If you are looking for legendary and well documented ghost stories, the National Trust is a good place to start. The Trust manages 300 of the UK's most historic buildings. Some originated more than 1,000 years ago, while others stand in on ground occupied even earlier. And then there's more than a million works of art (think of all those ancestor portraits glaring from the walls), and 73,000 archaelogical sites.
It stands to reason that with so much historic real estate, a few ghosts are bound to be prowling around. And the National Trust does not disappoint. Beheaded Queens, secret murder victims and unhappy wives prowl many of its corridors.
They're naturally shy of visitors so your best chance of spotting a ghost is to visit when historic houses are less busy. Linger at the back of tour groups so that you can snatch a few minutes on your own, watching for ghostly movements out of the corners of your eyes. Even better, volunteer to work at a National Trust property so you can be around when the houses are closed for maintenance or being shuttered for the off season - that's when ghosts are most likely to show themselves. You can volunteer for a regular gig, a working vacation or a one-off project.
Find out how to volunteer.
Whether you believe in ghosts or think it's all a lot of tosh, happy ghost hunting at these historic locations.
© Ferne Arfin
In 1953, a workman repairing the cellar saw Roman soldiers, with their round shields and familiar helmets, marching through the walls of the cellar. Their feet were buried up to their thighs in the floor. It was only later that excavations revealed the house was build across the remains of a Roman road - 18 inches below the floor of the cellar. Since then, many others have seen the ghostly Roman soldiers of the haunted Treasurer's House. Plan a visit.
Photo by Steve and Ruth Bosman
The ruins the castle towering over the village of Corfe in Dorset are so fearsome looking, you could imaging that the whole village is haunted. Destroyed during the English Civil war, when the occupants were on the losing side, the castle's ghostly inhabitants were Royal murder victims. According to legend, wicked Queen Elfrida murdered the 18-year-old Anglo-Saxon heir to the throne, Edward Aethling, to make rooms for her own son, Aethelred the Unready. Later, Edward II was imprisoned there before being murdered on the orders of his wife Isabella and her lover Mortimer. There are lots of restless spirits at Corfe. Visit on a dark winter's evening if you have the nerve. Plan a Visit
The Dying Duelist of Blickling Hall
Photo by Rev Stan
This 4,777 acre Norfolk
estate was once owned by Sir John Fastolf, the model for Sir John Falstaff
who appears in a number of Shakespeare's plays. He sold it to Geoffrye Boleyn, father of Henry VIII's doomed wife Anne Boleyn. According to legend, she was born at Blickling (in a medieval manor that no longer stands) and her ghost wanders the estate.
A noisier ghost, is Sir Henry Hobart, a later owner who died of wounds suffered in a duel. At quiet times, they say you can hear his dying moans. Spooky. Plan a visit
At Buckland Abbey A Ghostly Drum and the Hounds of Hell
© VisitBritain / Britain on View
Among the many owners of this former Cistercian Abbey, converted to a home in the 16th century, was Sir Francis Drake the military sailor and favorite of Queen Elizabeth II. Although a hero to the British, others considered him a pirate. And he was also a slaver. Perhaps it was those exploits that have made him an uneasy spirit because he - and his hounds of hell! - haunt his Devonshire house. Spookier still is the legend of Drake's drum. The snare drum, which Drake took with him on every voyage, is said to beat when England is in danger. The last time was on the eve of the evacuation of Dunkirk
in World War II. Plan a visit
Crowds of Ghosts at Dunster Castle
Photo by zzpza
Even dogs don't like the dungeons of Dunster Castle. The castle, on the site of an Anglo Saxon hill fortress settled more than 1,000 years ago, is positively crawling with ghosts and legends. The most gruesome concerns the remains of a manacled giant, 7 feet tall, found at the bottom of a dungeon, along with skeletons of several other prisoners, during Victorian excavations. Dogs find the spot disturbing and won't climb the stairs near where the skeletons were found. But they aren't the only ghosts. Visitors to Dunster have seen a mysterious little girl and a lady who disappear together, hand in hand. There's also the ghost of a Civil War soldier who appears in one of the galleries. The castle has a regular series of spooky candlelight events and ghost tours around Halloween.
One of About.com our readers had a much more benign experience recalling a past life at Dunster Castle. Read about her experience. Plan a visit
Chartwell and Churchill's Ghost
©VisitBritain / Britain on View
Not all of the National Trust's ghosts are of ancient inhabitants of even more ancient houses. Winston Churchill's home, Chartwell is a case in point. Although the house is on the site of a 16th century manor and farmhouse, what visitors now see is a largely rebuilt and rather ugly Victorian red brick house. It was where Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine spent most of their adult life. Some people believe Churchill still haunts the place and visitors sometimes report the smell of cigar smoke wafting about. Churchill himself, in a short story that may be only partly fictional, reported sensing his own father, in his prime, sitting in a red armchair. Of course, Churchill was partial to a drop or two...or three, so we'll never know. Plan a visit
The Strangled Bride of Dinefwr
Photo by Glen Bowman
Dinefwr in Wales is a 12th century castle set in an 18th century landscape on a site that has been occupied for 2,000 years. There's plenty of scope for restless spirits with and Iron Age farm, two Roman forts and a town created by Edward I all buried under the park. But it was murder most foul that brought the most restless ghost of Dinefwr. According to the story, one Lady Elinor Cavendish was engaged to a man she did not love. To escape him, she ran away to her family at Dinefwr. But he followed her there and strangled her in a rage. They say she walks at night, and the smell of his pipe tobacco wafts through the rooms. Lights switch themselves on and off and muffled conversations can be heard.
While you're there, have a look at the estate's White Park cattle. So rare that they are the symbol of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, they've been on the estate for 1,000 years. Plan a visit
Felbrigg Hall's Book Loving Spirit
©VisitBritain / Britain on View
The ghostly bookworm of Felbrigg Hall is said to be the spirit of William Windham III, who created the hall's magnificent library. He died about 200 years ago trying to save his collection when a fire broke out in the library. The Gothic Library, all 5,000 books of it, survived and now he returns to read all the books he never got to in his lifetime. Apparently, his books have to be placed just so on his chair for him to make an appearance. Plan a visit
The Wicked Stepmother of Nunnington Hall
Photo by tallpomlin
In fairytales, wicked stepmothers always get their comeuppances and that's the case of the Proud Lady of Nunnington Hall. When her husband died, leaving her to care for his oldest son by an earlier wife as well as her own child, she neglected her stepchild. She locked him in the garret and his only visitor was her younger son, who brought him playthings and food. Eventually, the older boy escaped. But the Proud Lady's young child missed his older brother so that he pined for him constantly. Eventually, while leaning out of a window to look for his brother, the younger son fell to his death. The grieving mother now roams the house. She's been sighted many times and the rustling sound of her silk dress can be heard. Plan a visit
Attempted Murder and Suicide at Speke Hall
Photo by Karen_O'D
Speke Hall, near Liverpool, is an amazing example of a Tudor black and white house covered with elaborate half-timbering. In the 19th century it was restored and enriched with many fashionable Arts&Crafts movement features. You don't have to come to hunt for its tragically venal ghost for a visit to this magnificent house on the Mersey to be well worthwhile.
But, we're talking about ghosts today and if ever there was an example of why money should never be the be all and end all of anyone's life, the story of Lady Mary, heiress of Speke Hall was it. In the 1730s she inherited the house and married a lazy, spendthrift husband, Lord Sidney Beauclerk, a grandson of King Charles II and a notorious fortune hunter. Beauclerk gambled away his wife's fortune and, when he told her he had squandered her inheritance she became so angry that she threw their infant son into the moat and then committed suicide.
At least, that's the story. But if the legend is true, then her son, Topham Beauclerk must have been a good swimmer because he lived on and fathered many children of his own. If you bump into Lady Mary while touring the house, you can ask her. Plan a visit
Special Ghost Hunting Offer for About.com United Kingdom Readers
Haunted Rooms, a travel company that specializes in booking hotels and inns with ghosts and that organizes ghost hunting events is offering About.com United Kingdom Travel readers an exclusive discount of 5% off all their ghost hunting events. Visit their ghost hunting website or their Halloween ghost hunts website and enter this code - HRABOUT13 - when booking to receive your discount.