Terrifyingly Good Breaks: The UK’s Best Haunted Destinations | Active holidays | Travel
CHILLS: Whitby Abbey looks out to coast
Whitby and Dracula, North Yorkshire
The dark, gaunt ruins of Whitby Abbey tower over the town from the promontory to the east of the River Esk strait. You can see why Bram Stoker chose this spot as a suitable hiding place for his anti-hero, who flew ashore under cover of darkness from an anchored boat.
Climb the 199 steps from the ancient nest of streets below and you will first come across St. Mary’s Church, itself a chunky, haunting spot surrounded by headstones commemorating those who died at sea. from the gothic skeleton of the abbey to one of the best located youth hostels in Christendom.
This YHA in Whitby has en suite double rooms from £49.
Dartmoor and the Baskervilles, Devon
This arid moor, whose 170 tors – rocky outcrops – resemble ancient Inca citadels, has long been a place of legend. On a dark, damp night, it’s easy to imagine encountering one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Ghost Dogs of the Baskervilles, on the loose.
Conan Doyle used the Foxtor Mire bog, south of Princetown, as a model for the traitorous Grimpen Mire in the book, and you definitely shouldn’t wander there unprepared.
Childe’s grave stands near Foxtor, marking the spot where a rider, lost in a blizzard, slit his horse’s belly and climbed inside for warmth. He did not survive.
Find your own sanctuary at the Moorland Hotel by Haytor, where a double room with breakfast costs from £136.
BOOK IN: Childe’s Grave on High Dartmoor
Eyam and the Plague, Peak District
It’s 1665 and the Black Death is marching inexorably across the UK.
Initially, it appeared to be a town problem, and rural villages like Eyam in Derbyshire would remain disease-free. But at the time, no one knew how the disease was transmitted and a ball of cloth delivered from London was riddled with plague-infected fleas.
Soon the villagers began to die. The vicar persuaded the community to isolate themselves from the outside world and thus save neighboring communities from infection. In return, these neighbors left food at the edge of the village.
Today Eyam is a peaceful place, although many houses still have plaques outside honoring some of the 260 dead. Stay put in Bakewell, famous for its pie.
Doubles in its old station from £95 with breakfast.
Tintagel and King Arthur, Cornwall
There’s no definitive proof that King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table actually existed, but the magnificent Tintagel Castle on the north east coast of Cornwall is certainly a place to fire up the imagination.
The windswept ruin sits on an island connected to a bridge jutting out to sea, and it’s a perfect fit for Arthur and his band of Lancelot, Percival, Guinevere and co. There is even a cave for the magician Merlin.
This part of North Cornwall is particularly mystical and druidic, and the village of Tintagel attracts spirit spirits, hungry for powerful crystals and witches’ brews, if the shops are anything to go by.
Stay just down the road behind Trebarwith Beach at the Mill House Inn, doubles with breakfast from £85.
SEA VIEW: Gate to legendary Tintagel Castle
Bamburgh and Grace Darling, Northumberland
Bamburgh was recently voted Britain’s best coastal destination, and you can see why. With a large coastal castle, village park, tea rooms and a lovely beach, it makes for a pretty picture.
It’s the kind of setting where it’s hard to imagine the brave exploits of a lightkeeper’s daughter in the midst of a storm, but in 1838, looking out of her bedroom window at 4:30 a.m., Grace Darling spotted a ship crashing on the outlying rocks of the Farne Islands.
She sounded the alarm and set off with her father in a rowboat to rescue the survivors.
Today there is a museum in his honor in the center of the village, with a fine period hotel – the Victoria – just next door. Double with breakfast from £100.
BRIGHT IDEA: Bamburgh Castle
The Undercliff and the Dinosaurs, Dorset
A walk through one of Europe’s largest coastal erosion systems is perfectly safe provided you stay on the Southwest Coast Path. The Undercliff starts east of Seaton in Devon and stretches about seven miles to Lyme Regis in Dorset, through a roller coaster of vegetation whose ripples are constantly changing thanks to landslides.
This is the Jurassic Coast, where fossils of creatures that once walked this path are regularly discovered. In the Undercliff, with its carpets of ferns and mushrooms beneath a dense low ceiling of matted leaves, it’s easy to imagine bumping into something Neolithic; certainly cell phone reception may be from the Cretaceous.
Stay in Lyme’s traditional 17th century inn, the Royal Lion Hotel. Double with breakfast from £155.
Glencoe and the Massacre, Highlands
Shortly after crossing the huge plateau of Rannoch Moor, around 90 minutes north of Glasgow, two huge rocky shoulders rise up and crowd around the A82 as it tries to meander towards the sea.
This is Glencoe, a key strategic passage for anyone heading to Fort William and northern destinations. It’s a beautiful setting, its mountain walls streaked with silver waterfalls, but it has a tragic past.
In 1692, Scottish government forces were quartered in the community of MacDonalds who lived in the glen. Once their hosts were asleep, the soldiers slaughtered 30 of them in their beds. This was seen as an outrageous act of treason at a time when traditions of honor were highly prized.
Today there are few opportunities to stay in the glen, but Kings House stands at the entrance. Double with breakfast from £150.
Birnam Wood and Macbeth, Perthshire
In Shakespeare’s tragedy, the three witches predict that Macbeth would only fail if Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane, which the king’s lord assassin believed impossible.
Today Birnam Wood still stands where it once stood along the River Tay, not far from Dunkeld, and some of its giant oaks look old enough to have witnessed Shakespeare’s visit in 1599.
One is so tall – 23 feet around its waist – and so hollow that you can shelter inside, to hide from any murderous aristocrats.
From here, cross the river at Telford’s Dunkeld Bridge, then walk north through an arboretum of giant exotic trees to where the elegant Dunkeld House Hotel presides over the riverbank.
Double rooms with breakfast from £155.
Tolpuddle and the Martyrs, Dorset
The village of Tolpuddle, east of Puddletown along the valley of the River Piddle (ti-hi!) looks like something out of a children’s story.
And indeed, the place itself, with its leafy village and thatched-roof houses, looks like a gem of tea-towel England.
Yet in 1834 it was the setting for one of the first labor crackdowns in the UK, when six leaders of a perfectly legal farmworkers’ union were convicted under an obscure law and deported to Australia.
Two years later, these Tolpuddle martyrs were pardoned and returned, and today their story is recorded in a village museum.
Stay put at Piddletrenthide’s Brace of Pheasants, where doubles with breakfast cost from £115.