steven Haslington. Beaumaris Gaol © Copyright Ian Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Gwrych Castle by Zoltan sos [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)].