Life & Style | Travel

A pick of the spookiest holidays

The spook-filled destinations for freaky trips with a terrifying twist

  • By Farah Andrews, Junior Writer, Scene magazine
  • Published: 10:39 October 24, 2012
  • Scene

LaLaurie Mansion
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • LaLaurie Mansion.
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Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Fear factor

Boasting over 900 years of history, Edinburgh Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland, with a host of ghosts and ghouls roaming the castle and spooking visitors. The most famous among them is the centuries’ old phantom piper, who has been heard playing his bagpipes as he roams the castle’s many underground passageways and vaults.  Make sure you also pay a visit to Mary King’s Close, a warren of haunted undergound passageways under the Royal Mile, which feels like a 17th century timewarp (realmarykingsclose.com).

Another must visit haunted spot are the Edinburgh Vaults, which are thought to be taunted by the famous 1800s body snatchers, Burke and Hare. You can visit the creepy tombs as a part of the city’s walking ghost tours, there are loads to choose from, so check out goscotlandtours.com and pick your perfect tour.

What else can I get up to?

Edinburgh has to be one of the most wonderful cities in the world; it’s steeped in history and culture and is most famous for its August Fringe Festival, when the city comes alive with theatre comedy and art. But it’s worth visiting beyond the summer, as it has more cosy restaurants and bustling bars than you’ll be able to explore. For a perfect Edinburgh night, start out in The Grain Store (grainstore-restaurant.co.uk) on Victoria Street, where you’ll be treated to the best Scottish meat and fish, then sip on a few drinks in classy club, Opal  Lounge (opallounge.co.uk) on George Street.

The shopping in Edinburgh is absolutely fantastic, so make sure you leave a good few hours to explore department store Jenners. Plus, come November there’s a Christmas market in the Princes Street Gardens, it’s open into the New Year and is the perfect place to pick up fabulous, seasonal buys.

Stay here

Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh
For a stylish stay in the Scottish capital, check into Hotel Missoni on the Royal Mile and be greeted by hunky men in Missoni kilts – fun! You can then dine in the oh-so-stylish contemporary Italian restaurant, Cucina, and treat yourself to some R&R in the spa. Plus, if you check in with the Shop In Style two-night deal, you’ll be treated to welcome  cocktails in the bar, a threecourse dinner on one of the nights, a breakfast to get you prepared for a good day’s shopping and £50 (Dh300) of vouchers to spend in Harvey Nichols. Rooms from Dh1,400-per-night. hotelmissoni.com

Palace of Versailles, Île-de-France, France

Fear factor

The iconic French chateau, to be found about 20km from Paris, was the home of the French royal family until 1789 and is considered by many to be the most haunted place in France. The Palace was famously home to Marie ‘Let them eat cake’ Antoinette, and staff have reported sightings of the tragic Austrian Queen roaming the elaborate hallways. To be honest, we can’t blame her for not wanting to leave the incredible place.

Plus, tourists visiting the grand chateau have reported creepy, unexplainable orbs, presences and shadows in their photographs, and are even said to have seen of ghostly people in 18th-century clothing wandering the Palace. For even more spook factor, be sure to check out the Gardens of Versailles, the part of the palace that Marie Antoinette loved the most. The Queen spent most of her time in the gardens and has been spotted sat sketching in her favourite spot.

What else can I get up to?

Most people get to spooky Versailles by taking a train from the French capital, so head here for a holiday and you’ll also have Paris at your disposal. There’s more tourist fun to be had in Paris than you could shake a French breadstick at, but, if you’re still looking to be spooked, then head to the macabre Catacombs of Paris, which have been dubbed the ‘Empire of the  Dead’. The tombs were built in the mid 18th century when the city ran out of resting places for the dead, and the crypt houses the remains of millions of people. The haunted spot runs daily tours for tourists looking for a darker history in the City of Light.

When you’ve had your fill of thrills, there is a host of iconic must-sees, including the Champs Élysées, the two most iconic churches in the city the Sacré Coeur and Notre Dame and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Stay here

La Belle Juliette, Paris
Checking into the bright and pretty La Belle Juliette after you’ve been scared half to death will be a welcome relief. Leave all spooks at the door and enjoy the luxurious 6th arrondissement, bohemian hotel with long evenings in the hotel’s bar, La Talma, where a pianist tinkers away in the corner as you’re tempted by expertly mixed cocktails and famously fantastic French cheeses. Plus, the hotel’s just 2km from Montparnasse station, which will take you to Versailles in just 12 minutes. Rooms From Dh1,000- per-night. hotel-bellejuliette-paris.com

French Quarter, New Orleans, USA

Fear factor

The Southern port city of New Orleans has a history steeped in ghost, phantom and vampire stories; and if you’re after a creepy vacay, then look no further than the city’s French Quarter. While the city is most famous for its jazz, spicy food and bars serving up Bourbon, it also has a very spooky history, perfect for tourists seeking a touch of scare with their stay. Every New Orlean’s haunted holiday should begin at LaLaurie Mansion, a house mired in horrendously dark, torturous tales.

Trust us, a trip past here isn’t for the faint-hearted, as you’ll be regaled with true tales that wouldn’t seem out of place in an American Horror Story plotline. Hauntings at the house began shortly after a fire swept through it killing the countless slaves held hostage in the house by the owners (who fled). And although the house has now been converted into apartments, meaning you can’t go inside, you can still get up close to the mansion.

A fantastic way to visit all of the spookiest places in the city is with the Ghost Expeditions app (bit.ly/T2kbKH), which, once downloaded, leads you to 50 of the city’s most haunted properties, giving you the history as you go, so you can explore what you want to see and at your own pace. But if the idea of going solo on a ghost tour is a little much, then take the French Quarter Phantoms’ Ghost And Vampire Tour, which costs just Dh70 and kicks of at 8pm daily and leads you through hexed tombs, haunted houses and even past the future grave of actor Nicolas Cage, which has to be one of the strangest things we can think of doing
(frenchquarterphantoms.com).

What else can I get up to?

No trip to New Orleans is complete without dabbling in the city’s vibrant art and music scene. Start your cultural day off in the New Orleans Museum Of Art (noma.org), which is currently home to over 30,000 artefacts, spanning 4,000 years. We love the sound of their Friday Night Movies, which take place every week: just take along your own chairs and blankets and enjoy a vintage flick. Another must-do is an afternoon spent eating your way through the French Market (frenchmarket.org), which sells everything from arts and crafts to delicious fresh produce and has a really fun vibe. Don’t leave without trying a po’ boy – the traditional roast beef or seafood baguette is a Louisiana speciality.

Stay here

Hotel Le Marais, New Orleans
This inner-city hotel is styled in deep purples and bathed in light, making it a perfect destination for a luxury break. There’s no restaurant on site, but you certainly won’t be short of places to dine in New Orleans, and the in-house bar, Vive, is an ideal place in which to sit, back and relax after a long day spent ghost-hunting. Rooms from Dh800-a-night. hotellemarais.com

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