The 8 most haunted locations in Dorset holiday cottages

The 8 most haunted locations in Dorset

Ed Roberts 21 September 2023

Dorset isn’t often associated with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. But if you are inclined to believe in all things supernatural and occult, then this holiday blog with a difference may interest you. 

Look closer and you will find that Dorset is home to quite a few haunted spots, many of which are open to the public. Have the tales simply been invented to spice up a historic visitor attraction's allure or is there really something sinister and otherworldly afoot? We love tales blended if with historical fact, and if that's your thing too, find a copy of Jon Woolcott's wonderful book Real Dorset.

We’ve been brave enough to compile a guide to some of the most haunted places in Dorset. If you are planning a holiday cottage trip to Dorset, perhaps you could visit a few. Don’t worry, none of our Dorset holiday cottages have resident ghosts or poltergeists (to our knowledge). Click on the button below to view our collection.

Athelhampton House near Dorchester

Athelhampton House near Dorchester | Winter trees in the late afternoon, a lush tree tunnel (Athelhampton Estate)

Athelhampton House near Dorchester is a Tudor mansion dating back to 1485 and is regarded as one of the most haunted houses in the whole country. 

Haunted by numerous ghosts, the top billing belongs to the infamous Grey Lady; her ghost has been seen stalking the corridors and lurking in bedrooms all times of the day and night. Second on the bill is the apparition of an ape (yes, you read that correctly). Sightings of a ghostly ape roaming the estate have been reported intermittently over the decades. In the 16th century, the once-owners had a pet ape; if you look at Athelhampton’s coat of arms you can see said creature peering back out at you. Among the other phantoms is the Black Priest, a wine cooper who taps barrels in the dead of night, and even a spectral cat.  

Athelhampton’s spooky reputation has attracted filmmakers and TV show creators over the decades. The Most Haunted team came to explore the house and grounds looking for the incorporeal in 2003, and in the seventies, they were preceded by Doctor Who for the episode, The Seeds of Doom. Are you a sceptic or a ghost seeker? This could be the place to make you a believer.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 5 out of 5 blood-curdling screams – it’s the Piccadilly Circus of ghosts!
  • Can I visit Athelhampton House?: Yes, Athelhampton House is open to the public.
  • Where is Athelhampton House?: Athelhampton House, Puddletown, Dorchester, DT2 7LG
  • What facilities does Athelhampton House have?: Parking, WCs, and assistance dogs are permitted inside the house – and dogs on leads on the grounds only, shop, and picnic area. For more information, visit the website.
  • Stay nearby: The Beeches | sleeps 12 + 2 dogs

Knowlton Church, near Wimborne

Knowlton Church, near Wimborne | A winter frost covers the grounds around the ruins of Knowlton Church

 Knowlton Church is a 12th-century ruined Norman church built on Neolithic earthwork with stone circles near Wimborne. It has found itself at the centre of several paranormal discussions due to the high number of ghost sightings there. 

Knowlton Church’s location is one of historic significance to pagan worshippers. Once the site of sacred standing stones that had stood for thousands of years, they were broken down and used to build the church walls (some of the stones have been found buried nearby). 

Visitors comment on its melancholy atmosphere, and it is said that the souls of the dead linger here. Ghostly faces have been seen at the doors and windows, and reports of a weeping nun apparition kneeling beyond the church walls exist too. Scariest of all is the phantom horse and rider that gallops across the site just before dawn when the night is at its darkest. Terrified yet? There are six more of Dorset’s haunted spots to get through before daybreak. 

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 5 out of 5 blood-curdling screams – we don’t want ‘nun’ of this one after dark.
  • Can I visit Knowlton Church?: Yes, Knowlton Church is an English Heritage site that is free to visit. For more information, visit the website.
  • Where is Knowlton Church?: Knowlton Church, Lumber Lane, Knowlton, Wimborne, BH21 5AE
  • What facilities does Knowlton Church have?: Limited parking, dogs on leads welcome.
  • Stay nearby: Drongstyle Cottage | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs 

Corfe Castle, near Wareham 

Corfe Castle, near Wareham | Corfe Castle in spooky mist during winter

Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck (near Swanage and Wareham) is one of England’s largest and most famous ruins. It is the best example of a sacked castle in the country that had fallen to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1646 during the English Civil War. Originally built for William the Conqueror’s son, King Henry I, during the 12th century, this fortress has had a magnificent history so it’s perhaps no surprise that it's been linked to scores of ghost sightings. 

Corfe Castle’s most infamous spectre is of Edward the Martyr, an Anglo-Saxon heir to the throne who was slew by his stepmother, Elfthryth. Details are sketchy about the 'wheres and whens' his spirit has been glimpsed, however, he’s in good company because there are similar rumours about a headless woman and a ghost child. 

Chances are, you probably won’t encounter anything to chill the spine here, as it isn’t open to the public after dark, and during the day, there are often lots of people around. However, if you are in attendance at a historic reenactment event, who’s to tell the difference between a ghost and a cosplayer?

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 3 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Corfe Castle?: Yes, Corfe Castle is open to the public. It is a National Trust site. For more information, visit the website.
  • Where is Corfe Castle?: Corfe Castle, The Square, Corfe Castle (village), Wareham, BH20 5EZ
  • What facilities does Corfe Castle have?: Parking, WCs, bookshop, gift shop, café, dogs on leads welcome
  • Stay nearby: Cherry Blossom House | sleeps 4 + 1 dog 

Durdle Door near Lulworth Cove

Durdle Door near Lulworth Cove | Mysterious lights at Durdle Door and the Milky Way

You may be quite surprised to see one of England’s most enduring and most photographed natural landmarks on our list of Dorset’s haunted locations. Well, it's a little-known fact that Durdle Door, the world’s most famous rock arch, has a ghost story of its own. It’s a good one too! 

Many years ago on a clear night, a passing sailor heard screams coming from the shore. Upon investigation, he saw a group of young girls who appeared from the water, danced around and then disappeared just as suddenly as they’d been conjured up from the sea. Many locals speculated that the water spirits he saw were the ghosts of maids who had fled a huge blaze that had consumed Lulworth Castle in 1929. 

The infamous French military commander Napoleon Bonepart’s (1769-1821) ghost is said to have manifested itself on Lulworth Beach as well as sinister black dogs that stand and bark at the waves, seemingly without a master in sight to answer to. Durdle Door isn’t just lush photography, sunbathing, and tombstoning after all.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 3 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Durdle Door?: Yes, the beach and landmark at Durdle Door are open to everybody for free.
  • Where is Durdle Door?: Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, BH20 5PU
  • What facilities are at Durdle Door?: Parking and WCs at Lulworth Cove (1.5 miles)
  • Stay nearby: Beach Cottagesleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Tyneham – Dorset’s ghost village, near Kimmeridge

Tyneham – Dorset’s ghost village, near Kimmeridge | The forlorn ruins of Tyneham in winter

Tyneham village, near Kimmeridge, is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and to this day, the entire village remains uninhabited. On Christmas Eve 1943, this peaceful village and 7,500 acres of surrounding heathland were commandeered by the War Office to help train Allied troops during World War II. The 250-plus inhabitants of the tiny Dorset village were given only days to pack their belongings and leave their homes forever.

A visit to Tyneham offers an eerie experience that is only accessible at weekends when the nearby military firing range is not in use. Paranormal investigators visiting this site have recorded disembodied voices (including a spirit that referred to himself as Warren), unexplained screeching noises, and stones being thrown. If rock-chucking poltergeists called Warren are your thing, then Tyneham should not be missed. 

However, if the ghosts fail to show up, this is a wonderful place for a day out as there aren’t many places like this left in England; places where time stopped. Other villages like this include Imber on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Read more about Tyneham in our guide to the Dorset’s ghost village here.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 4 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Tyneham?: Yes, Tyneham is open to the public, but only at the weekends. For more information, visit the website.
  • Where is Tyneham?: Tyneham, near Kimmeridge, BH20 5DE
  • What facilities does Tyneham have?: Parking, kiosk, WCs, dogs on leads are welcome (please take your dog waste and litter away with you or Warren will get you!), keep to marked paths, and avoid the live firing range.
  • Stay nearby: Carters Barnsleeps 6 + 1 dog

Bridport Museum, Bridport

Bridport Museum, Bridport | 17th-century ghosts holding hands

So far, in this haunted guide, we’ve had a haunted castle, the ghost of an ape, water spirits, and an apparition of France’s most famous naval commander. At Bridport Museum, we have a haunted dress called Gladys! Dating from the 17th century, the dress is of very high quality and appears to attract the apparition of a young woman, who guardedly looks over the garment. The dress has been known to walk, as it has been found in different parts of the museum, having moved itself during the night.  

Bridport Museum is located right at the heart of the town and the exhibits and displays come together to tell the story of the town’s history from its origins to the present day with notable displays on artefacts from a nearby Roman hill fort and the famous rope and net-making industries.

Several reports of a presence have been shared; the museum cleaners sense a weight around their shoulders and cold patches. In 1989, a priest performed an exorcism, sprinkling the dress with holy water and leaving a small silver crucifix in the display cabinet with the dress. Nobody still living knows who the dress belonged to, the mystery is yet to be solved. Read our guide on the top things to do in Bridport here.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 5 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Bridport Museum?: Yes. For more information, visit the website.
  • Where is Bridport Museum?: Bridport Museum, 25 South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NR
  • What facilities does Bridport Museum have?: WCs, gift shop
  • Stay nearby: Ropemakers Cottage | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Nothe Fort, Weymouth

Nothe Fort, Weymouth | Northe Fort at sunset

Nothe Fort is said to be one of the scariest places in the UK and has been investigated by everybody but the Ghostbusters for paranormal activity. The history of the place dates back to 1847, during Victorian times, for the defence of the harbour against French invasion. Since then, it has been repurposed as a nuclear bunker and a museum. But why is Nothe Fort so creepy?

We’d say much of its unsettling atmosphere is generated in the fort’s maze of underground passageways. Some employees at the museum refuse to wander around the grounds alone because of the Whistling Gunner and the ghosts of those who died in combat during the Second World War. Eerie whistling, steam train horns, footsteps, whispers, and air raid sirens have been heard as well as many sightings of spirits walking along the terraces. Nobody knows who the phantom whistler is but their tunes have been heard emanating from areas of the fort that are locked away to staff and the public.  

There are quite a few ghost tours (some offering overnight stays) at Nothe Fort if you are up for having the fright of your life. One such firm is Haunting Nights.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 4 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Nothe Fort?: Yes, it is a museum. For more information, visit the website.  
  • Where is Nothe Fort?: Nothe Fort, Barrack Road, Weymouth, DT4 8UF
  • What facilities does Nothe Fort have?: WCs, shop, nine disabled parking bays, cafe, dogs on leads welcome
  • Stay nearby: Honey Bee | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Bettiscombe Manor, near Axminster

Bettiscombe Manor, near Axminster | Human skull without jawbone

These days the world-famous Jasper Conran lives at Bettiscombe Manor but it was once home to Azariah Pinney (1661 - 1720), an Englishman banished to the West Indies for supporting the rebellion against King James II. It was there he became a plantation owner, acquiring many slaves. He brought one of the slaves, thought to have been a Jamaican or African man, back to Bettiscombe. Therefore sparking the legend of the screaming skull. 

The legend goes that not long after the servant arrived at Bettiscombe, he became ill and died. His last request was that he be buried in his homeland. Azariah promised to make this happen but instead, the man was buried at the local churchyard. Soon after, locals reported horrendous howls coming from the gravesite, forcing Azariah to remove the body to a loft at Bettiscombe. One version of the story says that all parts but the skull were later repatriated to the man’s home country. Attempts to remove the skull, too, have allegedly prompted it to scream.  

A writer named Eric Marple stayed at the mansion during the 1960s and said he was plagued by nightmares. But archaeologists have since determined that the head is that of a Bronze Age woman who lived 4,000 years ago, so make of this scary and astonishing bedtime story what you will.

Good to know

  • Scare factor: 5 out of 5 blood-curdling screams
  • Can I visit Bettiscombe Manor?: No, it is a private residence, although the gardens have been revealed to the public occasionally through the Open Gardens scheme.
  • Where is Bettiscombe Manor?: Bettiscombe Manor, Bettiscombe, Bridport, DT6 5NU
  • What facilities does Bettiscombe Manor have?: There are no public facilities at Bettiscombe Manor.
  • Stay nearby: Old Sawyers  | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Map of most haunted locations in Dorset

Check out our handy map of Dorset's most haunted locations.

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Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Dorset

Do you dare face the ghosts and ghouls of Dorset? Take a look at our scarily good holiday cottages to pick out a spooky family stay, a dog-friendly escape, or a luxurious retreat for two. We have the perfect holiday cottages (with a no-ghost guarantee) for you.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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