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The Most Gruesome Historic Tours In Britain
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The Most Gruesome Historic Tours In Britain

Picture of Sophia White
Updated: 15 December 2016
Halloween will soon be upon us, and what better way to add a cultural twist to the spooky celebrations than with a historic tour around some of Britain‘s most haunted, ghastly and macabre destinations? While the United States may be the pioneers of Halloween, they are no match for Britain’s rich, gruesome past. So pack a crucifix, some garlic and your walking shoes, and visit some of the best that the UK has to offer.
Courtesy of Canterbury Ghost Tours
Courtesy of Canterbury Ghost Tours

A city famous for its cathedral, its tales, and its scandal, Canterbury often attracts tourists who are looking to explore the center of British Christendom. However, if you jog your memory a little, you may recall one of the most famous murders in history happened there. The Canterbury Ghost Tours have been run by award-winning ghost hunter, author and local historian, John Hippisley for 20 years, and his alternative view of the town is quite fascinating. From tragedy in the tearoom to ouija boards, and the bizarre events that befall cathedral guards, tourists will have a difficult time looking at the city in the same way again.

Canterbury Ghost Tours, 38 St Margaret’s Street, Canterbury, Kent, UK, +44 845 519 0267

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Ghost Walks of Bath

Going on a haunted ghost walk may not be the first thing to spring to mind when you’re visiting this famous spa town, which has some of the most famous Roman and Georgian architecture in the country, but the Ghost Walks of Bath have proven to be an enduringly popular visitor attraction year-round. The walks take you past many of the main sites of the town, but they will give you a slightly skewed view of Bath by regaling you with tales of the strange events that have happened over the course of its illustrious history. The tour was initially started in 1974 by a local historian and psychic, and as you explore the ancient and mythical streets you will be swept up in the rich and eerie stories.

Ghost Walks of Bath, 98 Lower Oldfield Park, Bath, Avon, UK, +44 122 535 0512

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Oxford Castle Unlocked

From the highest highs to the lowest lows, Oxford Castle Unlocked takes visitors on a whirlwind roller coaster ride through the castle’s 1000-year history. The tour shows the sinister side of the castle and its past residents, delving into its dark history through a mixture of acting and historical guiding. The tour will take you on a climb up the Saxon St George’s tower, the Mound of the 11th century Motte-and-bailey castle and, if you can hold your nerve, deep underground into the 900-year-old crypt. You will also visit the Debtors’ Tower and Prison D-wing. As an added fun fact, legend has it that the crypt is where Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the Legends of King Arthur. But in these cold autumn evenings, there will be no knights to save you.

Oxford Castle Unlocked, 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford, UK, +44 186 526 0667

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Cadies & Witchery, Edinburgh

The capital of Scotland is one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations. While August brings arguably the greatest arts festival in the world, the Cadies & Witchery tour gives you reason to take a trip up for the year’s most haunted holiday, or any time of the year that you’re in the mood for a fright. It is a suspenseful and mirth-filled tour of Edinburgh‘s old town that is led by deceased characters who bring the city’s macabre past back to life. The tour was established as Edinburgh’s original ghost tour in 1984, and has impressively continued nearly every night since. The tour leaders are knowledgeable – they have written books and films on the subject – as well as humorous, and their commitment to the bit will fill you with terror as they regale you with this alternative look of the city.

The Cadies & Witchery Tours, 84 West Bow, Edinburgh, UK, +44 131 225 6745

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Glasgow Horror Walk

The Spirit of Glasgow group offer a number of different tours across the city and the country, but to get your Halloween kicks, the Glasgow Horror Walk is the one to go to. Glasgow is, possibly unfairly, often overlooked as a city in favour of the more picturesque Edinburgh, or even St Andrews, but this more industrial city has quite the interesting history of its own – especially if you happen to be interested in murders. The ‘One Square Mile of Murder’ walk shows visitors just how much murder can be impressively crammed into a small area. The amusing costumed guides will have you swaying from hilarity to terror in several fell swoops.

Glasgow Horror Walk, Spirit Events, 7 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, UK, +44 141 586 5378

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Jack The Ripper Tour, London

The sole London entry on our list – although this was purposeful – and arguably the most famous of the gruesome walks on our fine Isles. The Jack the Ripper Tour is the original murder tour, showcasing the horrors that the capital has on offer, and giving visitors an insight into one of the country’s most reviled and infamous killers. The expert guides have all written on the subject and have appeared on nearly all of the television documentaries on old Jack, so it is guaranteed that the tour will be informative. Whitechapel and Spitalfields are quite different than they used to be – just ask these protesters – but this isn’t all a bad thing: the streets and alleyways around the area were often the perfect environment for you to fall prey to this brutal serial killer. Explore the mean streets where the murders occurred, and learn how he impressively managed to evade the law.

Jack The Ripper Tour, Aldgate East Underground Station (Exit 4 – meet right outside), London, UK, +44 208 530 8443

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The Catacombs of St George’s Hall, Liverpool

Known as the place to go for those who love an evening of history and murder, The Catacombs of St George’s Hall tour really is too much to resist. The popularity of the tour shows that there is plenty to enjoy about Liverpool‘s grisly history, as well as its more conventionally beautiful architecture. The Catacombs have had a relatively varied history, having been used as billeting quarters for the police and the army during the transport strikes, as food and water storage during the world wars, and as a prison where men, women and children were crammed into tiny cells as they awaited their punishment. Led by the LoveHistory theatrical company, this is one of the more immersive and dramatic of the tours on our list. It is also one of the most erratic, so be sure to check the website for booking details.

St George’s Hall, St George’s Place, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK, +44 151 225 6909

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The Original Ghost Walk of York

The original and, some might say, the best, The Original Ghost Walk of York is believed to have been the first exclusive ghost walk in the world. Most of you who are looking to go on walking tours, ghastly or not, most probably have at least a passing interest in history, so here you can enjoy the history of both York and ghost walks themselves. The walk explores the world of folklore, legends and dreams in one of England’s most hauntingly beautiful cities, with a wealth of stories from its long history. The stories from the walk have been retold all over the world, adding to the mystique of the area, and will surely stay with you afterwards due to their strange allure. Fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and this tour will surely give you a case of the heebie-jeebies.

The Original Ghost Walk of York, Kings Street, York, North Yorkshire, UK, +44 175 937 3090

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Haunted Underworld, Manchester

Under St Ann’s Square you will find a hidden undercroft where the Haunted Underworld will open your eyes to the paranormal activities below one of Manchester’s main shopping areas. In the pitch-black chambers you will hear about paranormal experiments from the Georgian era, the legend of the Manchester rat people, and the tragic story of the once-celebrated opera singer Madame Malibran.

Haunted Underworld, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, UK, +44 787 623 5638

(Meeting point is at the War Memorial)