St. Briavels is not your average accommodation. It’s an 800-year old Norman castle that now serves as YHA hostel. Read here about Nichola West’s stay in this interesting place with small hallways and dark secrets. 

This post is part of the series called ‘Sleep less, dream more’ in which we share uncommon sleeping places and circumstances travelers encountered during their trip.

Written by Nichola West

There are some places that just by looking at them you know they’re special. That their walls can speak of thousands of conversations and the creaked floorboards can whisper of countless plots in the night.

St Briavels Castle is certainly one of these. Nestled in the forest overlooking the beautiful Wye Valley in Gloucestershire, England, St Briavels is an imposing but beautiful building. As soon as we arrived my 7 year old turned to me and asked, “Is it scary?”. I reassured him but I have to say, as the wind howled through on a December’s night, I wasn’t feeling overly relaxed!

Entrance of St. Briavels Castle. ©Nichola West.
Entrance of St. Briavels Castle. ©Nichola West.

St Briavels is an 800 year old castle and was once the hunting lodge of King John. It now belongs to the UK’s Youth Hostel Association and the banqueting halls have been divided up into smaller bedrooms. This means that you can stay, as we did, in the room with King John’s seat in it – jutting out high above our beds looking down on us as he once did over his courtiers.

Room St. Briavels. ©Nichola West.
Room St. Briavels. ©Nichola West.

Despite all expectations this wasn’t a scary stay for us. We slept well in the ‘State Apartments’ and happily turned up the following morning for a tour of the castle….which is when we realised we were lucky in our room allocation.

We could have been staying in the prison!

Years after King John had left the Castle it had been turned over to the community and became a magistrates court and prison. You can actually stay in the prison cells where the walls have the deep grooves of forlorn graffiti such as “For I have been here a great space; And I am weary of the place.” to the more threatening – “Robin Belcher. The Day will come that thou shalt answer for it for thou hast sworn against me, 1671″.

But this was nothing compared to the lovely hexagonal room that was down the stairs and across the courtyard. Here, the rug was pulled back to reveal a terrifying Oubliette – a long, deep drop where prisoners would have been dragged, screaming for mercy and pushed down. Door slammed shut. And left to die, a long, horrible death.

This is one room I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep the night in!

About the author

Profile photo NicholaNichola West is a travel writer exploring the world with her three children. From riding Icelandic horses in the shadow of the volcanoes to drinking chocolate milk in the Chocolate Museum in Havana they love to get out and see the world and write all about it on their blog: They also love their home country of England and exploring all the amazing places on offer there. At the moment she’s planning their next adventure in Russia.

Check out our other posts in the Sleep Less, Dream More series 



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