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Halloween Hideaways

First settled over 1,500 years ago, Kent comes swathed in a rich and reverberating past, a past so swarmed in myths, legends, folklore and fascinating facts, they have cemented themselves firmly in the present and lie waiting to be discovered at some of the county’s most enthralling places to visit. From ancient landmarks and haunted inns, to eerie marshes and mysterious tours, Kent has everything needed for an ideal Halloween hideaway. 

Black Horse, Pluckley

When welcoming in October, the month in which we celebrate Halloween, we can’t help but conjure thoughts of the supernatural and all things curious. Short days, twilight evenings and long dark nights effortlessly set this spooky scene, making October the perfect month in which to embrace Kent’s intriguing history and the stories that come with it. Alongside this sense of the surreal, we also seek sanctuary; places in which we can find comfort amidst the mystery of our county; those which offer crackling fireplaces, hearty meals and cosy cups of tea.    

Black Horse, Pluckley

A place bristling with tales and longstanding tributes to eras and characters across its lengthy span of history, visitors can immerse themselves in any time period they desire when exploring Kent. From Viking ships and Roman forts to Dickensian streets and wartime tunnels, Kent has so much to ponder at, a plethora of head-scratching remarkable places set to inspire, thrill and tell stories that stay with us for life. A place to suit everyone from history buffs to families with young children, Kent also has a whole host of characterful places to stay at and dine in. These venues have welcomed many a weary or hungry traveller over the centuries, and some might even say that these folk still pay them a ghostly visit! Whoever you are and whatever you might be seeking from a Halloween hideaway this month, let us help you plan your ultimate adventure, whether it be thrill-seeking or simply a sought-after sanctuary in which to wallow away the last days of autumn.

Romney Marsh

 

For phantom-hunting families…

Halloween is a time most celebrated and loved by children. A chance to dress up, get into character, play pranks and tell stories, ‘spooky season’ is a real time of excitement for little ones. With plenty of historic places that neatly entwine education and excitement together, Kent is perfect for exploring with the family. This Halloween, Dover Castle is celebrating Halloween over half-term with the retelling of the myths, legends and monsters of English folklore. Await a greeting from the ghoulish guide who will tell tales of ghostly goings at the castle, try your hand at becoming a monster hunter with a range of activities, and meet the comedy castle rat who will entertain you with stories and songs of his explorations. Don’t miss the fantastical dragon and grim reaper puppets prowling around the keep yard and watch in awe as the shadow puppet theatre creates magical shapes in the darkness. 

Dover Castle

For those with older children, Fort Amherst in Chatham are hosting their annual Halloween Horrors event as well as their year-round ‘Spooky Tours’. Britain’s biggest Napoleonic fortress, originally built to defend Medway from a land-based attack, Fort Amherst is still equipped with nearly two miles of ramparts, barracks, gun positions and underground works which made it a formidable obstacle to any threatening invaders. Standing the test of time with the help of restoration work, visitors can discover the gripping history of the fort which is free to visit. With thousands of feet walking its grounds for almost 300 years: ‘birth, death and the dread of war; love, laughter and health; illness, fear and sorrow: all have left their imprint through the ages.’ Fascinated individuals can book a Spooky Fort Tour complete with an experienced guide and ghost-hunting equipment, and those wanting a more theatrical experience can test their courage at the Halloween Horrors event, which offers three scare experiences to entice the brave. 

Dover Castle

All ages can enjoy a mysterious day out in the ancient market town of Faversham. Quirky beamed houses bulge out into the pretty streets that echo with stories begging to be told and today, with the help of Visit Swale, they can be. The Faversham Mystery Trail is a captivating challenge that combines mind-twisting clues and fascinating stories for anyone with a sense of adventure. Crack the clues along the two-mile self-guided trail to unlock incredible stories from the past and solve the mystery at the end. This includes the shocking tale of Thomas Arden (1508–1550) who was Mayor of Faversham. He was murdered by his wife, Alice, and her lover, Richard Moseby, which later inspired the Elizabethan play, Arden of Faversham. Visitors to the town can still see the house in which he lived, and died, standing in the main street with a plaque to document the event.

Faversham

Another Kent favourite for families is Leeds Castle where spooky adventures also await this October half-term. With hair-raising and eerily exciting activities for you and your little ones throughout the grounds, Leeds Castle promises a magical Halloween day out for families this year. After a day full of fantastic frights and admiring the castle’s mesmerising moat and beautiful architecture, visit the nearby Ringlestone Inn, a beautiful Grade II listed building dating back to 1533 originally used as a hospice for monks. Now a country pub and restaurant offering seasonal menus crafted using artisan methods of whole carcass butchery, dry curing, smoking and preserving, a visit to the Ringlestone will be just as delicious as it is interesting. The inn’s long-history has resulted in a number of reports of supposed paranormal and supernatural activity, which includes sightings of apparitions disappearing through bricked-up doorways, an elderly couple drinking near the inglenook fireplace and even a spectre throwing his boots down the cellar stairs.

Leeds Castle

For fearless friends…

We could not write a Halloween guide to Kent without mentioning the village of Pluckley. Reputed to be the most haunted place in the UK, Pluckley is featured in the Guiness Book of World Records for being home to the most ghosts and sightings of ghosts. With characterful spirits of all kinds, from a Gypsy woman who drowned in the stream at The Pinnock to a highwayman that haunts the woods waiting to startle passers by, a trip to Pluckley this October is sure to be an exciting one for lovers of the supernatural. After a country stroll brimming with intrigue and incredible stories, visit The Black Horse a traditional inn for over 300 years with parts of the current building dating back to the 15th century. The Black Horse boasts beamed ceilings and inglenook fireplaces, which at this time of year are always lit and dressed with pumpkins. The Black Horse offers a fine dining experience using the freshest locally sourced ingredients to create outstanding dishes that are as easy on the eye as they are sensational on the tongue. This season, chefs have come up with an amazing autumnal menu that includes locally sourced game and date and toffee sticky toffee pudding. The food is complimented by a wide range of fine wines, choice of wonderful aperitifs and digestifs, and an extensive gin menu making it a place for a truly memorable meal with friends. 

Black Horse, Pluckley

A major coastal landmark in Kent which will never fail to capture the eye and imagination of those from miles around is Reculver Towers. Dominating the skyline of Herne Bay and still acting as a navigation marker for ships at sea, Reculver Towers marks the site of one of the earliest Roman forts built to protect against Saxon raids, before later becoming the site of an Anglo-Saxon Monastery and then St Mary’s Church. With so much history that seeps through its various rebirths over time, many haunting tales are whispered about the towers and their dark past. The most famous and spine chilling being that of the ‘wailing baby’ whose cries are said to be heard by visitors on stormy nights when the wind whips round the towers and the waves crash against the rocks. During excavation work, the remains of ten Roman infants were found buried on site, and sadly, due to the nature of the burials, it is widely assumed that they were used as ritual sacrifices to the Roman Gods. This dark reputation of the towers has turned it into a favourite for ghost hunters, some claiming to have seen two hooded spectres pacing the ruins in the moonlight. 

Reculver Towers

With miles of lovely coastline that surrounds the towers, visitors can lighten their explorations with long seaside walks and trips into Herne Bay town, which tips its cap to nostalgic days gone by with traditional tea rooms such as Mortimer’s and the not so traditional, but a no less than ‘purrrfect’ treat for a witchy Halloween, The Cosy Cat Café. Kent’s first cat café, guests can stroke the cute felines and watch them play while sipping a cup of tea or coffee in their company. Make your trip to Herne Bay and Reculver last longer while giving it the comfort you crave at the end of a day’s exploring and staying at The Sleep Inn Hare, a boutique bed and breakfast with four luxurious individually designed rooms, a small fully licensed bar and delicious home-cooked breakfasts to gear you up for the day ahead.  

Reculver Towers

 

For couples that love a spook…

As the county that captured the imagination of Charles Dickens and his Victorian relish for the supernatural, Kent’s eerie marshes featured in Great Expectations, and Rochester’s winding streets can be read about in both The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Pickwick Papers. Follow in the footsteps of one of our country’s favourite ghost lovers by spending the weekend exploring the Romney Marsh and staying in a Romney Marsh Shepherd’s Hut. Sometimes referred to as the ‘fifth continent’, the surreal landscape of this area is one which at night becomes full of creeping marsh mist and was even a victorious opponent of Elizabeth I, who was said to have reorganised her travel plans in order to avoid its treacherous crossing. Still a remote and mysterious place full of stretching horizons, old villages, ancient churches and crooked buildings that sit under the wide expanse of the open sky, such a place could not exist without its own collection of unexplainable hauntings and ghost stories. 

Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts

One of these chilling tales is centred around Fairfield Church, a unique 12th-century building that stands marooned in the middle of a field, cut off into isolation by ditches of water. With this strange building comes a tragic tale of disaster and death that occurred during the calamitous 14th century, an era that produced the devastating combination of the Black Death and the marshes being a prime victim of flooding, and which took a mighty toll. The population of those living in villages like Fairfield was more than halved and two centuries later, malaria, also known as ‘marsh fever’ caused further devastation. The open land and slow brackish waters were a breeding ground for disease spreading mosquitoes, causing hundreds of farm workers that lived in the lower lands to die. The village was subsequently deserted, leaving just the church standing alone on the marshes all these years later.  

Romney Marsh Shepherds Hut Interior

After a day spent exploring this peculiar place and walking through its surreal landscape, dine at The Woolpack Inn which also sits isolated amongst the marshes and dates back more than 600 years. Surrounded by dykes and reed beds that are home to a wealth of wildlife, this former smugglers’ haunt oozes charm and character complete with hops adorning old beams, a large inglenook fireplace and quarry-tiled bar. Whether eating lunch or dinner, it is the perfect place to stop and satisfy the thirst and appetite built from a day out in the country. Food is taken seriously at this pub too, with traditional English food served at its best. All fish and game are locally sourced and the delicious mature British beef steaks are always prepared to the individual customer’s taste. With a full stomach, return to your wonderfully cosy shepherd’s hut, the ideal sanctuary in which to warm your heart and soul under a starry night sky and a real sheeps’ wool blanket.  

Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts

Once home to Dickens himself, Rochester is full of odes to the author and it is easy to see why this historic town enthralled him throughout his life. As well as Dickens, Rochester is also home to one of the UK’s oldest inns, The Coopers Arms. First built during the reign of Richard 1 (1189-1199), the first recorded inhabitants of the house were the monks from nearby St Andrews priory who were renowned for brewing ales and wine. After falling into disrepair during the dissolution of the monasteries, The Coopers Arms opened its doors as an inn in 1543 and has been serving fine cask beers ever since. During this time, the legend of a ghost, a member of the Brethren of Coopers, who was walled up and left to die for committing some unforgivable sin against the ancient order, is said to appear once a year in November in the dead of night. However, ghosts permitting, the inn still gives out that same glow of warmth and hospitality that it has done for centuries, so stay a while and reflect on bygone Kentish days. 

Rochester Castle

After stopping by for some Kentish ales and a hearty meal, ghost hunters can visit nearby Rochester Castle. Prepare to be perplexed at its complex history of destruction and rebuilding; this protector of an important crossing on the River Medway is immersed in stories of bloody battles, treachery and tragic romance. The most famous being the ghostly tales of the White Lady, who was shot accidentally by her lover through the heart. Her ghost is said to wander restlessly through the castle, the bloody arrow still embedded in her chest, her flowing black hair a vivid contrast to her spectral white dress.

Black Horse, Pluckley

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