Haunted forests and spooky woods

Cracking twigs, branches catching in your hair, and creeping tendrils of mist swirling around your ankles - there’s no doubt that woods can be spooky places sometimes. Feeling brave? Venture into the depths of our spookiest woods to uncover historical horrors and spine-chilling legends.

Blickling mausoleum in Great Wood
Walking trail

Great Wood, Blickling, Norfolk 

Blickling Estate dates back to the 14th century, and has seen a lot of history since then. There are plenty of woodlands to explore here, but the eeriest route wends its way through the oak and beech trees of Great Wood to the Mausoleum, built in 1793 to commemorate the 2nd Earl of Buckingham. Blicking was the ancestral home of Anne Boleyn, and her father Sir Thomas is said to haunt hereabouts, having been cursed for failing to stop Henry VIII from executing both Anne and her brother. Anne herself is said to appear here on the 19 May – the anniversary of her execution.

Fountains Abbey with a winter sky
Walking trail

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire 

Is there anything spookier than the ruins of a medieval abbey? Take a wander through the trees on a misty autumn afternoon, and it’s all too easy to imagine sprites and ghouls lurking in the shadows. If you listen hard you might even hear a faint chanting from within the Chapel of Nine Altars – said to be a ghostly choir of monks who used to live here. If that’s too eerie then head out to the deer park, where you’ll hear the atmospheric bellowing of the stags echoing on the wind during rutting season.

The river at Lydford Gorge

Witches Wood, Lydford Gorge, Devon 

Tucked away on the edge of Dartmoor, this ancient wooded gorge is awash with myths and mysteries. Witches’ Wood is the perfect place for a spooky stroll, or you can follow the path all the way to the Whitelady waterfall, named for the ghostly figure that is sometimes said to appear nearby. If that’s not scary enough, you can imagine that you’re back in the 17th century when a notorious outlaw band called the Gubbins made their home in the gorge. Just make sure they don’t steal your sheep.

Sunrise on Pinkneys Drive common, Berkshire

Maidenhead Thicket, Berkshire 

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the stretch of the Bath Road that ran through Maidenhead Thicket was notorious countrywide for the number of highwaymen who patrolled along it. The dense vegetation allowed them to spring from the shadows, rob unwary travellers of their possessions and then melt back into the darkness. One such highwayman who operated in the Thicket was Captain James Hind - among his many famous exploits was a failed attempt to rob Oliver Cromwell and his seven bodyguards.

Path through the woods at St Marys Vale

St Mary's Vale, Monmouthshire 

Walking under the woodland canopy of St Mary’s Vale, you might catch the occasional glimpse of the Sugar Loaf mountain looming high above you. The whole place has an air of mystery about it, especially in autumn when the twisted tree trunks loom out of the mist, and the only sounds are the gentle trickle of the Nant Iago stream, and the bare branches creaking in the wind. According to local legend the area is a frequent haunt of Jack O’Kent the giant, so be careful how you go.

Woodland path at Wenlock Edge
Walking trail

Wenlock Edge, Shropshire 

Jutting high above the surrounding landscape, Wenlock Edge is already imposing even before you enter the ancient woodland on its flanks. Creeping through the gnarled and twisted tree trunks, it’s easy to imagine that you might come across the ghosts of Ippikin, a 13th-century highwayman who made his home in the woods. Or maybe you’ll meet Major Smallman, who galloped his horse off the Edge to escape capture during the English Civil War. He survived the 200 foot drop, but his spirit is said to have returned here after he died. If you dare to walk here over Hallowe'en you could even encounter some real ghosts (though they might look suspiciously like some of our volunteers).