"Every few steps I took I heard a crunch behind me... I was seized by terror". Evade the trick-or-treaters this Halloween and escape to one of Britain's most spooky summits.
Fancy giving yourself the shivers on October 31st? Forget ghost stories and horror movies - a simple walk in the story-stuffed British wilds is the best way to get your skin crawling.
Get into the spirit of things (groan) with our selection of scary strolls.
1. Ben Macdui, Cairngorms
The king of the Cairngorms is a pretty daunting proposition even before you factor in the resident ghost. It’s 1,309 metres high and marooned in the centre of a lofty plateau, which means a hefty walk in from whichever direction you decide to approach. The really chilling thing about this wild peak, though, is the spooky legend attached to it. There have long been rumours of a ‘Big Grey Man’ haunting the slopes of Ben Macdui. At a meeting of the Cairngorm Club in 1925, walker Norman Collie reported returning from the summit when he began to hear footsteps behind him.
“Every few steps I took I heard a crunch, then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own,” he said. “As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I was seized by terror and took to my heels.”
There have been numerous ‘sightings’ since, although some theorists suggest that what walkers are actually seeing are Brocken Spectres - their own shadows cast upon cloud.
Read more about the Grey Man legend in Simon Ingram's 'Between the Sunset and the Sea', available to buy in the BMC shop.
2. Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Often cited as one of Britain’s spookiest spots, 557-metre Pendle Hill is notorious for its connection to the Pendle witch trials in 1612. The 12 accused all lived around the hill and in August of that year were tried for the supposed murders of 10 people by witchcraft. Ten were found guilty and executed by hanging - and there have been tales of ghostly happenings on the slopes of Pendle Hill ever since. Speculation ramped up in 2011 when a 17th-century cottage complete with the bones of a cat bricked into the wall was discovered in the shadow of the hill. The crew of Living TV’s Most Haunted programme also claimed to have experienced spectral occurrences when they visited Pendle back in 2004, with some saying that they were possessed or felt like they were being strangled from behind. Whatever you believe, though, a wild camp on the summit of Pendle Hill is likely to repay you with views of a glorious sunrise.
3. Glen Coe’s Lost Valley, Lochaber
The short but steep tramp up to Coire Gabhail, a rock-strewn valley hidden away behind Glen Coe, is a perfect pick for All Hallows’ Eve. Glen Coe is often called the ‘Glen of Weeping’ - supposedly a reference to the 1692 massacre in which 38 members of the clan MacDonald were slaughtered by troops under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. Several ghostly legends have grown up around the glen, with some people claiming to have seen shadows of the fugitive clansman crouching behind rocks, or to have heard the wailing of their pipes echoing through the valley. It’s possible to wild camp in the Lost Valley and continue on a longer walk around the area in the morning, but bear in mind that rapid rises in the water table are common and you’re probably more likely to be disturbed by waterlogged sleeping bags than by spectral MacDonalds.
4. Mardale Corpse Road, Lake District
The Lake District has its fair share of Corpse Roads - tracks that were once used to transport bodies from isolated hamlets to consecrated church burial grounds. Many have unsurprisingly become the subject of local legend, with the Eskdale to Wasdale road supposedly haunted by a ghostly galloping horse carrying a coffin. There’s a rather lovely walk that runs along the Old Corpse Road from Mardale - the village that was once there has now been swallowed by the reservoir - on to Shap. Along the route, keep an eye out for large, bench-like slabs that were used to rest coffins on as it was considered unlucky to put them down on the ground. The loneliness and beauty of this isolated route is sure to set your spine tingling, even if you don’t encounter any restless spirits.
5. Longaford Tor, Dartmoor
It’s been a couple of decades since my childhood self was sat in the famous Warren House Inn on Dartmoor trembling in fear at the tale of the ‘Hairy Hands’, but the legend is apparently still going strong. The story goes that the moors near Princetown are haunted by a pair of ugly, spectral hands, which have been known to molest campers, turn bikes over and even cause traffic accidents. In one version of the tale the hands belong to an immigrant worker who was killed in an explosion at the gunpowder-producing Powder Mills factory and now delights in tormenting walkers and drivers in the neighbourhood of the Cherrybrook Bridge. For the best chance of spotting the hands, try a walk through the spooky Wistman’s Wood (planted by druids, according to some local tales, and roamed by the Devil’s Wisht hounds) and up to Longaford Tor. Keep an eye out for the man-eating Ghost Foxes, which are said to roam the surrounding rocky outcrops.
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