Ghosts and spooky tales of the North West Wales Coast Line

Not so long ago we crept up on things that go bump in the night along the Conwy Valley Line (did you miss it? Check out the blog here if you’re brave enough!). As it’s that time of year again we thought it would be seasonally spooky to uncover some of the ghostly goings-on you might encounter travelling on the North West Wales Coast Line.

The towns and villages dotted along the North West Wales Coast Line, from Conwy in the east to Holyhead in the west, boast a wealth of history and legends. Along the line you’ll encounter stately castles and grand houses, ancient churches and sacred sites, abandoned industrial landmarks and the relics of civilisations long gone. All of these places are fascinating in their own right, boasting remarkable histories, but they are also tangible connections to a world we can’t see all the time – the other side… the realm of the supernatural.

With all this in mind, and if you’ve read our other blog, you won’t be surprised to learn that North Wales has a reputation for being a hotbed of paranormal activity. Whether you believe in supernatural occurrences or not, tales of morbid murders, excruciating executions and lonely lost souls are stories that appeal to anyone with a love for a good scare at Halloween. Read on if you dare!

Creepy criminals

Beaumaris Gaol – nearest station Bangor

A must-visit on any trip to Anglesey, Beaumaris is a stunning seaside town with a long, fascinating and often turbulent history. Continuously inhabited since the Viking era, Beaumaris boasts a world-famous medieval castle, perfectly-preserved Tudor buildings, gorgeous Georgian houses and an imposing Victorian prison.

Beaumaris Gaol was built in 1829 and housed an array of nefarious and wicked criminals until its closure fifty years later. Although it had a capacity of only 30 inmates, this prison saw its fair share of dastardly goings-on in its short lifetime. Host to not one but two high-profile executions, Beaumaris Gaol was infamous for its brutal treatment of inmates, who were often chained, whipped, made to break rocks and forced to spend days in dark isolation cells. The gaol was also home to one of the last working penal treadmills in Britain, where inmates were made to walk in circles all day long to supply water around the building.

While it is known that several inmates were sentenced to death at Beaumaris, only two executions by hanging actually took place. Both have left tangible marks on the supernatural history of the gaol. The first was William Griffith in 1830, who was sentenced to death for the attempted murder of his ex-wife. On the morning of his execution, he barricaded himself in his cell and had to be forcibly removed and dragged to the gallows. The second was Richard Rowlands in 1862, who was sentenced to death for the killing of his father-in-law. Rowlands maintained his innocence until the end and is said to have put a curse on the nearby church clock from the gallows, foretelling that the four faces of the clock would never show the correct time – to this day, it reportedly does not.

Both men are thought to be buried in the walls of the prison, a fact which may account for some of the otherworldly activity reported around the building. Among the most common are reports of disembodied voices, shadow figures and poltergeist antics.

Some visitors have reported hearing the sound of shuffling feet outside the cells when no one is there and others have reported being touched or hearing disembodied whispers when alone in the cells. Could this be Griffith and Rowlands or other souls lost to the annals of history?

Aside from Griffith and Rowlands, the most commonly-encountered spirit is said to be a former jailer. He has been heard knocking on doors and whistling as if going about his daily checks on the inmates.

Beaumaris Gaol is a popular venue for ghost-hunting events and has even featured on paranormal TV show Most Haunted hosted by Yvette Fielding. If you’re brave enough to explore its shadowy corridors and cells by day – or by night – you might also experience the ‘constant feeling of a dark energy’ experienced by fellow ghosthunters. Go on, we dare you!

Plan your visit: hop on a bus at Bangor for a pleasant trip with great views along the Menai Strait. For entry prices and opening time, visit the goal website here.

Lighthouse Keeper Jack

South Stack – nearest station Holyhead

One of the most famous ghost stories from Anglesey involves the iconic South Stack Lighthouse, located north-west of Holyhead. This lighthouse – world-famous for its precarious position and inaccessibility – has earned a reputation as a supernatural hotspot, with reports of paranormal activity dating back hundreds of years.

Set in an RSPB nature reserve of 90 acres, South Stack is popular with walkers, birdwatchers and photographers. A short bus ride from Holyhead, the lighthouse and nature reserve attract thousands of visitors every year. But you’ll have to earn the right to say you’ve visited! 400 steep steps stand between you and the lighthouse, which is reached by crossing a mini suspension bridge over the churning waters below. After all that adrenalin, you might welcome the sight of a ghost!

The lighthouse, built in 1809, stands 41 metres tall and was constructed to warn ships of the dangerous rocks below. In 1853, a massive storm hit the Anglesey coast, resulting in the wrecking of numerous ships. During the storm, the lighthouse keeper, Jack Jones, was struck by a falling rock. His cries for help went unheard and he died of his injuries three weeks later. Legend has it that the ghost of Jack can still be heard knocking on the lighthouse’s doors and windows at night. Locals claim to have heard heavy footsteps around the lighthouse complex along with blood curdling screams. And if that isn’t enough, others have witnessed doors rattling and have heard tapping on window panes, as if some poor soul is seeking refuge from a ghastly storm.

Yvette Fielding and the Most Haunted crew have also conducted a live TV ghost hunt here and are convinced they encountered the lighthouse keeper. The team claim to have witnessed an apparition watching them through a window but when they gave chase the shadow figure leapt from the cliffs into the sea. Still not convinced? Author Richard Jones, a leading paranormal investigator, gives South Stack Lighthouse a 5 star spooky rating in his latest book, Haunted Britain!

Plan your visit: Part of a larger RSPB nature reserve, South Stack Lighthouse & Cliffs is a great day out for all the family. For opening times and entry prices click here. To book your visit and tour of the lighthouse, click here.

© Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2023) Cymru Wales

Newry Beach ‘phantoms’

Holyhead – nearest station Holyhead

“Actually that’s quite scary…. especially if seen in the moonlight.”

Another intriguing ghost story from Holyhead involves the eerie figures that appear at Newry Beach, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Holyhead. These figures, which resemble human bodies emerging from the water, have been known to spook passers-by, especially on dark, winter nights.

The sight of these figures has stirred the imagination of many, with some likening them to maritime ghosts or the crew of the mythical ship, the Flying Dutchman. The photo of these ‘ghosts’ has been widely shared on social media, with many commenting on how unique and atmospheric they look. To judge for yourself, click here.

The figures are actually a cluster of old wooden pilings from Holyhead’s former lifeboat ramp, covered in seaweed. Over time, nature has shaped them into humanoid forms, emerging from the water at low tide to frighten passers-by. In reality these ‘phantoms’ are a reminder of the bravery of the Anglesey lifeboat crews who have – and continue to – risk their lives in all weathers to help others.

While these ‘ghosts’ may not be supernatural, they certainly add to the mystique and allure of Holyhead, making the town a fascinating place to visit for those interested in the eerie and uncanny this Halloween.

Plan your visit: from Holyhead train station, Newry Beach is a twenty minute walk through the town centre. Follow signs for Holyhead Maritime Museum and perhaps incorporate a visit to this fascinating museum to learn more about the Welsh men and women who have dedicated their lives to the sea.

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