Five Haunted Hotels in Cornwall, UK
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.
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 was escaping 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 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!
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 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.
3. The Wellington Hotel, 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 it's 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.
4. Molesworth Arms, 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.
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.