Top 10 Halloween events 2016

Blenheim Palace, Oxford Credit: Pete Seaward

Our castles, abbeys, stately homes and historic sites are packed with history – and some of them are pretty spooky, too. Here we round up where you can find thrills, frights and Halloween heritage around the UK.

Battle Abbey
Battle Abbey. Credit: English Heritage

Although Halloween has been taken over by enthusiastic revellers across the pond, the festival boasts a somewhat richer history than just costumes and candy, and its origins actually stem from right here in the British Isles.

According to many scholars, Halloween – or All Hallow’s Eve – is a Christianised feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with potentially Pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, as well as a time in the liturgical year to remember the dead. A traditional theme of the celebration has long been the idea of using humour and ridicule to confront the fear and power of death.

Many of the typical festivities back to its inception, such as trick-or-treating, costumes, carving pumpkins, bonfires, apple bobbing, pranks and more.

Here we round up where you can find thrills, frights and Halloween heritage around the UK.

1 Abbey After Dark, Battle Abbey and Battlefield, near Hastings, 27- 29 October 2016, 7pm and 8.45pm

Get a scary  after hours on an unnerving evening guided tour through the abbey ruins and discover the myths and legends surrounding this atmospheric ancient site.

2 Spooky Halloween Tours, Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, 27 & 28 Oct 2016, family tours at 5.30pm & 6.30pm, adult tour at 7.30pm.

An eerie evening tour for an after-hours journey back into Falmouth’s fearsome past. Meet spine-tingling storytellers and discover tales of ghostly apparitions, dastardly deeds, and ghoulish goings-on. This event is not for the faint hearted.

3 The Murderous Mansion: Spooky Encounters, Attingham Park, Shropshire, 28-30 October, 10am-4pm

Dress in your Hallowe’en finery to meet the Master of this murderous mansion. Keep your eyes peeled (or tightly closed!) as you look out for ghostly surprises. Who knows what may be lurking in the basement and cellar?

4 Halloween Ghost Hunt at London’s Ragged School, 29 October 2016, 9pm-3am

The Ragged School in London is possibly one of the most haunted buildings around. During ghost hunts here, people have witnessed such intense activity that they have been left running for the door. A sinister presence, poltergeist activity and even apparitions await you on an overnight ghost hunt – and the bravest souls should consider a lone vigil in the upstairs cupboard or the basement.

Castell Coch, Cardiff
Castell Coch, near Cardiff. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

5 Wicked Walk, Castell Coch, Cardiff, Wales, 27 October to 29 October 29, tours at 6.30pm, 7.15pm, 8pm, 8.45pm

In 1911 the family of the Marquess of Bute – the richest man in Wales – deserted the castle and went to live in one of their other, grander, homes. But after spending a fortune on rebuilding Castell Coch as a holiday home, why did they suddenly leave? Some say it was horribly haunted by the spirits of the castle’s former occupants – or maybe there are the ghosts of more recent times? Could the Marquess’s obsession with a book of gruesome and horrific stories hold the key? Go on a wicked walk around Castell Coch after dark where you’ll hear real Welsh ghost and spooky stories. Wear your creepiest costume and experience a night of light, dark and illusion.

6 Torchlight tour of Newton House, Dinefwr Estate, Wales, 21, 22 & 28 October, 7pm to 10.30pm.

There are many spooky stories of ghostly sightings, supernatural experiences and from time to time, the unmistakable aroma of pipe or cigar smoke in the butler’s pantry. Even some of the most sceptical staff refuse to go to some areas of the house alone where as others see the spirits of the Dinefwr family as old friends. Discover history and hauntings with a torchlight tour of one of the National Trust’s most haunted houses. The first tour of each evening will be family friendly, with magic tricks and mild spooky tales., while later tours are designed to make even the steadiest of hands quiver with fear.

7 Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, 31 October, from 9pm

Halloween or rather, Hallowe’en, traces its origins all the way back to the ancient Samhuinn festival. Traditionally held on the 1 November, this pagan festival marked the culmination of the harvest season, and many of the Halloween customs we know and love today are in fact remnants of this ancient culture, from trick-or-treating to jack-o’-lanterns. This year, a Samhuinn celebration takes place in Edinburgh’s Old Town, which has historic significance as a site of ancient markets and All Hallows fairs, street theatre and performances.

Whitby Abbey. Credit: English Heritage
Whitby Abbey. Credit: English Heritage

8 Illuminated Abbey, Whitby Abbey, 26-29 October, 6pm-9.30pm

Cast light on a dark history and See Bram Stoker’s inspiration in a new light as Whitby Abbey is bathed in dramatic illuminations. As you explore its gothic splendour while costumed characters will introduce the darker side of the past with tales of grave robbing and witch trials. You can also experience a live performance of Dracula to complete your visit. Halloween fancy dress encouraged.

Illuminated Abbey is part of Yorkshire Abbey Season, a programme of special events celebrating some of Yorkshire’s finest abbeys. Find out more.

9 Ghostwatch Nights, Jedburgh Castle Jail Museum, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

This 1820s prison is a gothic, spooky site of many reported paranormal occurrences, which has featured on  TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ programme, and Jedburgh Castle Jail offers paranormal investigation group  the chance to hire the site for evening and overnight visits. Visits can be booked from late March until early November on most weekend nights for an overnight vigil in the prison cells (Friday or Saturday). Not for the nervous. Contact jedburghmuseums@scotborders.gov.uk.

Blenheim Palace, Oxford Credit: Pete Seaward
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Credit: Pete Seaward

10 Spooky Candlelit tour of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, 29, 30 & 31 October, 5pm

Hop on board the Blenheim Palace ghost train and go through a creepy tunnel to the Pleasure Gardens, where a bone-anza of activities can be found. And there will be Spooky Tours running throughout the week with terrorific candlelit tours of the palace, as well as classic spooky storytelling in the cinema of the Stables Courtyard.

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