For those who relish the end of October for its spooky sounds and sights; and who love a juicy ghost story, we have the perfect travel bucket list for you. Before the term “witch hunt” arrived in Salem, and royal scandals hit the modern tabloids, they were central themes of fortresses and castles throughout the world, and they brought drama so significant that the legends are still being told more than a thousand years later… in some cases, by the spirits of those involved. These haunted castles go far beyond the glowing pumpkins and twisted webs of the season. Their histories create a collective horror story that continues to captivate travelers as they explore some of the globe’s most beautiful locales – a juxtaposition that often only enhances the ominous experiences.
Indeed, it is often the world’s darkest stories that hold the most fascination, particularly in the instance of knights and queens, hidden chambers and remaining spirits. This fascination extends beyond October festivities, as travelers can sate their appetites for ghostly experiences throughout the year aboard Crystal Ocean, River or Yacht Expedition sailings. Here are some of the most haunting – and haunted – castles for your Crystal travel list:
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland – We begin in Edinburgh, which has the distinction as the only destination on our list with two spooky castles to explore. First, Edinburgh Castle: known for creeping out even the most paranormally skeptic. Since its construction in the 9th century, the castle’s halls and dungeons have hosted many torturous activities, from alleged witches to plague victims. Once a complex network of underground vaults and tunnels was added in the 15th century, such activities increased. Reports of spirits roaming the grounds have included a headless drummer in the halls, a ghost dog meandering the castle graveyard (particularly on foggy nights), and the ghost of Lady Glamis, burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1537, who wanders the castle corridors at night.
The tunnels were hidden until a few hundred years ago, when a single piper was hired to navigate them and play his bagpipes constantly, in order for others to hear their location. The piper vanished during this investigation, leaving behind his bagpipes, and plenty of fuel for ghost stories.
Dalhousie Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland – Dalhousie Castle continues Edinburgh’s ghostly lore. The castle was home to a teenage Lady Catherine some 800 years ago. As with many teenagers, Lady Catherine was in love with a young man of whom her parents did not approve and forbade her to see. In her protest of their decision, Catherine locked herself in the top room of the castle and starved herself to death. In a twist both romantic and strange, the fact that Lady Catherine’s lovesick ghost roams the halls of this stately manor has made it one of the most popular destination hotels for modern day newlyweds and lovers.
Visit Edinburgh on Crystal Serenity’s “Irish Sea Soliloquy” sailing July 15, 2018.
Eltz Castle, Germany – Eltz Castle, or Burg Eltz, sits overlooking the Moselle River in a majestic setting that belies its dark thousand-year history. Remarkably still owned by the same family that lived there in the 12th century, Eltz Castle was the home of Countess Agnes. Agnes allegedly died in defense of her home and her honor against an “undesirable suitor,” which makes the sight of her battleax and breastplate in her bedroom, which is open to visitors, even more imposing. The countess is said to still inhabit the castle that she died to save, joined by hundreds of royal knight spirits.
Eltz Castle is accessible from several towns along the Moselle River, including Koblenz and Cochem, Germany. Visit during a Crystal River voyage.
Houska Castle, Czech Republic – It’s not so much the paranormal that earns this castle a spot on the list, as much as its geographic location. Located about an hour north of Prague, the castle is said to be built atop the actual gateway to hell. In fact, it was built for the sole purpose of covering this portal. Of course, human curiosity being what it is, a deep tunnel into the earth was built so local people could assess the accuracy of this allegation, which they tested by lowering prisoners into the tunnel to report back about what they saw. One prisoner is said to have started frantically screaming after only a few seconds, and when he was raised back up, had aged 30 years.
Visit Prague during a special pre-/post-cruise program aboard select Crystal River voyages.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia – Unlike many of the fairytale-ready façades of other castles included here, Predjama Castle just looks ominous. It’s built into the mouth of a cave, seeming to dare anyone to come inside. The castle has seen more than its share of vengeful and depraved activities, from being the hideout of a prolific robber on the run from the Holy Roman Empire, to the home of knight Erazem Lueger. The latter was notoriously evil, utilizing the hidden passages of Predjama Castle to torture his servants for fun and paranoia. Legend has it that those servants eventually revolted and killed Lueger within the castle. Sounds of footsteps within the walls are commonly reported.
Visit Predjama Castle during Crystal Esprit’s “Dreaming of Dalmatia” voyages along the Dalmatian Coast.
Larnach Castle, New Zealand – New Zealand’s only castle boasts the kind of romantic, tragic and scandalous history characteristic of most great love stories. Built by merchant baron and politician William Larnach in 1871 for his beloved first wife, Eliza, the castle boasts 43 rooms and a ballroom (which was added on later for his daughter, Katie’s, 21st birthday). Its perch on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin is ideal for sweeping romantic views enjoyed with your loved one, which is no doubt what Larnach envisioned when he chose the spot. After losing Eliza at age 38, then his daughter, Katie, in her early 20’s, the castle is said to have only brought Larnach pain. That ended with this suicide in 1898, and the castle today is said to be haunted with an “unhappy presence.”
Visit Larnach Castle during Crystal Symphony’s “New Zealand Explorer” voyage and other 2018 sailings.
Moosham Castle, Austria – Aptly referred to as Witches Castle, Moosham played host to the dramatic witch trials in Austria between the late 17th century and into the 1800’s. The blood of thousands of women accused of witchcraft was spilled in its dungeons during this period. And, in a strange turning of the tables, residents of the castle itself were later accused of – and killed for – being werewolves, due to the astonishing number of deer and cattle found dead in close proximity to the castle.
Visit Austria aboard 2018 Crystal River voyages.
Haunting discoveries of castles and other legends around the globe offer a chilling twist to the award-winning luxury of a Crystal voyage. We invite you to book now, and explore the dark lore for yourself.