A short while ago I wrote about my love of ghost stories and ghost walks. And of course I had to mention that with ghost stories, atmosphere was the main thing for me. I said I wanted to actually 'feel myself standing on a moonlit path, knowing the ghostly fiend was approaching.' Um.
Last week I did stand on just such a path. Not so very moonlit actually because of all the foliage. It was a dark and murky path by a stream. We were told this was the very spot where the Gwrach-y-Rhibyn, the Witch of the Tattered Vestments (a more sinister Welsh version of the Banshee), was said to rise up out of the waters. To which she couldn't return without having taken a soul.
I wondered then whether I was the only one thinking the night-time noises around us had started to sound a little differently. Surely the multitude of creaking sounds was just caused by rain drops falling on the bracken. And not by, say, something unseen watching and stealthily approaching us. And that grey shadow moving around us while at the same time keeping its distance was obviously just a member of the group trying to find a better spot to position himself in. Obviously.
This is what the Llandaff Ghost Walk in Llandaff, Cardiff does to you. It spooks you. And not by means of cheap tactics like someone jumping from behind a bush or a gravestone (gravestones aplenty on this walk by the way - mostly of the overgrown, crooked, looming in the dark variety). Nor by using a fake, ghoulish voice (SO tacky that).
No, THIS ghost walk is simply story telling at is best, in what has to be the most eerie of settings. The area around Llandaff Cathedral has Atmosphere. And I doubt if there's anyone who knows more about it than Jim Cowan.
As I said, no tacky tricks on this walk. Jim tells his tales in a factual manner, but with a good dose of wit and humor. And he stresses that none of the stories are made up. They are all either part of local folklore or found in historical records and eyewitness accounts.
Whenever possible, a rational explanation is given for some of the sightings. More often than not though, there is no satisfying answer.
This includes some strange occurrences on the actual ghost walks. I have to say it's rather unnerving standing on a particular spot and being told what a certain gentleman saw JUST THERE only two weeks earlier. So yes, I admit it. I did get spooked.
And I LOVED it.
Wanted to go again straight away!
In fact, Fu and I did discuss going back to the graveyard that same night. Just to see if we would be equally unnerved without Jim there telling us about all the ghostly goings-on. The only reason we didn't venture on to the cathedral grounds again is that the rain was really pouring down by that time. Plus we had already ordered a taxi. Otherwise we would have definitely gone back straight away. Yep, definitely. Absolutely sure.
So what else can I say? This ghost walk is in a category of its own. Get thee off to Llandaff for a truly thrilling experience! This alone is well worth a trip to Cardiff for. Mind you book the walk in advance or you'll risk being disappointed. And probably best not get a room at the two hotels Jim Cowan mentioned have resident ghosts. Nah, not telling you which.
Oh and guess what - he is preparing another ghost walk AND he's writing a book. You know who's going to be first in line for either.
If you've read all the way down to here, you're probably just such a ghoul as I am. And you'll be craving more. So go on, have a look at the below short video of the Llandaff Ghost Walk. You know you want to...
Photos taken with my iPhone (then heavily doctored with various apps).
Video not made by me but effortlessly nicked from the Cardiff History & Hauntings website.