Croft Castle (Image credit: National Trust)

In the spirit of all that is ghostly and ghoulish, we take a look at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire – one of our most haunted launch sites – and the nearby Croft Castle.

Designed to be the ‘perfect house in the perfect setting’, according to its National Trust web page, Berrington Hall was built in 1778 and is surrounded by stunning gardens designed by leading fashionable landscaper of the day, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Croft Castle is just six miles away from Berrington Hall at Yarpole and has been home to the Croft family for almost 1,000 years.

But with Halloween just a few days away, it is the spooky stories of Croft Castle and Berrington Hall that take centre stage in this article.

Does the ghost of Welsh freedom fighter Owain Glyndwr haunt the halls of Croft Castle?

Croft Castle

Although much altered since it was first built in the 14th century, Croft Castle remains an imposing example of Middle Ages architecture and boasts no fewer than seven ghosts.

The Croft family are descendants of Welsh nationalist and freedom fighter Owain Glyndwr – the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales and leader of the Welsh Revolt of 1400-1415.

It is perhaps unsurprising then, that Croft Castle’s most famous ghost is said to be a ‘giant of a man’ clad in a leather tunic, believed by many to be that of Owain Glyndwr himself.Seen by the then Archbishop of Sydney in the early 20th century, he reportedly appears and then slowly fades away right in front of your eyes.

A Ghostly Figure At Berrington Hall

Berrington Hall (Image credit: National Trust)

The first recorded ghostly goings on took place more than 40 years ago in the estate stables.

In the late 1970s, a gardener at the hall spotted a man walking through the stable yard, before unlocking a door and disappearing into the stables himself.Finding this strange given Berrington Hall was not open to the public that particular day and not recognising him as a fellow staff member, the gardener went to investigate, only to find that the door was still locked and there was no sign of the mysterious man.

He double checked and no other staff working that day had been near the stables and even spookier, it quickly transpired that door was not only never used but that the key to it had been missing for years.

The stables at Berrington Hall. (Image credit: National Trust)

Eerie Equines

Another ghostly sighting in the Berrington Hall stables came from two cleaners almost 20 years later.

On their way into the property, they had passed two horses in the stable block and later asked the manager if they could have a closer look at them.

Only there weren’t any horses kept in the stables and hadn’t been at Berrington Hall for many years. Not surprisingly, the cleaners apparently refused to ever go through the stable arch again!

There appear to be two main theories as to why the stables themselves seem to be such a magnet for ghostly apparitions.

A Tragic Tale

Keen horsemen - the Cawley family on horseback. (Image credit: National Trust)

The first is that Baron Frederick Cawley, who purchased Berrington Hall in 1901, and his four sons were all keen horsemen and as a result, he had one wing of the house turned into the current stable block.

Tragically, three of his four sons were killed in action in France during the First World War, so perhaps it was the spirit of one of them who the gardener saw all those years ago.

The other theory, on a similar theme, arose from the fact parts of Berrington Hall were used as a hospital for wounded and recuperating soldiers during both world wars.

With gentle exercise considered a vital part of their recovery and rehabilitation, horse riding would have been a big part of their ongoing treatment, leading to the suggestion that the ghostly figure and horses were perhaps ‘traces of an earlier event, picked up by sympathetic figures from our own time’, as described to this reporter from a local newspaper who explored the estate one Halloween.

A Pilot’s Perspective

Our Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Russell Collins said he was fully aware of the Berrington Hall’s spooky reputation before he began flying from there a few years ago.

“I’ve never had a spooky experience myself in all the years we’ve been launching from Berrington Hall or seen anything supernatural when we’ve flown over Croft Castle,” he said.

“However, it is Halloween very soon so who knows, maybe we will spot a ghostly figure waving us off this year! Either way, a hot air balloon ride from Berrington Hall is something special, with stunning views whichever way the wind takes you.”

Halloween Fun

There is a host of ghostly fun for all the family at Croft Castle during this half-term week, including a spooky Halloween trail around the grounds.

And in honour of the season of spookiness, Virgin Balloon Flights has taken 10% of our most popular gift packages for two until Saturday 31st October.

Visit our website and enter the code ‘Halloween’ to see these great offers or call our team on 01952 212750 for more info.