family friendly mystery

Family-friendly mystery: Mythical and legendary landmarks

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family friendly mystery

Britain’s past is laced with spooky and mysterious tales. Legends abound when we envisage mythical places. Think of Somerset through the ages and you’ll likely conjure images of King Arthur, Stonehenge and verdant countryside covered in a billowing cloud of mist and fog. Perhaps it’s because we have so many days of grey and overcast weather; perhaps it’s the geography of caves, rolling countryside and the occasional monolith; whatever the case, we’ve collectively cooked up some fantastic stories about our past on these islands.

Unexplained sightings; foreboding buildings; miraculous feats that defy explanation. Legendary figures and, of course, things that go bump in the night. Which version of history would you rather hear about: the official one taught in the textbooks, or the version that’s haunted with ghosts and stuff?

It’s settled then – we’re all going on a tour of Britain’s most mysterious places. Along the way we’ll travel the length and breadth of Britain and have a couple of guides in Mysterious Britain and Spooky Things to help us out. Pack a lunch and bring the family, let little ones know they’ve nothing to fear and let’s explore. The past can’t hurt us any more…can it?

The mystical mother of all tours

mysterious britain

There are many tours, but there is only one Tor’s Tour of the Tor. Confused? Don’t be. Tor your tour master will explain all during your, um, tour. Among the many myths vying for your curiosity, Glastonbury is an enduring one whose lure refuses to diminish. Make no mistake, this sacred site is a very real place with a very fascinating history.

Tor has this to say of Halloween visits:

“Are you looking for something unusual to do for Halloween? Then a tour of the mystical Glastonbury, where Halloween is called Samhain, is the thing to do. Avalon (Glastonbury to you and me) is where the veil is thinnest between this world and the spirit world. It’s where the ghosts of the monks whisper in your ear, where ‘Gwynn Ab Nud’, king of the faeries, rides his chariot of lost souls through the night sky and where stories of dragons and nature spirits come alive, visit if you dare.”

It’s what we don’t know about old Avalon that raises eyebrows however. At Halloween, the day known as Samhain is a time when the veil between the real world and the spirit world is believed to be at its thinnest. Prime time, then, for exploring this magical place where faery kings, lost souls, dragons and nature spirits are all part of the mythology.

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Ponder the mysteries of Stonehenge on an autumn walk


From the Summer Solstice to Spinal Tap, the allure of Stonehenge is irresistible. It’s permeated popular culture and seared itself into the consciousness of millions, entranced by the amorphous origins of this World Heritage Site.

Reading up on Stonehenge is a worthy starting point, but the only way to appreciate the might and majesty of this iconic landmark is by viewing it in the flesh – or the stone, rather. You’d think Stonehenge Tours would know a thing or two about Ancient Britain’s most venerable site, and you’d be right. Here’s what they have to say on an autumnal visit:

“Autumn is the perfect season to discover mysterious Stonehenge. The new Visitor Centre is now a transformed experience and worthy of a family day out. As autumn colour develops, a great way to take in this spectacle is on foot. Take time to explore the Stonehenge landscape and walk in the steps of our ancestors at one of the world’s best-preserved prehistoric sites.”

In autumn, the prehistoric site sparkles in the low sunlight and radiates seasonal browns and yellows that transform the countryside into an organic patchwork quilt. Stonehenge Tours specialise in overseeing small group outings that present the best way to learn the secrets of this ancient monument, whilst still finding the space for quiet contemplation that its looming presence demands. Under big skies, gaze up at the biggest stone circle of all and ponder the arcane rituals that must have unfolded here in full moons, centuries and millennia past.

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Uncover the greatest myth of all at St Michael’s Mount

St Micahel's Mount Cornwall

At St Michael’s Mount, 1,000 years of history are littered with chatter about the grandest legend of all, for it is here that a mythical giant once walked. As you stroll across the ancient stone causeway, you can retrace his steps – but don’t count on matching him stride for stride. Even without the giant’s presence looming large over the island, there’s more than enough here to fire febrile imaginations.

Coastal path walkers and mount

Coastal path walkers and mount Photo: St Michael’s Mount

In 1588, the first beacon was lit on St Michael’s Mount to warn of the invading Spanish Armada fleet. History, myth and legend intertwine in this tight-knit community where pilgrims once flocked. In the year 495, for example, the Archangel St Michael supposedly appeared to a group of fishermen. Even if you fail to experience a similar epiphany during your trip to the Cornish paradise, there is ample intrigue and history to occupy a family holiday. And seafood and tea and fancy cakes too, for no man can subsist on a diet of urban legends and historical encounters alone, no matter how satisfying they may be.

Marazion holiday homes

Autumn is the perfect season to discover mysterious Stonehenge 

Dark deeds and buried secrets beneath the streets of Edinburgh

Royal Mary King Close

Beneath Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile lies another street that is every bit as historic. In fact, the Old Town conceals a maze of hidden streets that have scarcely changed since the 17th century. Not only is it mercifully free of chuggers, beggars and tuneless bagpipers, but Mary King’s Close is stowed with hair-raising tales of misdeeds and malfeasance. Make no mistake, this ain’t no ghost tour: this stuff’s scary because it actually happened.

Real Mary Kings Close, close up

Real Mary Kings Close, close up Photo: Real Mary kings Close

The Real Mary King’s Close run tours that explore this warren of subterranean streets and vividly recount their history. The underground/hour long tour should be suitable for all but very young children. Bring the family and perhaps they’ll finally start to appreciate what they’ve got in our pampered age of electric light, smartphones and relative law and order. If you think Mary King’s Close is sinister now, you should have met its residents 400 years ago.

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Spooky goings on in Cumbria’s Muncaster Castle

Muncaster Castle

On the surface, Muncaster Castle is a charming building and gardens that’s the perfect setting for an autumn walk or a fairytale wedding. And it is: Muncaster is all these things plus a world owl centre, concert venue, corporate playground and historic house. Dig a little deeper however and it soon becomes evident that there’s more to Munster than confetti and handmade crafts. The castle is reputed to be one of the spookiest places in Cumbria, and Halloween week is filled with special events.

Ian Topham from Mysterious Britain has this to say:

I have been investigating the site for 20 years and will be there on Halloween myself.  They really put on a great event which is certainly family friendly”

As if being billed as one of Britain’s most haunted castles wasn’t foreboding enough, October ushers in a host of horror-themed installations, from the Scary Maze to the endearingly-named Frightsville Village of Fear where, presumably, you really don’t want to trouble the neighbours for a cup of sugar. Evening ghost tours around the castle are immensely popular; booking in advance is recommended if you’re craving to give yourself the heebie-jeebies. Why settle for faux fear when you can experience the real thing in the spectre-infested tunnels and passageways of Muncaster Castle?

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Family Friendly Mystery

Mysterious Britain   Spooky Things   Tors Tour  Stonehenge Tour   St Michaels Mount

Mary  Kings Close   Muncaster Castle

Mysterious Britain

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