5 Spooky Places to Visit in Mid Wales
Explore some of the fa-BOO-lous places Mid Wales has to offer for a SPOOK-tacular Halloween visit at Nant Awen
It's spooky season! Although let's be real hasn't it felt like Autumn since about May? Apart from that one week in September where we all melted. So I've been counting down the days to start my pumpkin spice life (and don't even get me started on mulled wine season, I am so ready!)
That's not to say autumn is all about the aesthetic, for those out there who like to feel a bit ooky spooky, the scare chasers and ghost hunters: October is your time to shine and I have five places that you could get your Halloween spooky fix in the area around Nant Awen when you're not too busy making the most of the hot tub #squadghouls
Starting off with a firm fan favourite of all the places to visit in Mid Wales (and by fan what I mean is we go there all the time because the café has a great scone and the kids love the gardens) Gregynog Hall. Gregynog is most well known* for the Davies sisters, generous benefactors of numerous charities and renowned art collectors.
*For the big hand statue in the garden.
Though Gregynog Hall truly became famous due to the Davies sister's efforts to foster a thriving arts community there, it has existed as a settlement of some sort since about the 12th century and if there's one thing we know about places that old- there's probably gonna be an orb occurring when you take a photograph.
Staff have mentioned various instances of eerie goings on, enough for some of the findings to appear on an episode of Most Haunted! There are reports of various apparitions at the hall, including the Haunting Standard; a weeping child ghost. Sounds like the perfect place to grab a coffee, cake and maybe a picture of something a little bit inexplicable?
Sticking with ghostly goings on, my next hot spot is an entire town. Montgomery has a castle dating back to 1223, which itself was a replacement for the motte and bailey fortification a mile away (what did I say about really old places and orbs?) and as the town is only about a mile away from the Wales-England border there's a lot of historical comings and goings to go along with the castle and it's position as the seat of the county.
The town has an Inn dating from the 16th century (now a museum) and was the site of the Montgomeryshire County gaol until 1878, which leads us nicely, or woefully, to the tragic ghost story and curse of John Davies and The Robber's Grave.
In 1821 John Davies was reportedly set up for a crime by two local men and so hanged for highway robbery, he maintained his innocence throughout his trial and after the sentence was passed he announced that:
"If I am innocent, the grass, for one generation at least, will not cover my grave"
It seems like this wasn't an idle threat and apparently the grave did indeed remain bare and is still kind of patchy to this day, there's a wooden marker for the "Robber's Grave" in the cemetery of St Nicholas Church in Montgomery if anyone is so inclined to see for themselves. The story goes on that the men who set him up both died in less than normal circumstances too, one shortly after the execution and the other of a wasting disease. With all this injustice and death not to mention the centuries of Welsh history before that, surely then there ought to be some ghostly sightings around the place? If you think yourself a bit of a paranormal investigator, or if you'd just like to visit a particularly pretty little town I think Montgomery is well worth a stop.
Not all hauntings are for houses or come from twelfth century castles, one of the creepiest local stories in my opinion is that of Sion y Gof. It might just be that I heard it when I was young enough that it sufficiently scared me at the time and I've never really been able to shake that unnerving feeling, or maybe it's just that I can usually scare myself without needing any extra ghost stories to help!
So the story goes of a blacksmith - Sion y Gof - who moved up to work in the mines of Dylife. He began an affair with a local girl, so when his wife and two children made the journey over the mountain from their home in Cardiganshire to visit him it clearly caused a bit of a problem for him that he decided needed a quick resolution, his solution when their visit ended was to push his family into an open pit shaft where they died. When their bodies were found the following spring, he was immediately pinned as the culprit and sentenced to death and to hang from a gibbet as a warning to other wrong doers. Not only that, but local folklore has it that he was forced to make the metal framework he was to be hanged from. In 1938, his skull and part of the metal frame was unearthed and is now on display in St Ffagans Museum.
Surely there's some creepy story points in that one? It gives me shivers just typing this out, and I had to do a cheeky google to make sure I'd remembered the story right because when I was younger I genuinely thought it was just a spooky story someone had made up, and if I'm honest I could have done without being reminded of it because I know I'm going to be thinking about it all week.
Dylife as a mining community was totally abandoned in the 1800's when the mine closed and unfortunately more recently the pub, which was one of the highest in Wales, is no longer open. However the carpark of said pub, The Star Inn, has recently been declared a dark sky area, so if you fancy getting in some pretty spectacular star gazing, and a chance of meeting a ghostly and maybe murderous apparition, then Dylife should be your go-to destination.
Not to get you feeling like deja-boo (!!!) but if the story of Sion y Gof got you thinking about how creepy a deep, dark nineteenth century mine shaft might be then the Silver Mountain Experience near Aberystwyth boasts of "one of the most haunted mines in the country" so that should certainly take the crown for a spooky destination during your stay.
On a day to day basis the mines are a pretty exciting tourist attraction that include tours of the mines (The Black Chasm sounds particularly unsettling) and a new escape room. But at certain times of the year they also offer the opportunity to spend a night conducting your own paranormal investigation in the mines with access to ghost hunting equipment and a paranormal investigator to support your solo detective work.
Other investigators in the mines have heard footsteps, voices, unexplained lamp lights and hooded figures caught on camera. All of these put The Silver Mountain Experience firmly down in my Places That Are Too Spooky For Me To Visit category but I very much encourage you to go so you can tell me all about it and stop me sleeping for a week thinking about disgruntled mine worker ghosts and wailing women.
Last but certainly not least isn't a haunted place, but someone who certainly knows plenty about them; this is local ghost guy Rory Evans and his Ghost Walks.
Raising money for various charities, Rory's walks cover all sorts of different locations and buildings in Montgomeryshire, detailing the history and the paranormal goings on of the places visited.
And it doesn't happen just for Halloween either, so if ghost stories, history and raising money for charity is an irresistible combination for you then it's always worth having a look to see if there are any of his paranormal tours happening along side your stay and getting booked on.
You can find Rory Evans on Facebook at Mid Wales Paranormal and usually if you search Rory Evans Ghost Walk a whole heap of great events come up, so there's bound to be something that falls over the course of your stay.
This Halloween (2023):
October 31st Ghosts of Mid Wales in Theatre Hafren
3rd November Paranormal Night and Ghost Stories in Caersws
November 6th Ghosts of Gregynog
The ghost stories don't stop there, Wales has some pretty odd traditions around Halloween that are well worth looking up, find out more about Calan Gaeaf and the terrifying bloody pig here!
If Halloween and spooky stories really aren't your thing, perhaps this post has given you some eerie-sitable ideas for places to visit near by during your stay or I at the very least hope this has given you pumpkin to talk about...