An abandoned, 200-year-old castle in North Wales is said to be haunted by its former owner – take a look inside

An aerial view of gwrych castle surrounded by greenry
Gwrych Castle Estate. David Goddard/Getty Images
  • Gwrych Castle in North Wales was left abandoned decades ago.
  • Built in the early 1800s, the castle was a private residence and then a site for reenactments.
  • The castle, now used as the set of a TV show, is also said to be haunted by its former owner.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

The sprawling Gwrych Castle overlooks the town of Abergele, North Wales.
Arial view of gwrych castle with green hills and water in the background
Gwrych Castle in Abergele. Mark Baker
Insider spoke with Mark Baker, who is in charge of restoring the castle, to learn more about its history and the ghosts that haunt the grounds. 

“[The castle] is like out of your imagination,” Baker told Insider. “It’s like a fairytale.”

The castle was constructed in the early 1800s to honor its builder’s family.
Black and white aerial photo of gwrych castle
Gwyrch Castle. Cornell Capa/Getty Images
In 1812, Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh started building the castle as a memorial to his mother’s family, the Lloyds of Gwrych. Once complete, he used the castle as a private residence. As the years wore on, the castle’s grounds continued to expand and develop. 
The entire Gwrych Castle Estate sits on a massive 4,000-acre plot of land.
An aerial view of gwrych castle surrounded by greenry
Gwrych Castle Estate. David Goddard/Getty Images
The sprawling estate is filled with hidden treasures from the castle’s long history. 
When the Hesketh family lived in the castle, there were 128 rooms, including 28 bedrooms.
Birds eye view of gwrych castle ruins
The interior of the castle from the sky. Mark Baker
Baker said there are 9 miles (14km) of walls in the castle, and today, they are covered in greenery and completely exposed to the environment. 
The windows of the castle were made of cast iron and stained glass.
Boarded up windows of gwyrch castle
The windows at Gwrych Castle. John Walker
Today, the stained glass is missing or shattered.
In the 1870s, the castle expanded to include churches and gardens.
Restored gardens at gwrych castle overlooking the landscaoe
The gardens have been restored. Mark Baker
Lloyd left the castle to his son, Robert Bamford-Hesketh, who moved in with his wife, Ellen. Together, they expanded the castle’s grounds. Their biggest contribution was the castle’s gardens which included yew trees. 
But the most famous piece of design was the castle’s marble staircase.
The staricase at gwrych castle covered in overgrowth and greenery
The marble staircase. John Walker
Robert and Ellen left the castle to their daughter, Countess Winifred, and her husband. They commissioned the British architect Detmar Blow to build a 52-step marble staircase in the house. Today, the staircase still stands. 
In the mid-1900s, the castle was turned into a tourist attraction.
The exterior of gwrych castle with green hills in the background
The abandoned castle. Laurie Oliver
Gwyrch Castle became known as “The Showplace of Wales” where tourists came to experience medieval reenactments. About 10 million visitors climbed the famous marble staircase over two decades. 
In 1985, the castle officially closed and was left abandoned.
The interior of gwrych castle looking out the windows
Inside the ruins. John Walker
Even though the castle was left in ruins, it still became the backdrop for the 1997 film “Prince Valiant,” starring Katherine Heigl.
More recently, the site was the location for the British TV show, “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”
Dirt patch outside Gwrych Castle
Gwrych Castle. Natural Earth Imagery/Shutterstock
While the show usually films in Australia, it chose the North Wales location in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be used for the 2021 series, as well, and preparations are underway.

The castle is expected to open to the public again in 2022.

With centuries of history, the castle is said to be haunted.
Looking down the overgrown staircase at gwrych castle
The staircase at Gwrych. John Walker
The most common ghost story heard at Gwyrch Castle is that Countess Winifred — a powerful woman who invested in hospitals, art, and religion — haunts the ruins. People say her spirit is still stuck in the castle. 

“I’ve seen some strange things and heard some strange things,” Baker said. He remembered seeing a ball of light on the marble staircase.

Other guests have had similar creepy experiences on the legendary staircase.
John Walker in the castle's ruins holding a selfie stick
in the castle’s ruins. John Walker
John Walker, the man behind Urban Ex Boys, explored the castle for his YouTube channel back in 2014 and said he remembers an unsettling feeling. 

“The best part was going in and seeing that staircase, and there was a creepy feeling of being watched,” Walker told Insider. 

One of the managers of the castle said they had a ghostly encounter at one of the castle’s five gates.
A gate with overgrown greenery at gwrych castle
Gwrych Castle’s gates. John Walker
“Terrified, I heard the chain on the main gates rattle slightly and then the footsteps began to advance towards me,” the duty manager wrote on the castle’s website. “It was pitch black on the Main Terrace, and I was waiting for the electrician to finish in another part of the castle so I could lock up. The footsteps grew closer and closer … and then came to a dead stop about a foot in front of me. Barely able to take a breath, I got out my phone and flashed its torch … but there was nobody there.”
It’s easy to believe this castle is haunted. Its walls are peeling and the rooms are cold and empty.
The crumbling interior of gwrych castle
Inside the castle. John Walker
Baker said the castle is a work in progress but called the ruins “incredibly special.”
The ruins now reveal doorways to once hidden passageways.
Looking up through the windows inside gwyrch castle
Inside the ruins. John Walker
The castle’s secrets have been exposed to the elements.
Although most of the castle is decaying from years of abandonment, you can still see touches of its incredible design.
A crumbling mantle over a fireplace in gwyrch castle
A mantle over a fireplace. John Walker
Since he was 12, Baker has been working to restore the castle to its former glory so that it can stand for many more decades. 

“We have 120 rooms to restore,” he said. “That’s a massive undertaking.”

According to Wales Online, the reported £300,000 ($US412,000 ($AU555,604)) the team behind “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” paid to use the castle last year is going towards the renovation.

While the castle is now known for its haunted ruins and its recent TV appearances, Baker wants people to remember its history.
Exterior of gwyrch castle overlooking the landscape
Gwrych Castle. Mark Baker
As Baker turns the castle into a place that tourists can explore and learn, he wants everyone to remember that these ruins are filled with a storied past. 

“In one site, you got 200 years of history,” Baker said. “These stories are so rich and powerful. We want to save it and preserve it for the future. We want people to feel connected with that past.”