England’s Most Haunted: Bestwood Lodge
I ended up in Nottingham at the beginning of the week for work and it’s been busy! Apart from my widely known obsession to find the best burgers in the world, I also try to find all the haunted or creepy places in any city I go to. I once did a haunted trip of the Cotswold going to all the haunted manor houses and castles. I’ve never had any particularly paranormal experiences in my life but being a history geek, I love the historical imprint people leave behind and I love mysterious and creepy places. I randomly booked the Best Western Bestwood Lodge about 4 miles out of the city centre, cause it’s within walking distance from where I need to go in the morning. Imagine my delight when I find out it’s been included in the top 5 most haunted hotels in England and it was, you guessed it, the location for Ghostcon 2003 (yeah, I didn’t realize nerdy ghost conventions existed either)!! Bestwood is set on 700 acres of parkland in the middle of a residential area at the heart of Robin Hood country. It used to be the hunting estate of King Charles the II and his mistress Nell Gwynn, an orange seller turned actress, who is believed to be responsible for a number of ghostly events. The current building was built in 1863 and later became the headquarters for the army in WWII. In the 1970’s is was bought from the ministry of defense and converted into a Best Western and sadly not much has changed decor wise since. Noted paranormal events include the smell of oranges in one of the rooms when children are present, people dressed in medieval clothing that disappear and the disembodied groans of soldiers. One evening a barmen went to change a barrel in the cellar, where supposedly some bodies were buried and the lights went out and a voice said to him, ‘Can I help you, Sir?’ He came back up frightened thinking someone had played a trick on him but nobody had touched the light switch or had been down there. When he went back downstairs the barrel pipe had mysteriously been changed.
At the end of my first days work, I get directed to a maze of narrow paths going through the woods that lead me to the stunning grounds of this hotel. I’m immediately wowed when I turn a corner and set eyes on this beautiful neo gothic building and see a plaque mentioning the hidden Japanese garden that was once there and discovered on the site between thick trees. Sadly it has not been restored and they only provide a small drawing of what it may have looked like in all it’s grandeur (drawing not included, sorry).
When you walk inside the hotel, the first thing that hits you is the musty smell and there is something slightly Stephen King’s “The Shining’ about it. It’s depressing that this amazing place ends up in the hands of a chain hotel. They have pictures on the wall advertising their wedding specials and you can imagine that this has the potential to be an a perfect wedding location, but at the same time I think how depressing it would be to have it there with its current decor, dated carpeting and all. I end up having dinner while sitting on a large red Chesterfield chair in the dimly lit bar, as it is the only option for food in the area. It has a really high ceiling with a sky light and a balcony with arches on the second floor that look on to the bar. The bartender doesn’t seem that interested in the place or know much about it sadly and I retreat to my google searches on the building, while having my Guinness and watching a few patrons in the bar. I ordered the burger which was surprisingly ok apart from the reheated stale or frozen bread which completely crumbled as I tried to hold it. Also, I feel like I’m in an 80’s cafeteria when I receive condiments in little plastic packages, but it went well with the outdated theme of the hotel to the point where I’m charmed as it all adds to the atmosphere of this supposedly haunted and isolated place.
I explored all the different hallways looking for some original features and nooks. The room was clean and nice enough but the dated curtains and thin walls, where I could hear someone going to the washroom in a connecting room, made it less appealing. Absolutely nothing creepy happened that night and the creepiest part ended up being the dining room where you have breakfast. It’s as if time stood still and I was in the 70’s with some lifeless people eating a fry up. That said, there is something really special about this place. It’s a total shame that no one has done this place justice but there is something peaceful and lonely about it I really liked. I could tell, just like myself, everyone ended up there either on business or in passing. Unlike the many stunning historical houses around England this wasn’t somewhere the tourists would descend upon. It’s a hidden gem and will probably stay that way for a while. I’m looking forward to getting lost in the trails next time and maybe catching a ghost or two on my next visit.