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Five Haunted Hotels in Cornwall, UK

Judith enjoys disconcerting herself and others with chilling stories from near and far.

Headland Hotel, Viewed from Fistral Beach

Headland Hotel, Viewed from Fistral Beach

Haunted Cornwall

Cornwall is a county full of contrasts. On the coast, there are sunny beaches, vibrant nightlife, and bronzed surfers. Inland you can find rugged moors, stately houses, and peaceful woodland. There are fine art galleries as well as penny arcades. And, so it is said, you can also find ghosts.

Ghosts apparently abound in Cornwall. The restless souls of shipwrecked sailors, jilted lovers, star-crossed sweethearts, and recalcitrant nuns have been reported around the county. On the misty moors, winding country lanes, and windswept coves, ghosts of the unwary have been known to meet the wraiths of the departed.

Many apparitions choose to appear in the county's hotels and inns—not what most of us want on our holiday, but if you are looking for a ghostly roommate, here are some of the best hotels to check into.

5 Haunted Hotels in Cornwall

  1. The Haunted Jamaica Inn
  2. Newquay's Ghostly Headland Hotel
  3. The Wellington Hotel at Boscastle
  4. Molesworth Arms in Wadebridge
  5. The Haunted Dolphin Tavern at Penzance

1. The Haunted Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn is perhaps Cornwall's best-known inn. The Inn has perched high on Bodmin Moor since 1750, serving travellers who passed by on the Bodmin to Launceston road. In the 1930s, the Inn found worldwide fame when a former guest, Daphne Du Maurier, was so inspired by the Inn that she wrote a novel bearing its name. Her book, later dramatised, centres on the smuggling business that undoubtedly was carried on at the Inn. One suggestion is that the Inn bears its name because of the amount of rum that passed through its cellars!

The Inn may have a wild and chequered past, but there are persistent claims that it is also haunted. Eerie voices have been heard by former owners, apparently speaking in an unknown language, perhaps the ancient Cornish language, or maybe a foreign smuggler's tongue.

A more substantial ghost appears outside the Inn, on a wall. He sits upon the wall motionless and taciturn, apparently waiting. As long ago as 1911, the local papers reported on the apparition and speculated that it was the ghost of a traveller who had been lured outside, never to return.

His murdered body was found some time later on the moor; his killer escaped justice. Subsequent landlords of the Inn had heard what they believed to be his ghostly footsteps returning to the bar to recover his half-finished tankard of ale. He may or may not be the same man, clothed in a tricorne hat and a cloak, who walks through the walls.

If you feel that you would like to stay a night at the Jamaica Inn, Room 4 is said to be the most haunted. You may sleep well; alternatively, your slumbers could be disturbed by the ghostly coach and horses that clatter through the courtyard at night. Sweet dreams!

The Headland Hotel, Newquay

The Headland Hotel, Newquay

2. Newquay's Ghostly Headland Hotel

The Headland Hotel commands an unrivalled position at the southern end of Fistral Beach. Work began on the Hotel in 1897, much to the chagrin of locals who had previously used the site for grazing and laying out fishing nets. They reacted by pulling up the foundations. Eventually, commerce won out, and the Hotel opened for business in 1900. Its imposing and slightly foreboding façade was featured in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches.

The Hotel has played host to Royals from Edward VII to Prince Charles as well as many celebrities. Naturally, it is home to a few ghosts too. Several uniformed men have been spotted by guests, silently floating around the corridors. These are assumed to be the spirits of servicemen who were sent to the Hotel in World War 2 when it was requisitioned by the RAF as a military hospital. It isn't just the men who still walk the Hotel; one of the nurses still tends to the living; she has awoken a sleeping guest by gently stroking her cheeks. Another former employee of the hotel who can't leave is a maid who glides through a wall in the ladies powder room. Why would she do that? Because the spot she walks through used to be a door, of course.

The Headland Hotel is embarking on a massive redevelopment programme over the next decade, which will see the Grade II listed building gain even more modern facilities. Perhaps the building works will uncover more secrets from the past and awaken some more spirits.

Wellington Hotel, Boscastle

Wellington Hotel, Boscastle

3. The Wellington Hotel at Boscastle

Like the Jamaica Inn, the Wellington Hotel began life as a coaching inn back in the 16th Century. Sitting above the picturesque harbour at Boscastle, it has attracted a fair number of famous guests; Edward VII (presumably on his way to the Headland Hotel!), Sir Henry Irving and Thomas Hardy, to name a few. Over the years, the Hotel has been remodelled and now boasts a crenellated tower, which adds to its spookiness!

In 2004 Boscastle suffered a devastating flash flood. Many of the town's historic buildings were swept away, along with people's businesses, possessions and cars. Miraculously no one lost their lives. Part of the Wellington was destroyed, but fortunately, it has now been restored, and its precious guest books, dating back to 1860, were also saved. Apparently, the resident ghosts survived the flood too!

One apparition is that of an elderly lady. She seems to like Room 9, floating through its closed door. Rooms 15, 16 and 17 draw the attention of the spirit of a young girl. She is to be seen outside in the corridor or passing through walls and windows.

Meanwhile, a man with a ponytail and frock coat, possibly a coachman, silently moves around the landings. One guest has also reported his dog being taken out of the room, apparently by a ghostly dog walker! Ghostly shapes and unexplained noises have also been experienced at the hotel.

The Molesworth Arms Hotel, Wadebridge

The Molesworth Arms Hotel, Wadebridge

4. Molesworth Arms in Wadebridge

Wadebridge is one of Cornwall's old market towns. Its name comes from the splendid fifteenth-century bridge that crosses the River Camel, joining the two sides of the town. The bridge itself is worth a look; it has seventeen arches along its 320-foot length.

As befits an old town, Wadebridge has a fair number of hauntings. The bridge itself is haunted by a phantom coach and horses, which career from one side of the bridge to the other and then disappear into thin air. This happens only once a year and only on the night of a full moon. If you miss the phantom coach, you can make your way to Treneague Cottages in the town. Here a few drunken monks gather to sip their ale, whilst next door, a disembodied hand will try to grab the hand of anyone trying to sleep.

The Molesworth Arms Hotel is another coaching inn dating from the 16th century. It has a great character and still looks "olde worlde". Perhaps it is because it retains its original features that at least one of its former guests feels obliged to return each year. On 31st December, a coach and team of horses materialises in the courtyard, driven by a headless coachman. The apparition leaves via the hallway. Some guests report seeing this ghostly cavalcade whilst others only hear it.

The Dolphin Tavern, Penzance

The Dolphin Tavern, Penzance

5. The Haunted Dolphin Tavern at Penzance

This is a truly old tavern, with history seeping out of its heavy granite walls. It sits by the harbour in Penzance and has great views over the sea and out to St Michael's Mount. Back in the 1580s, John Hawkins is said to have used the Dolphin as his recruitment base in his drive to get Cornish sailors to join the Navy to defend England against the Spanish Armada. His fellow sea dog, Sir Walter Raleigh, allegedly smoked the first pipe of tobacco on English soil in the Tavern. In later years the Dolphin was used as a courtroom, perhaps even by the infamous Judge Jefferys after the Monmouth Rebellion.

The Dolphin has at least three ghosts. The most dependable is known as George. He is thought to have been a ship's captain and appears dressed rather dashingly in a tricorne hat, a frock coat complete with brass buttons, and lace ruffles at the neck and sleeves. He wanders the corridors and upstairs rooms until vanishing into thin air.

A Victorian lady has been known to appear in the main bar and glide past astonished drinkers. On a recent lunchtime visit to the bar, she startled a staff member as he awaited opening time by materializing from the wall beside him, hovering across the room to the opposite wall and disappearing into it.

The last of the regular ghosts is a young fair-haired man. He has been seen by several overnight guests when they awake to find him either standing beside them or occasionally sitting at the foot of the bed. Some brave souls attempt to talk to him, but he seems to be shy because he melts away as soon as they speak.


Judi Brown (author) from UK on May 01, 2015:

Hi Mr Savage - hope you manage to escape :-)

David from Mexico on April 30, 2015:

Thanks for posting Judi, It seem like Im trapped in a "hunted places" posts spree since one hour or so, LOL

Judi Brown (author) from UK on August 31, 2014:

You're welcome!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 30, 2014:

Thanks for a "new" preaching venue to research in the life of Rev. Charles Haime! ;D

Judi Brown (author) from UK on August 28, 2014:

I think preaching pits may be unique to Cornish mining communities. A few still survive and are used for community events.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 28, 2014:

Rev. Haime's circuit included open-air meetings, but outdoor venues being called "preaching pits" is new to me. Interesting. As for Taunton, Haime met and married wife Rebecca in Taunton, which upset her family greatly as Methodism wasn't yet considered a "legitimite" religion.

Ancestors on my own side of the tree were from the Taunton-area villages of North Petherton and West Monkton, to name only two. ;D

Judi Brown (author) from UK on August 27, 2014:

I have family near Taunton - I like that part of the world a lot. Not as much as Cornwall though. I wonder if your children's ancestor preached in the "preaching pit" we have nearby.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 27, 2014:

Judi, I can only say I wish I'd been there with you! Although none of my English ancestors lived farther west than the area around Taunton in Somerset, an ancestor of two of my grandchildren was a circuit-riding preacher in the early-to-mid 1800s whose territory was the Cornwall peninsula. However, since I have a strong affinity to all things Cornish, I suspect if I could get farther back on the family tree I'd find I do have roots in that oh-so-unique part of England. ;D

Judi Brown (author) from UK on August 25, 2014:

Hi JamaGenee, glad you found it and enjoyed it. Spent yesterday afternoon gazing across the bay at the Headland Hotel - no ghosts, but it always looks eerily impressive!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 24, 2014:

Judi Bee, as much as I love Cornwall and haunted places, I don't know how I missed this hub! Well, I'm here now and am "properly" creeped out! Great hub! Upped and shared! ;D

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 31, 2012:

Hi miss1magination - thanks very much - glad you enjoyed reading this. I appreciate your comments.

miss1magination on October 31, 2012:

Judi, great hub! I like watching, reading ghost hauntings, have you heard of most haunted uk tv show? I don't know if I have the guts to sleep with ghosts. :)

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 30, 2012:

Hi Lisa - I have stayed at the Headland Hotel overnight, but didn't notice anything strange. Did have a funny moment during the afternoon though ...

Thanks very much for your comment, great to hear from you.

Lisa from WA on October 30, 2012:

Fascinating hub! I'm too much of a scaredy cat to stay the night at a haunted hotel. I ate at a supposedly haunted restaurant in Portlad, Oregon that used to be a hotel and that's probably the extent of my visits to haunted places, even though I love learning about their history though the ghost stories.

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 30, 2012:

Hi Susan - I know the Headland Hotel very well - my wedding reception was held there and my husband worked there for a while. My money is on it being haunted!

Hi GoodLady - a ghost with wellies, how fab! I don't know how long Daphne Du Maurier stayed at the Jamaica Inn, but I do know that it's a bit of a disappointment these days - slightly short on atmosphere when I visited.

Thanks for your comments, appreciated as ever.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on October 30, 2012:

We had a ghost on our mountain in North Wales. I never questioned his existence as a child. He kept his wellingtons at the gate of an abandoned old cottage way up behind our house and is said to have walked into the cottage kitchen along the garden path. I always wondered about his cold feet. He stayed on in this deserted cottage even after a sculptor, who had tuberculosis, moved in for his health. To say that ghosts don't exist would be impossible after knowing about this one all my life.

Wonderful Cornwall ghost stories, thank you so much. I wonder how long Daphne Du Maurier (my favorite short story writer) stayed at the Jamaican Inn?

Voting and sharing. Perfect Halloween spooky stuff.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 30, 2012:

Out of all the hotels here the Headland Hotel to me looks like it may be a great place for ghosts to hang out in.

Judi Brown (author) from UK on August 06, 2012:

Hi nighthag - I love a ghost story too - glad you enjoyed these and hope you get a chance to visit.

Many thanks for your comments, much appreciated!

K.A.E Grove from Australia on August 05, 2012:

ohh I do love a good ghost story, This was a great read and if I ever get my chance to travel I would love to visit one of these places :)

Judi Brown (author) from UK on May 27, 2012:

Hi Docmo - yep, sizzle on the beach all day and shiver in your hotel all night! Could be the Cornwall Tourist Board's new slogan ;D

Thanks for taking the time to comment, much appreciated :-)

Mohan Kumar from UK on May 27, 2012:

With the sizzling summer weather- visiting around UK seems a great option. I have always wanted to visit Cornwall and this fun hub gives out options for both daytime activities and nighttime shivers. Well put together, Judi Bee. Thanks for sharing!

Judi Brown (author) from UK on April 21, 2012:

Hi Kitty - I would love to be at the Molesworth Arms when the ghostly coach and horses arrived, what a blast! Glad you enjoyed reading about some of my local ghosts, thanks so much for commenting :-)

Kitty Fields from Summerland on April 21, 2012:

Ohhh, very good one, judibee. Enjoyed reading this. Very spooky places, aren't they?

Judi Brown (author) from UK on November 15, 2011:

@ Thalia - thanks for your comments, hope you manage a spooky visit soon!

@ Surfgatinho - thanks for your comments too. Kind of glad I got in first with the haunted hotels though, it is one of my favourite hubs. Perhaps you had better spend a few more evenings at the Dolphin - in the name of research, naturally :-)

surfgatinho on November 15, 2011:

Good hub. I was thinking of writing pretty much the same one myself! Won't bother now.

I can also safely say having enjoyed a fair few evenings in the Dolphin Tavern I have never witnessed any form of apparition - ghostly that is...

Thalia Bhandari from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 15, 2011:

These places are so interesting. Definitely on my next destinations to visit. Wonderful blessed...Thalia (spiritsandghosts)

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on November 07, 2011:

Judi . . .I meant every word. My parents taught me early-on to, "never was time and words," and it stuck. You are what I said--VERY talented, creative, professional and a DELIGHT to know, but to read and follow. Sincerely, KENNETH

Judi Brown (author) from UK on November 07, 2011:

Mr Avery, you have made me blush :-) Thank you for your message - truly generous and thoughtful. Kindest regards, Judi

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on November 07, 2011:

Hello, Judi! I LOVE haunted houses, stores, it. If it's haunted, you have my undivided attention. And I will message you about following me. And you're most welcome for the truth that I said about you. You are amazing writer. Sincerely, KENNETH

Judi Brown (author) from UK on November 07, 2011:

Hi Kenneth - pleased to be able exploit your weakness! I have had a peek at some of your hubs, and you too have a new follower :-)

Many thanks for your kind comments, you've made me smile!

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on November 07, 2011:

Judi, GREAT hub. Voted up and away. Hauntings and haunted places are my weaknesses, and you found them. Loved this hub. And admire your talent. I am now a fan and a follower--keep up the great work. Kenneth Avery, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama that reminds people of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show.

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 27, 2011:

Hello Krosch - Gothic Horror role-play sounds intriguing!

Thanks for your comments, I appreciate them.

krosch on October 27, 2011:

These Ghost Stories are always great when I get around to running some of my gothic horror role-playing games these will make great real life source material.

Keep up the Great Work!

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 26, 2011:

Ah, the famous ghostly chips manifestation! But really, they should try harder, so deflating! I suppose if our buildings manage to stay up long enough, some ghost stories may get woven about them. I guess we'll never know though - unless it's us doing the haunting ;-)

Just History from England on October 26, 2011:

interesting - the only one I have been to is Jamaica Inn and I was so disappointed- it smelt of chips! Great hub- these buildings attract these stories over time and I wonder if it will be the same with our modern buildings.

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 26, 2011:

Thank you Gryphin!

gryphin423 from Florida on October 26, 2011:

Very interesting. When I make my trip over I will keep these in mind. Thanks for sharing!

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 26, 2011:

Thank you Miss Olive, I got spooked just writing it!

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on October 26, 2011:

Great job Judi. Quite a bit of info on these places - spooky indeed! Interesting read. Oh, I voted "yes"

voted up and across

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 25, 2011:

Hi Husky, I've not seen a ghost either, but I have felt rather uneasy in one of the rooms mentioned above, before I found out about its alleged haunting :-0

As always, thanks for your comments!

Husky1970 on October 25, 2011:

I voted no in your poll because I have never actually seen a ghost. But I have had several encounters that were not of the visual nature. Oh yeah! What a timely hub. With Halloween right around the corner, ghostly articles are quite fitting.

Voted up and interesting, Judi Bee.

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 25, 2011:

Hi Gryphin - pleased to hear you enjoyed reading the hub - ghost stories are fascinating, aren't they!

Thanks for your comments!

gryphin423 from Florida on October 25, 2011:

Thoroughly enjoyed this hub Judi! Thanks ;-)

Judi Brown (author) from UK on October 25, 2011:

@ Ghaelach - thank you, I really enjoyed writing it!

@TToombs - thank you too. I know what you mean, I keep reading travel hubs and wish I could jet off (particularly to the warm places, it's a tad cold and damp here at the moment).

I really appreciate both your comments :-)

Ghaelach on October 25, 2011:

Hi Judi.

You've certainly done your home work. Really enjoyed reading this hub with all this info.

Voted up and A/I.

LOL Ghaelach

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on October 25, 2011:

Nicely done. Very interesting. Wish I could hop a plane and go check these places out.