If you’ve heard of dark tourism, then you’ll be familiar with the term. It’s the intrigue in visiting places associated with the dark or macabre. Inspired by this, and a demand for quirky and unusual venues, ‘dark barism’ is on the rise.
So where are these bars and why would you even want to go? It seems a continual quest for historical, intriguing and untapped places that provide an authentic setting and unusual backdrop. From the spooky to the haunted, from the weird to the whacky, here’s some inspiration for where to knock back a spirit, so to speak…
The Ostrich, Colnbrook
At first glance, The Ostrich near Heathrow looks like a quaint old English pub. Stepping inside, its warm fires and hearty British food bring a welcoming feel. But a trip through windy stairs to its bathroom conjures up images of days past, and a slightly chilling feel. It emerges that this charming hotel, restaurant and bar has witnessed more than 60 murders in its time. Most of these were committed by the former landlord who murdered guests for money, back in the 17th century. Many who stay or visit The Ostrich say it has an eerie feel to it, others believe it to be haunted.
The Mug, Worcester
In the UK, there are only two pubs built on consecrated grounds – The Mug is one of them. In the sleepy village of Claines, this 15th century house has been preserved by its family and still serves fine ales and home cooked food to this day. It all seems very twee until you realise that you’re sitting in the middle of a graveyard. Despite its warm welcome, this is not the sort of pub you’d want to stumble home late in the dark from!
The Golden Fleece, York
Regarded as the most haunted pub in the country, guests have witnessed doors open on their own, heard unidentified noises and supposedly spotted the ghosts of former guests ‘One-eyed Jack’ and Lady Alice Peckett among others. It may be small, but the Golden Fleece has a formidable reputation when it comes to spooky encounters over a swift half…
The Courthouse Hotel Bar, London
It’s hard to imagine that this well polished, immaculate hotel was once the heart of London’s gangland. The former courthouse has seen the likes of the Kray Brothers and other underworld criminals locked up here. Today the Judge and Jury bar pays tribute to its dark past with many of its original features and wooden walls still standing, and five refurbished cells to view, with many original features still intact. Meanwhile its Members Bar echoes all of the hallmarks of its previous life as a Magistrates court building. Not to mention, its cocktail menu features A Ball and Chain and Judge’s Launch to complete the experience.
The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Wales
As the oldest pub in Wales, The Skirrid Mountain Inn certainly has a lengthy history to talk about, formerly a courthouse that saw a grizzly end to more than 180 felons who were hung. There’s still an unsettling air in this Brecon Beacons public house and for those who are intrigued, markings from the rope can still be seen on the staircase wood today, and the noose still hangs as creepy reminder. One for the road? Maybe not…
Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London
Nestled in a Hackney basement, Viktor Wynd’s Museum is a place where the weird and wonderful collide. Part museum, part bar, this treasure trove of odd, creepy and intriguing artefacts is a homage to all that is curious and unaccounted for. It includes etchings from prison inmates, two headed kittens, doodles from the insane and much more disturbing and intriguing content to keep you entertained, over a shot of absinthe, or maybe something stronger.