By Greg Mansfield

Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire
Image by Greg Mansfield

The county of Gloucestershire boasts some of the most beautiful countryside in England, including the Cotswolds, the ancient Forest of Dean, and the Wye Valley. Alongside its stunning scenery, it’s renowned for its ghosts. Here are my personal favourites of the oldest and most famous haunted places in Gloucestershire.

Haunted Places in Gloucestershire

The Ancient Ram Inn

The Ancient Ram Inn
Image by Greg Mansfield

Location: 8 Potters Pond, Wotton-under-Edge
Open: Various times; be sure to book ahead
Admission: Some charge, with free parking

The Ancient Ram Inn is one of the most haunted places in Great Britain, and it’s one of the most famous ghostly places on the planet. Also known as The Ram, title deeds from the 12th Century suggest the building could be over 1,000 years old.

The inn was first used to house masons and other builders who constructed the nearby St. Mary’s Church in the early 1100s. Later, in 1154, it became the dwelling of the church’s first vicar. After that, it served as The Ram Inn — a hostelry and public house — for hundreds of years.

In 1969, John Humphries purchased The Ram. He moved in, began restoring the old inn, and opened it as a bed and breakfast. Almost immediately, Humphries had chilling encounters with the supernatural. In one terrifying incident, an evil entity pulled him out of bed by his wrists as he slept.

One of the most notorious phantoms that haunts the inn is that of a witch who was burned at the stake nearby in the 1500s. Guests of Humphries’ bed and breakfast claim to have felt her presence, often accompanied by sudden drops in temperature and unexplained noises.

Humphries recounted many other spine-tingling experiences during his time at The Ram. He reported seeing apparitions of monks and feeling an overwhelming sense of dread in certain rooms. Doors would slam shut on their own, objects moved inexplicably, and disembodied voices echoed between the walls.

Unseen forces have physically attacked some people at the inn, most notably in the so-called Bishop’s Room upstairs. This is The Ram’s most frightening room, where once a medium who pushed open its door was lifted off the ground and thrown across the corridor. A ghostly Cavalier materializes by the dressing table and walks purposefully across to the opposite wall, two monks shimmer in a corner, and a phantom shepherd and his dog appear near the door.

The Bishop’s Room, Ancient Ram Inn
Image by Greg Mansfield

Some guests who stayed in the Bishop’s Room heard the screams of a man who was apparently murdered by having his head thrust into the fire. Others asleep in bed have been smothered by the lustful attentions of an incubus or succubus.

Various people have described encountering the spirits of children in The Ram. They’re believed to be victims of occult sacrifices that occurred on the site centuries ago. Their restless souls manifest as playful giggles echoing through the corridors and fleeting glimpses of small figures darting between rooms.

Others have reported encounters with the spirit of a former innkeeper. He roams the building, forever tethered to the place he once called home. His presence is often accompanied by the scent of pipe tobacco and the sound of footsteps echoing along creaky floorboards.

In addition to these apparitions, visitors have experienced a wide range of unexplained phenomena. This includes flickering lights, phantom smells, and the sensation of being watched by unseen eyes.

After John Humphries died in 2017, his daughter Caroline inherited the The Ram. She opens it for drop-by visits and ghost hunts of up to 20 people, ensuring it continues to intrigue and captivate visitors from around the world (charges apply, and pre-booking is a must).

The Entrance to Clearwell Caves
Image by Carolyn Mansfield

Location: The Rocks, Clearwell, Coleford
Open: Every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Admission: Some charge, with free parking

Clearwell Caves

The Clearwell Caves were mined for iron ore since prehistoric times. During the Roman era, the demand for iron surged, leading to extensive mining in the region. By the Victorian era, the Clearwell Caves had become a bustling hub of industrial activity, with miners extracting hematite to supply the burgeoning iron industry.

The caves closed for mining in 1945. Today, they’re a popular tourist attraction where you can explore nine stunning caverns within the cave system. Deposits of iron ore adorn the caves with striking red and ochre hues. This creates an otherworldly ambiance that’s both awe-inspiring and eerie.

Many visitors to the Clearwell Caves have witnessed paranormal phenomena. To this day, they hear the sound of metal clanging from deep inside the caverns along with the echoes of footsteps and pickaxes.

In 1973, while filming the television series ‘The Jensen Code’, technicians needed to run electrical cables deeper into the mine. An old miner approached them and suggested a more difficult but shorter route, which proved ideal. When the technicians went to thank him, he’d vanished. Nobody knew who he was.

Since then, people have encountered the ghost of the old miner many times. Affectionately known as “th’old mon”, the ghost apparently helps children and others find their way out of the caves when they get lost.

Additionally, a paranormal investigation group once captured images of misty figures and strange balls of light floating around in the caves. These accounts add to the creepy allure of this ancient attraction.

The George Inn
Image by Greg Mansfield

The George Inn

Location: High St, St Briavels, Lydney
Open: Daily
Admission: Free

The George Inn, nestled in the delightful village of St Briavels, is a bed & breakfast and public house that dates back to the 16th century. Next to St Briavels Castle, The George was originally built as a coaching inn, providing a vital stop for travelers journeying between England and Wales. The inn’s architecture, with exposed beams, flagstone floors, and roaring fireplaces, evokes a sense of stepping back in time.

Among the many tales associated with The George, the most intriguing are those of its hauntings. Over the years, both staff and patrons have reported numerous strange occurrences. In fact, a landlord once described the place as being full of ghosts.

One of the most frequently reported spectres is the full-body apparition of a man, who many say appears to be a monk. Patrons and staff often see him in the bar area. Witnesses describe him as a forlorn figure, silently observing everyone in the pub before disappearing into thin air. The ghost apparently moves things around and makes loud noises on the upper floor.

The George has another well-known spirit in residence. He’s a Cavalier in full uniform who wanders along an upstairs hallway.

In addition to these apparitions, staff members hear disembodied voices, unexplained footsteps, and a phantom violin being played late at night.

Whether you’re drawn by the promise of a good pint or the potential for encountering a ghost, be sure to visit the The George. While in the bar, look for the stone coffin lid with the Celtic cross on it that’s set into a wall. Workers found it while doing construction in the pub’s cellar. The body was reburied in a nearby orchard, and some people wonder whether it was the ghostly monk who was buried in the coffin.

The Ragged Cot
Image by Greg Mansfield

The Ragged Cot

Location: Cirencester Road, Minchinhampton
Open: Daily
Admission: Free

The Ragged Cot is a historic public house, nestled in the picturesque countryside of Stroud. Built in the 17th century of Cotswold stone, this quaint inn exudes a rustic charm. However, behind its welcoming facade lies a history brushed with tragedy and tales of the supernatural.

The most infamous story associated with the Ragged Cot dates back to 1760, involving the then-landlord, Bill Clavers, and his family. According to local legend, Clavers planned to rob a midnight stagecoach to London. With a belly full of rum, he set off to intercept the coach with two loaded pistols. His wife, holding their child, begged him to stop but he pushed her aside and she fell down the inn’s stairs.

After the robbery, Clavers returned to find his wife and child dead at the bottom of the stairs. In a panic, he hid their bodies in a trunk. Clavers was ultimately arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by hanging.

Over the years, guests and staff have reported many strange occurrences inside the inn. The ghost of Clavers’ wife, often described as a sorrowful figure in white, roams the halls. Her presence is accompanied by the faint sound of a child’s cry. Some have reported unexplained cold spots, disembodied voices, and objects moving on their own. The atmosphere within the inn can shift suddenly from warm and inviting to unnervingly cold, as if the tragic past is replaying itself.

Despite its haunted reputation, the Ragged Cot is a delightful place to stop in for an afternoon tea or a tasty meal with a hand-pulled pint of ale. You can also stay in one of its nine boutique-style guest rooms.

St Briavels Castle
Image by Greg Mansfield

St Briavels Castle

Location: Church Street, St Briavels, Lydney
Open: The moat area is accessible during daylight hours; call or email ahead to enquire about the availability of guided tours or drop-ins
Admission: Free

St Briavels Castle is one of my favourite haunted places in England. Located in the delightful village of St Briavels, it’s a small fortress perched on a cliff overlooking the Wye Valley. The castle has stood for nearly a thousand years, and it keeps luring me back to explore its wraith-ridden corridors.

The Norman nobleman William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, built St Briavels Castle in the early 12th century. The castle’s strategic position made it an important defensive stronghold for controlling the Welsh border and overseeing the Forest of Dean. Over the centuries, it served various roles including a royal residence, a hunting lodge, and an administrative center.

In the 13th century, the castle became a key point in the defense system against Welsh invasions. King John, recognizing its strategic importance, strengthened its fortifications and used it as a base for his military campaigns. The castle also played a significant role during the reign of Edward I, serving as a center for the production of crossbow bolts, a crucial element of the medieval arsenal.

The castle’s function evolved over time, and in the 16th century it was a debtors’ prison, housing those who couldn’t pay their debts. This period added to the castle’s dark and eerie reputation, as conditions in the prison were notoriously harsh. Many inmates suffered from neglect and abuse.

In the 1800s, part of St Briavels Castle operated as a children’s school. And, in 1948, the Youth Hostels Association (YHA) took it over. To this day, the YHA run the fortress as a youth hostel, offering a unique and atmospheric place to stay. Guests have the opportunity to sleep in centuries-old rooms, surrounded by stone walls and ghostly tales. Let’s uncover the creepy tales of the ghosts that haunt the various parts of this ancient place.

The Main Castle – Ground Level

Visitors to the ground level of St Briavels Castle often report encounters with a phantom dog, which resembles a large Irish wolfhound. This spectral canine appears near the men’s toilets and roams outside in the castle grounds.

Inside the castle, footsteps descend the stairs and move along the corridor towards the dining room. Witnesses have seen a figure peering around a corner, only to vanish when pursued. The bizarre footsteps persist even when the corridor appears empty.

Some guests in the hostel’s dining room have heard the clomping of horses’ hooves and the sounds of people leading them around the courtyard. But when they investigate no horses are found.

During paranormal investigations, the main castle building can become a cacophony of unexplained noises—doors slam, latches rattle, and banging sounds echo through the halls, all without a visible cause.

The Main Castle – Second Floor

The second floor, referred to as the first floor in British terms, is especially active with paranormal phenomena. The area where the Great Hall once stood, now divided into the State Apartment, Isabel’s Room, and an office, is a hotspot for disembodied footsteps. Guests in the State Apartments often hear these phantom steps moving across the room towards the curtained window. In addition, strange floating lights or orbs are commonly seen.

A misty female apparition often glides along the corridor outside the state apartments. The ghost of a young girl also appears in the same area. Near the chapel, visitors have recorded the sounds of heated arguments, which abruptly cease when approached. Other common occurrences here include knocking noises, objects being thrown, and mysterious keys and stones materializing out of nowhere.

The West Tower

The Hanging Room in the gatehouse’s West Tower is shrouded in mist and floating lights, with a dark figure often seen in the doorway. Phantom footsteps, heavy breathing, and the sensation of being grabbed on the shoulder add to the room’s sinister reputation.

A misty figure appears in the Prison, and some visitors are grabbed by an invisible hand. Other hear the sounds of strange growls and footsteps, along with rattling doors.

A ghost named Tom haunts The Old Kitchen. He’s a young boy who enjoys dropping stones out of thin air. In addition, some people have seen the partial apparition of a female arm and hand on the staircase, which adds to the kitchen’s eerie charm.

The East Tower

In the Chaplain’s Room, visitors have reported footsteps and strange flashes of light. A dark, shadowy figure appears near the door, and children are heard when none are around. Also, some people have felt the sensation of someone sitting on the bed next to them while they sleep.

Balls of light appear in the Constable’s Room, and the door opens and closes by itself. The Oubliette, a dungeon area, is particularly notorious. Some hostel guests sleeping there have had their bed covers pulled off in the middle of the night, while others have heard the terrible screams of a woman. Others have been touched by unseen hands or hear the sounds of rattling chains and padlocks.

St Briavels Castle, with its long history and dozens of spectral inhabitants, offers a unique blend of historical and supernatural intrigue. Whether you’re a seasoned ghost hunter or a curious visitor, the castle’s haunted halls will give you an unforgettable experience.

Woodchester Mansion

Woodchester Mansion
Image by Greg Mansfield

Location: Woodchester Park, near the village of Nympsfield; park in the National Trust car park at Buckholt, then take the free minibus (every hour on the hour) or walk along the long track to the mansion
Open: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the beginning of April until the end of October
Admission: Some charge

Woodchester Mansion is a Gothic Revival masterpiece located in Woodchester Park. This unfinished Victorian mansion was constructed between about 1856 and 1870 for William Leigh. Leigh was a devoted Roman Catholic convert who inherited a fortune from his father and resolved to create a religious community at Woodchester.

With high stone walls and delightfully grotesque gargoyles, the mansion is situated in a secluded valley that’s over one and a half kilometres from the nearest road. Construction was left unfinished, and its incomplete state offers a rare glimpse into Victorian building techniques.

Woodchester Mansion is shrouded in mystery, legends, and ghostly tales. This includes the fact that when its construction suddenly stopped the workmen apparently dropped their tools and left them behind. Some speculate that paranormal activity drove the workers away.

The mansion’s incomplete construction, with its exposed, skeletal structure, adds to its unusual atmosphere, making it a magnet for paranormal investigators and ghost enthusiasts. Rumours of satanic rituals, accidental deaths, and a possible murder on the grounds contribute to its dark reputation.

One of the most haunted areas is the mansion’s chapel. Some visitors smell the unmistakable scent of extinguished candles when none have been lit. Othes have seen a short man in period work clothes who gazes up at some ornate windows. This apparition is believed to be a former stonemason, possibly distressed about the water damage caused during the mansion’s abandonment. A tall man’s ghost also appears in the chapel, adding to its unsettling ambiance.

The kitchen is another hotspot for paranormal activity, where witnesses have heard a female voice singing an Irish lament. Others have seen the ghost of a young man hiding in a corner, seemingly afraid of a tall man (the same one as in the chapel?) who often appears in the doorway as if he’s searching for someone. These two ghosts never appear at the same time, however.

The grand stairwell is home to the playful spirit of a young girl who’s seen skipping up and down the steps, indifferent to onlookers. Another young woman’s ghost is often seen and heard on the first floor, gazing out of windows at visitors. The mansion frequently echoes with unexplained bangs and poltergeist activity has been reported, with mists and shadows following visitors.

When my wife and I visited Woodchester Mansion in 2021 with our good friend and park volunteer, Alison, as our guide, I found the cellar to be particularly dark and menacing. Unseen forces have attacked visitors down there, including the ghost of an old woman who grabs female visitors in the dark. And, bizarrely, a floating head has been seen in a bathroom. There’s also talk of an elemental entity lurking down there, adding to the cellar’s terrifying reputation.

Today, Woodchester Mansion is open to the public from early April through to Halloween, with the park accessible year-round. The mansion is also home to rare bat colonies, which add extra spookiness to its hollow, haunted halls.

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