Great Australian Escapes
Travels Through Yorkshire, England
“Of course, the castle is haunted you know,” teased the waitress as she served up tea and scones. In Knaresborough everything stops for tea and scones, but only when topped with a healthy lashing of fresh cream and raspberry jam. “They say the ghosts of several family members walk the halls of Allerton Castle,” she continued in a tone that suggested she had told this story before and obviously enjoyed it. Her manner was exemplary. Her advancing years were of little consequence to her appearance; she maintained an air of elegance. She was born in the village and had lived here all her life.
The village of Knaresborough sits in the northern county of Yorkshire, around thirty miles north of Leeds. The journey north along the M1 was instantly forgettable. Wrathful clouds followed me everywhere. The sky was a mishmash of drab greys, an incessant resource for the torrential downpour. “How old is the castle?” I asked, eager to discover more of this historic landmark.
“I think it was built sometime around the seventeenth-century. I know it was recently damaged by fire. Many of the rooms are off limits during repair and restoration. Is it a social engagement?” “My partner’s cousin is getting married there tomorrow,” I replied. “I’ve got a room on the high street for tonight.” The café was sat on the banks of the river that had cut through the landscape for centuries. The riverbed was now part of a great gorge that snaked through the outskirts of the village. Just before passing out of view, the river ran through the giant support pillars of the old railway bridge. Directly overhead lay the ruins of the old Knaresborough Castle. Overlooking the river and the gorge, the abrupt drop of the land must have provided the inhabitants of the castle a wonderful natural defence.
Today, a monument stands in the corner of the castle grounds depicting the names of those who lost their lives in more recent conflicts. I made for the high street and quickly found myself back in the modern world. The pace quickened as shoppers scurried in and out of shops seeking the latest bargains. Back at the hotel I thought about what the old lady had said. Was the castle really haunted? I lay in bed wondering about spooks and spirits. As the clock passed midnight the shadows in the room seemed more dark and sinister. I felt my imagination getting the better of me before thankfully, I nodded off.
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