Looming over the British landscape, the spectral silhouettes of castle ruins haunt us with their ghostly presence. From their crumbling battlements to their murky moats - there’s something about a ruin that captures the imagination and raises the hairs on the back of our necks. But is it that link to a past long since gone that gets our blood pumping, or is it the thought that some of the former residents might not have left that we find so thrilling?
Here are three deliciously dark and spine-chillingly haunted castle ruins from across the UK that you can visit.
1. Berry Pomeroy Castle
Secreted away in the wooded valleys of South Devon, Berry Pomeroy Castle sits atop an outcrop of limestone. Having owned the land since the 11th century, the Pomeroy family built the castle at the end of the end of 15th century. Disaster struck, however, and the family fell into financial difficulty. The Castle was sold in 1547 to Edward Seymour, uncle and lord protector of the young King Edward VI.
Following the execution of Edward Seymour in 1552, the castle was briefly held forfeit to the crown but remained in the Seymour family until it was finally abandoned in the late 1600s and left to slowly fall to ruin. But while all living residents might have waved goodbye to the property in the 17th century, the castle hasn’t remained uninhabited.
Rumoured to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain, the ghostly inhabitants of the old ruins have had no issues with making their presence known, with two ghostly women being regularly spotted by visitors.
The first of the female residents is the White Lady, who is believed to be the spectral remains of Margaret Pomeroy. Said to have been held in the dungeons by her sister, Eleanor, Margaret can now be seen walking the dank dungeon corridors - trapped forever in the prison that held her in life.
While her tragic story might pull at the heartstrings, visitors should be thankful if they run into the White Lady, as her reputation is far friendlier than that of her counterpart - the Blue Lady. The Blue Lady might appear the more amicable of Berry Pomeroy’s ghostly residents, but don’t be fooled. Sometimes confused for the White Lady, The Blue Lady is believed to be the daughter of a Norman lord who is cursed to haunt the dungeons, always mourning the loss of the baby she killed because it was born of incest.
Desperate for help in seeking her child, the Blue Lady is said to beckon to passers-by looking for help - but good Samaritans beware! Those who are said to have gone to her aid are lured into a tower where they then mysteriously fall to their doom.
2. Rait Castle
Originally home to the Comyn family, the hall-house castle was first built near Inverness, Scotland in the 13th century. The castle was passed from the Comyn (who went by de Rait) family to the Mackintosh Clan in 1442 when a feast was held between the two families. Disaster struck, however, when a murderous plot went wrong, and the feast ended in slaughter.
Ownership of the castle had, for some time, been contested. During the War of Independence, the two warring families had taken two different sides, with the de Raits supporting Edward I of England and the Mackintoshes siding with Robert the Bruce. Feeling that they rightfully owned Rait Castle, the Mackintoshes staked their claim. However, the de Raits (who were still very much living there) refused to relinquish their family home.
After several near misses with the Mackintosh Clan, the head of the de Rait family hatched a plan that would end the Mackintosh Clan’s claims for good. Inviting them to a feast under the guise of forging a new friendship, he planned to murder his guests following a toast. However, his plan was revealed to the Mackintoshes, who were ready to defend themselves. While it isn’t known exactly who revealed the plan, the laird suspected that the whistleblower was none other than his own daughter, who was concerned for the fate of her lover - a young Mackintosh. Furious that his daughter could betray him, he chased her through the castle.
Attempting to flee her father's murderous rage, the young woman fled to her bedroom, where she tried to escape out the window. She didn’t escape, however, as her father cut off her hands and she fell to her death. To this day, at dusk, she is said to appear in a blood-stained dress and wander aimlessly throughout the ruins, her bloody stumps outstretched in front of her as though searching for her lover.
3. Penrith Castle
While many ghosts of castle ruins are the memories of their stately owners from centuries long past, Penrith Castle boasts an altogether different type of haunting. Built in the late 1300s and early 1400s, the ruins of this medieval castle can be found in Cumbria just to the east of the Lake District National Park.
Designed to protect the British countryside from Scottish raids, the castle was used as a first line of defence until it was turned into luxury accommodation by Richard III before it was later used as Parliamentarian headquarters during the British Civil War. With such a rich military history, it’s no surprise then that the ghostly inhabitants that haunt the remains of the castle are a little more regimented.
It’s said that one evening in 1753, a local farmer was startled when a procession of soldiers marched across the hill next to the castle on Midsummer’s Eve. While many believed that the farmer might have imagined it, just a few short years later, the ghostly apparition was seen once again, marching on midsummer across the hillside. Each year that the procession returned, it grew in size. But despite the growing parade, no footprints, hoofprints, or carriage tracks have ever been found.
Whether they’re returning from battle or just continuing their daily drills long after their death - no one knows! Would you stop them to ask?
Do you still want more ghosts? Here are some of our top castle ruins and their ghostly inhabitants:
- Betchworth Castle - Surrey. Rumours are that the residential ghost at Betchworth Castle is, in fact, a very good boy! The ghost of a black dog can be seen prowling the grounds late at night.
- Duntulm Castle - Skye. Overlooking the cliffs of Skye, you might just run into the ghostly remains of Hugh MacDonald, whose failed attempt at a power grab led to him being locked up. Imprisoned in the dungeons of Duntulm Castle and left to die a long and agonising death, it’s said that you can still hear his ghostly rasps calling out over the clifftop.
- Farley Hungerford Castle - Bath. Arrested on suspicion of murdering her husband, things didn’t look good for Lady Agnes Hungerford. Said to have strangled her husband and then incinerated his body in the kitchen furnace; when Lady Agnes was sentenced to death, it was presumed that she would leave this earthly plane. Visitors to the castle, however, will say differently. Lady Agnes’ spirit is said to appear every so often near the chapel before promptly vanishing into thin air.