Whether you’re in a bustling city or way out in rural countryside, you’re never too far from a pub in Britain, such is their prevalence around the country. What’s a little more surprising is the number of these venues that claim to be haunted, whether by owners and staff, or just visitors who’ve been spooked as they enjoy a drink.
Behind many of these apparent hauntings are centuries of historical tales, often tragic or gruesome, sometimes both. For those who enjoy trying to spot a spectre or two as they sip, here’s our pick of the most haunted boozers in Britain.
1. The Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland
This historic pub near Loch Lomond has been around for 300 years and was named after the cattle drovers who worked in the area. These drovers may also have provided the pub with another of its distinguishing features: the ghosts that seem to haunt it. One sad tale concerns Angus, a drover who met a grizzly end after rival clansmen killed and hung him from a tree behind the pub. Angus is said to roam The Drovers, screaming in pain and searching for his killers to exact revenge.
Other reported ghosts include a family thought to have frozen to death while searching for shelter at the inn during winter, a girl in a pink dress who mysteriously appeared in a photograph taken by a guest, and a girl who drowned in a nearby river, whose body was laid on a bed in one of the pub’s rooms. Guests staying in that room have reported feeling an icy chill and even seeing a small child appear.
2. The Grenadier, London, England
Frequently cited as London’s most haunted pub, The Grenadier has been visited by the likes of King George IV, the Duke of Wellington and even Madonna.
Another key visitor that gave the pub its modern-day name is thought to have been a young grenadier (a soldier trained and armed with grenades) named Cedric. It’s claimed that Cedric was caught cheating while playing a game of cards and was beaten to death by the other players.
To pay tribute to him, visitors stick money to the ceiling in an attempt to ‘pay off’ Cedric’s outstanding debt, but it seems that he still has unfinished business, as his ghost is reputed to break glasses, move furniture and cause a cold chill that suddenly descends on the pub.
3. The Golden Fleece, York, England
Reportedly the most haunted pub in one of the most haunted cities in the world – York – the Golden Fleece has a lot to live up to. Thankfully for ghost-hunters, it doesn’t disappoint.
A whole cast of spirits are alleged to have been spotted, including a Canadian airman who committed suicide by jumping out of one of the pub’s windows in 1945, a man known as one-eyed Jack who carries a pistol and Lady Alice Peckett, wife of John Peckett, a former Lord Mayor of York who also owned the pub.
4. The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Abergavenny, Wales
As one of the oldest pubs in Wales, it’s perhaps no surprise that The Skirrid also carries with it a lot of ghost stories. It’s claimed that the pub operated as a courtroom many years ago and that an oak beam (still in place) was used as a ‘hanging beam’ to carry out executions of those found guilty of more serious crimes.
Legend has it that over 180 people were hanged from the beam and that their ghosts still wander the pub, breaking glasses, slamming doors, laughing manically and causing other general mischief.
5. Ye Olde Salutation, Nottingham, England
Set in a building believed to date back to the 13th century, this Nottingham pub is packed full of ghostly tales and reported sightings. Some of the spirits that allegedly haunt the structure include John Green, a 19th-century landlord of the pub who accidentally poisoned himself and his family (he was the only one to die from the incident), and another former landlord who fell and died on the cellar steps, and now reportedly haunts the cellar to make sure it’s kept orderly.
Another spirit is said to be that of Rosie, a young flower seller who was accidentally struck by a carriage outside the pub, before being taken to its cellar to rest and keep cool. Sadly, she died before medical help could arrive and now allegedly haunts the pub.
There were tales of Rosie’s ghost ‘scratching’ visitors until a landlord placed a doll in a cave beneath the pub for her, at which point the scratching stopped. Guests now leave toys in the cave as gifts for Rosie.
6. Jamaica Inn, Cornwall, England
Made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name (based on her time spent staying at the inn), the Jamaica Inn is also well-known for the many reports of paranormal activity within its 18th-century walls. The venue was a popular haunt for smugglers due to its location – remote and tucked-away, yet near enough to various points on the Cornish coast.
Smugglers are also said to continue haunting the Jamaica Inn, walking through corridors and murmuring in unfamiliar dialects. The sounds of horses’ hooves and carriage wheels have also been reported outside the pub, but one of the most enduring tales is that of a patron leaving half of his ale on the bar when he was summoned outside, whereupon he was murdered. It’s said that his spirit returns to the pub to finish his drink.
7. Red Lion, Avebury, Wiltshire
A range of ghosts are said to haunt this Wiltshire venue, which is thought to be the only pub in the world set within an ancient stone circle. The most renowned spirit is Florrie, whose body was thrown into the pub’s well after her husband murdered her and her lover.
Florrie reputedly moves and throws items, spins chandeliers and occasionally makes an appearance in front of guests. The ghosts of two children in one of the pub’s bedrooms have also been reported, as has a ghostly vision of a horse-drawn carriage that travels across the Red Lion’s courtyard.
8. The Hatchet, Bristol, England
Dating back to the early 17th century, The Hatchet is one of the oldest pubs in Bristol and holds a bloody history. The pub hosted bare-knuckle boxing matches in the 18th century and it’s alleged that the ghosts of some of the fighters have been seen in the pub.
Smugglers and pirates also drank at The Hatchet – supposedly including the notorious pirate Blackbeard – and some claim that their ghosts still appear around the pub. As a modern-day reminder of its dark past, it’s claimed (though not confirmed) that the pub’s front door is lined with human skin, thankfully beneath layers of paint and wood.