As the nights draw in, our thoughts turn to the spooky and supernatural. How do we celebrate Halloween in Snowdonia? Read on to find out!
Halloween is a favourite time of year for young and old alike. While youngsters enjoy going around their local neighbourhoods in fancy dress, knocking on doors and demanding ‘trick or treat’, for adults it’s a good excuse for a party with outrageous costumes and the odd drink or two!
Many of Snowdonia’s attractions hold special events at Halloween, and there are old traditions and customs which, although not as popular as they were a couple of hundred years ago, still endure in some of the more rural parts of Wales.
Here are a few suggestions of ways to enjoy Halloween if you’re visiting Snowdonia at the end of October.
1. Haunted houses
There are many properties in Snowdonia that have been described as haunted. Pop along during the spooky season and who knows? You may see a ghost yourself!
Gwydir Castle in the Conwy Valley is said to be one of Wales’ most haunted properties, with an array of spooky goings-on that include scary sights, sounds and even smells – not to mention the ghost of a dog that’s seen from time to time.
Plas Mawr and Aberconwy House – both in Conwy – have all sorts of scary stories attached to them. And the pubs of Caernarfon are also worth visiting if you’re hoping to spy a spirit or two; the Anglesey Arms and the Black Boy Inn are both said to be haunted.
2. Ride a ghost train
Unfortunately you won’t get an opportunity to ride an actual ghost train in Snowdonia – our steam trains are very much in the physical realm and are thankfully very solid – but there are always special trains laid on by at least one of Snowdonia’s steam railways every Halloween.
The Talyllyn Railway can usually be relied upon to put on a good show at Halloween. For example, spooky train rides along the railway to the haunted woods at Dolgoch, with a two course Halloween feast for adults and goody bags for the children, plus prizes for the best carved pumpkin lanterns and an invitation to wear fancy dress.
The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are also dependable sources of Halloween fun. With trains running from Porthmadog and Caernarfon, activities include visiting a spooky station in big dark woods, fireworks, fancy dress, and a hot supper.
3. Get crafty
Halloween craft events are very popular in Snowdonia. One of the top venues for children to be creative (all year round – not just at Halloween) is GreenWood Forest Park. Their terrifying timetable includes ‘creepy crafts’ where children can make lanterns, ghosts and masks and create their own Harry Potter broomsticks and pets fit for a witch. Speaking of witches, you may see one or two – along with other strange creatures – lurking around in the trees. There’s freaky face painting and a Halloween magic show, and an opportunity to meet some real owls. Turn up in fancy dress and you’ll receive a free cup of hot chocolate to warm your bones.
4. Halloween parties
There’s a fantastic Halloween art party at the Royal Yacht Club in Caernarfon that little ones won’t want to miss; it combines arts and crafts with all the usual party favourites – games, face painting and a disco – meaning children will be thoroughly entertained during the Halloween half term.
5. Celebrate Nos Galan Gaeaf
In Wales, the first day of winter is 1st November – in Welsh this is called Calan Gaeaf. The night before is Nos Galan Gaeaf, when spirits are said to gather at crossroads, graveyards and stiles.
Many of Wales’ old Calan Gaeaf traditions have died out now, but there’s nothing to stop any of us resurrecting them!
Coelcerth was a tradition which saw the family building a fire, and everyone placing a stone with his or her name on it in and around the fire. In the morning, if any stone with a name on it was missing, that person would die during the coming year.
Telling scary stories is also an old tradition. A favourite Calan Gaeaf story is that of Y Hwch Ddu Gwta, a tailless black sow that roams the countryside with a headless woman. According to tradition, you’d definitely want to be indoors safe and sound when the Hwch was around!