How to celebrate a very British Halloween

The narrow streets of York are explored in the blood-curdling Ghost Walk Experience © VisitBritain

Stuck for how to celebrate Halloween in Britain? We bring you a handful of the spookiest ways to mark All Hallows’ Eve…

Observed annually on 31 October, All Hallows’ Eve – a Scottish term better known as Halloween – is the night before the Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day, when the dead are remembered. Dead saints (hallows) are particularly celebrated.

Modern Halloween festivities see people embrace all things haunted: ghost stories are told, frightful costumes are worn and ghoulish faces are carved into pumpkins to create Jack-o-lanterns. The latter tradition was a ritual thought to have derived in Ireland (probably originally using turnips); the frightening faces were created to scare off evil spirits, but were also representative of souls who were stuck in purgatory – the unpleasant no-man’s-land between heaven and hell. To help you scare yourself silly, here are our suggestions for some of the most chilling Halloween experiences to be had in Britain.

1. Explore Wookey Hole

Famous for its extraordinary 50,000-year-old caves that were once home to Ice Age beasts, this Somerset beauty spot is now the lair of the Witch of Wookey Hole and is a popular kids’ fright attraction. Visitors can snoop into the witch’s parlour and her kitchen, as well as the great hall, which echoes with eery laughter. The witch herself might even make an appearance in order to give guests a personal tour of her creepy dwelling.

2. Visit Chillingham Castle – Britain’s most haunted castle

This formidable 13th-century castle in Northumberland is riddled with ghosts, including the Blue Boy – a figure of a crying young child who has been seen wandering the corridors by several guests. The remains of a little boy and a pile of blue clothes were discovered behind a bed in the castle, where the wailing was loudest. Visitors will find out more about this poor mite and others on one of the guided ghost tours, as well as further gruesome legacies, including executions and torture. With battlements and a gloomy dungeon, it’s not hard to bring the past (and the unknown) to life.

3. Discover The London Dungeon

Perhaps the most terrifying thing about this underground space beneath City Hall is that it offers a factual history lesson. Visitors will be confronted with the grisly stories of Sweeney Todd – the murderous Fleet Street barber whose victims were cut up and put into pies by his wife – or Jack the Ripper who stalked the streets of East London looking for prey. With gruesome displays depicting gallows and hangmen – this visit is only for those with strong stomachs, but perfect for Halloween. Plus, a recent addition was the ominously titled Death Express train. Board if you dare.

4. Take part in the York Ghost Walk Experience

York is one of the most historic cities in Britain, and heavily haunted to boot. This tour taps into this spooky heritage from the very start. A guide dressed in a black Georgian coat and a tricorn hat will lead groups of visitors through the narrow streets (or snickleways) within the city’s walls, telling stories and reenacting some of the most shocking stories, including that of The Gray Lady, a nun who was walled-up alive.

5. Celebrate Samhain at Scottish Crannog Centre

At this annual event, visitors are invited to spend an evening celebrating Samhain, the cousin of Halloween, at this Perthshire loch-dwelling. Dressing up is essential as is bringing a carved lantern: there are processions through woods and beside lochs before watching fire sculptures burn in ceremonial sacrifice. Storytelling is in abundance and apple dookin (bobbing) is encouraged. Tickets for 2019 are now available…if you’re brave enough.

READ MORE: Remember your ‘roots’ this Halloween