- Gwrych Castle in North Wales has been abandoned for decades.
- Mark Baker is in charge of restoring the castle, and he spoke to Insider about the castle’s long history.
- Built in the early 1800s, the castle originally acted as a private residence and then as a site for medieval reenactments.
- The castle is also said to be haunted by the ghost of its former owner, Countess Winifred.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
Built in the early 1800s, this castle was a private residence and then became a site for medieval reenactments. 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.
Keep reading to step inside the 200-year-old Gwrych Castle.
The sprawling Gwrych Castle overlooks the town of Abergele, North Wales.
The castle’s sweeping Gothic architecture has earned it the place as a local landmark.
“It’s like out of your imagination,” Baker told Insider. “It’s like a fairytale.”
The castle was constructed in the early 1800s to honour its builder’s family.
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.
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.
Baker said there are nine miles 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.
Today, the stained glass is missing or shattered.
In the 1870s, the castle expanded to include churches and gardens.
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.
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.
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.
Even though the castle was left in ruins, it still became the backdrop for the 1997 film “Prince Valiant,” starring Katherine Heigl.
With centuries of history, the castle is said to be haunted.
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, the man behind Urban Ex Boys, explored the castle for hisYouTube 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.
“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.
Baker said the castle is a work in progress but called the ruins “incredibly special.”
The ruins now reveal doorways to once hidden passageways.
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.
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.”
While the castle is now known for its haunted ruins, Baker wants people to remember its history.
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.”
- Read more:
- Take a look inside the famously creepy Winchester House, which has 160 rooms, staircases that lead to nowhere, and doors that open into walls
- 10 creepy photos of ‘ghosts’ that will make you question everything
- I toured two Ellis Island hospitals that have been abandoned for almost 65 years. Here’s what they’re like inside.
- Built in 1829 and abandoned since the ’70s, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the creepiest places in America. Here’s what it’s like inside.