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Free Ghosts With Castle Discounts

October 30, 1994|LUCY IZON

Haunted hostels? Several in England and Wales have reputations for unusual occurrences.

Between the 11th and 14th centuries a number of castles were built to protect the borders between England and Wales. St. Briavel's Castle, which is in England's Wye Valley on the edge of the Forest of Dean, served as a Norman administrative center and a hunting lodge for King John. Today, it's a youth hostel that provides economical lodging for up to 60 travelers, and, some say, several ghosts.

Most of the other-worldly activity is focused on a deep dungeon that can only be reached through a trap door in the floor of one of the dormitory rooms. Not only have travelers reported a feeling of oppression in the room, one manager's dog couldn't even be dragged into it.

It seems that most sightings occur when renovations are going on in the building. This fall the hostel's kitchen is being refurbished. While the work has been in progress staff members have reported strange noises at night. And two young men, after a sleepless night, told of hearing tapping noises from beneath them and the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor. They didn't know that they had been sleeping above the dungeon. They refused to stay in the room a second night.

Another incident occurred several years back when people in other dormitory rooms were awakened by screams coming from this room.

Three French cyclists were sleeping in the dormitory. One claimed he was awakened by a soldier in an ancient uniform who was dragging him from his bed toward the trap door.

St. Briavel's Castle is in the center of a quiet village seven miles from Lydney, Gloucester; telephone 011-44-594-530-272. Dormitory beds for travelers over 18 cost about $12 per night.

Saffron Walden Youth Hostel is located in the oldest building (15th Century) in a large Essex village. In the 16th Century the building was used for malting (where hops were prepared for beer).

The story is that the maltster was an alcoholic who left all the work to his wife, who did it but nagged him. One day, when she was putting barley straw on the floor in what is now dormitory room No. 1, he crept up behind her and removed some of the floor boards. When she turned to leave she fell through the hole and broke her neck. It was easy for the maltster to remove the boards because in the 16th Century, when there was a shortage of wood, people took their floorboards with them when they moved. This is where the saying "up sticks and move" comes from.

The staff say that her ghost can regularly be heard walking around between dormitories No. 1 and 2.

Saffron Walden Youth Hostel is located at 1 Myddylton Place, Saffron Walden, Essex, tel. 011-44-799-523-117. Dormitory beds for travelers over 18 cost $11 per night.

Sheringham Youth Hostel is in the Norfolk coastline area, which is known for its beaches, dunes, cliffs and birds. The hostel itself is a Victorian building that was once a home for single Catholic mothers and belonged to the church next door.

The ghost is thought to be one of the nuns who used to live in the building. She is said to walk down the "nuns walkway" and to slam doors on occasion.

Sheringham Youth Hostel is at 1 Cremer's Drift, Sheringham, Norfolk; tel. 011-44-263-823-215. Beds for travelers over 18 cost $12.

These hostels close for periods during the late autumn and early winter so if you are visiting before spring, check before going.


Eurolines is a major operator of scheduled coach services from Britain to more than 270 destinations in Europe and Ireland. Of special interest to independent budget travelers are the 14 round-trip route fares that allow travelers up to six months to complete their journey.

For example, you can travel from London to Amsterdam to Paris and return, taking up to six months to complete the trip for $116.

If you hold a Hostelling International membership, a 10% discount is available if you purchase your ticket at a Eurolines office.

Other Euro Explore route fares include:

* London to Budapest to Prague and return for $171.

* London to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Paris and return for $332.

* London to Brussels, Warsaw, Amsterdam and return to London for $213.

Eurolines also offers a route fare for travel to Ireland, but this journey must be completed within three months. The route would be London to Dublin, Galway, Cork and return to London for $89.

The fares include ferry crossing, all toll charges and travel taxes.

For further information on other routes or to obtain the Hostelling International discount, contact Eurolines at 52 Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria, London SW1.

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