Close to the Welsh border, in south-central England, Cotswold is an area of pristine beauty, rolling hills, rich history, and home to one of the most active Ley lines in England. Also known as dragon lines, believed to have mystical significance, these paranormal pathways that can be found all over the globe.
If you like your travels with a twist, you cannot go wrong with a spooky tour of Cotswold’s most terrifying castles. From prehistoric earthworks and Roman hill forts, to Norman towers, motte-and-baileys, and fortified manors, you’ll embark on an adventurous journey through 1,000 years of tumultuous history and restless spirits. Magnets for ghost hunters, these castles’ eerie rooms and dungeons will make your skin crawl. Can you handle it?
One of England’s March Castles, built specifically to keep out the Welsh, Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire witnessed one of the most horrific deaths in history.
Originally a motte-and-bailey castle, it has been owned by the Berkley family for nine centuries. The Berkeleys have been an influential presence on England’s political stage over the centuries, and are one of only three families in England whose ancestry can be traced back to Saxon times. Built in 1053 by William FitzOsbern of Breteuil, Normandy, a great castle-builder, first records date from 1070 and talk of a fortification built on top of an earth mound. All family archives, dating all the way back to 1154, as well as all adjacent buildings and contents have survived the test of time. How many castles can say that?
The Berkeleys received the fortified keep from Henry II. In 1326, Maurice Lord of Berkeley was imprisoned in his own castle by Edward II, who confiscated his lands. It’s ironic how, only one year later, Edward II was imprisoned in the same castle. His jailer was Thomas, Lord Berkeley.
Edward II’s agonizing screams can still be heard today, echoing from the dungeon in which he was thrown among corpses of animals and humans, in the hope that he would catch a disease and die, and from the room where he was brutally murdered through torture, the most grisly execution of English royalty in history. His death was ordered by Queen Isabella by a hot red poker.
A visit to Berkeley Castle is a history lesson in itself. The medieval Gothic castle whose warm-pink stone glows in the shimmering sunlight, has had its share of important historical figures sharing its bedchambers. At the beginning of the 15th century, King Richard II often entertained here, Queen Elizabeth I claimed the castle for her sweetheart, Robert Earl of Leicester, and during the Civil War it was captured by Parliamentary forces. The And let’s not forget the Butterfly House, home to 42 spectacular species from the far corners of the world, namely Japan and Indonesia, flying about in a controlled environment, a unique chance to observe their life cycle up-close.
Once home to King Ethelred the Unready and Queen Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife, nestled in the Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is a romantic spectacle of 1,000 years of tumultuous history, closely tied to the Tudor dynasty. It all started as a mid 12th century fortified manor home. After being partially destroyed, a castle was built next to the ruins in the late 15th century. What we see today, so well-preserved and impeccable, is the result of extensive Victorian era restorations. Often visited by Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Charles I, it seems as though some of its former residents never left the castle.
In 1547, six months after Henry VIII’s death, Catherine Parr married Thomas Seymour of Sudeley. One year later, Catherine died within the castle’s walls after giving birth to her daughter, Mary. Dressed in green, she still roams the gardens, searching for something or someone, and she is often seen gazing through the castle’s windows. Her presence is often accompanied by the the sound of a baby’s cries and the smell of an apple-scented perfume.
Catherine is not Sudeley’s only ghost. A 19th century housekeeper, better known as Chambermaid “Janet,” armed with her feather duster, continues to clean the castle.
Open to the public, Sudeley’s unique gardens are considered some of the finest in England, stretching among the ruins, roses and clematis climbing the medieval walls. While here, make sure to visit Cheltenham as well. Only three miles from Sudeley Castle, it is one of Cotswold’s cultural hubs and home to the Gold Cup, England’s number one steeplechase horse race, held each year during the Cheltenham Festival in March. For the latest news on the race, check the gold cup results only at Williamhill. Plus, just on the outskirts of Cheltenheim, the most haunted village in England takes great pride in its Black Abbot and other spirits roaming the streets of Prestbury.
Considered the finest medieval castle in England, its history can be traced back to the times of the Norman invasion, some 1,000 years back in time. Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle rises tall on a cliff overlooking the Avon River in Warwickshire county. Originally a wooden motte-and-bailey, the medieval castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century and has been used as strategical fortification until the 17th century, when it was turned into a country house by the Greville family, the earls of Warwick. Sir Fulke Greville’s ghost remains most famous resident.
Murdered in 1628 by his manservant, Sir Greville’s spirit appears to materialize itself from his portrait. His footsteps can be traced to his former study in the tower, which has been suggestively renamed the Ghost Tower. He has also been heard and seen on numerous occasions.
One of Cotswold’s most haunted castles, there have been quite a few recorded ghosts sightings at Warwick. The dungeon carries a little secret of its own. There seems to be the ghost of a black dog down there, whose spine-tingling growling can often be heard in the night. Some claim to have seen its glowing red eyes staring back at them from the darkness.
St. Briavels Castle
Dubbed England’s most haunted castle, St. Briavels in Gloucestershire is home to more restless spirits than one can count. A Norman castle built by Edward I in 1292, it’s safe to say it has had its share of murders. In the early 13th century, King John used it as hunting lodge, and throughout the 18th and 19th century it was mainly used as a court and a debtor’s prison.
Nowadays used as a youth hostel, many guests have left in the midst of night after having disturbing encounters with some of the castle’s former residents. Almost every room is haunted by some spirit, from the Chaplains Room with its dark figures, to the Constables Room where some visitors felt their necks being grabbed by invisible hands. The cries of an unseen baby can be heard late into the night from the Solar Room. Strange noises can be heard from the Hanging Room, the place where prisoners sentenced to death would await their fate. Some claim to have been violently pushed by some mysterious force. A lady dressed in gray can be seen wandering about the top corridor and a night in shiny armor appears under the moonlight in the place of the old keep. He is believed to be the ghost of one of William the Conqueror’s soldiers.