You can rely on the stalwart institution for spooktacular fun – even in a pandemic.

Halloween celebrations may all have gone a bit, ahem, 2020, but that’s no reason for little ones to hang up their witch and wizard costumes and just sit this one out sadly for the year. Just as English Heritage came to the rescue in lockdown with online tours of many of its astonishing properties, so too does it save the day for Halloween 2020, with plenty of spectral offerings, both live and online.

Its activities and events, designed to send shivers down small spines, all take place in the context of some of the country’s most beautiful settings, thus also packing a punch for grown-up foul fiends too. All will be, of course, scrupulously socially distanced. Here’s the English Heritage Halloween 2020 lowdown, as well some digital resources from that other great cultural and historical bastion: The National Trust. Get involved.

English Heritage



Spooky Woodland Walks

29 October – 31 October
Feeling brave, little monsters? If so, why not join one of English Heritage’s spooky woodland walks, which are being rolled out across six EH sites this All Hallows’ Eve? Suitable for children aged between five and twelve, there will be ghost-hunting story tellers and strange happenings a plenty. Do not miss it, should you be anywhere near Belsay Hall in Northumberland; Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in South Yorkshire; Walmer Castle and Gardens in Kent; Witley Court and Gardens in Worcestershire; Audley End in Essex; or Wrest Park in Bedfordshire this Halloween. Do note: tours take 45 minutes and it is advised that your wear outdoor clothing.



Spooky Half Term

24 October – 1 November
This half term, English Heritage sites up and down the land will get a ghoulish makeover just in time to scare the living daylights out of miniature warlocks, weird sisters and fiendish frights. Use the search facility to find events near you, which include trails scattered with creepy clues, fancy dress competitions and scary stories aplenty.

Ghost Tours

28 October – 31 October
Slightly older ghouls who are in the market for a serious fright this Halloween might wish to sign up for one of English Heritage’s After Dark events, in which the brave of heart will be shepherded around EH’s eerier castles and houses, lit only by torchlight, while storytellers regale them with bone-chilling tales of all the ghosts said still to roam the halls and of gruesome horrors that have taken place on-site. Do note, you must be sixteen or over to join one of these haunting tours. Use the event finder to discover a creepy location near you.

Creepy Castles To Visit

Who doesn’t love a good spine-tingling story? Though excellent all year round, Halloween is the perfect time to delve deeper into the more gruesome or supernatural elements of your favourite historic buildings. Did you know, for example, that Carlisle Castle in Cumbria, is home to a dungeon featuring ‘licking stones’, said to have been worn smooth by prisoners trying to extract enough moisture from them to stay alive? Or that at Warkworth Castle in Northumberland you might catch sight of a mysterious Grey Lady, often seen roaming the towers? For more on these, and plenty of other sinister ideas, do visit the website.

English Heritage’s Online Resources

If you’d prefer to stay at home, for reasons Covid-related or otherwise, you can still take advantage of EH’s considerable resources. If you have crafty children at home, why not get them following this instructional video for making a spooky Halloween lantern, or downloading these directions for creating a ghoulish mask to scare the living daylights out of beastly parents?



Meanwhile, said ghastly grown-ups can, too, get a slice of the spooky action by tuning into EH’s Halloween podcast; watching these spooky stories and gruesome tales; and reading this fascinating article of the history of witchcraft.


The National Trust



The National Trust may not this year be trumpeting any special live events for Halloween, but nonetheless, it has a rich repository of digital offerings to make the most of at home, whether to craft your own decorations, or to learn more about the increasingly popular celebration.

How To Carve A Pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin is a non-negotiable for Halloween, and this strange year, we say it’s all the more important. For a beginner’s lesson in how to do so, have a watch of the National Trust’s handy guide.



Read About The National Trust’s Most Macabre Objects

You may not, this year, be able to see them in the flesh (it would, in fairness, be a feat any year to get round them all), but you can still deep dive into The National Trust’s creepier curios, thanks to this brilliant article. From wooden demon masks to ghostly photographs; from visions of hell to a proliferation of ‘witch marks’ – or apotopaic markings – thought to stop evil spirits from entering houses, it is a great starting point for all your grisly curiosity planning needs.

Share Your Story

Do you go out of your way to avoid walking under a ladder? Do you consider yourself in luck if a black cat crosses your path? Folklores and superstitions abound across the British Isles, some of them nationally recognised; others more locally specific. The National Trust is calling for people around the UK to tell their tales, tall or otherwise, that are traditionally handed down from generation to generation, lest they be lost. Did you know, for example, that it is said in Northumberland that no child who has ridden a bear will ever catch whooping cough? If you have any such unusual tradition you’d like to record for posterity, simply email superstitions@nationaltrust.org.uk.

By Nancy Alsop
October 2020

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Nancy Alsop

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