Last updated on July 26, 2023 by Wandering our World
Since the release of Dark Tourist on Netflix, the industry has seen a spike in interest in the dark, macabre, and just plain weird tourist experiences destinations have to offer.
Every place has its history, and if we’ve learned everything we know, the practices of our ancestors were far from kosher. Historically, people have committed all variants of atrocities and have been through plenty of tragedies, whether it be natural disasters or wars.
The United Kingdom is no different and is the host to many curiosities that can be both disturbing and intriguing, like a bad car crash…
We’re curious and will try anything once for a taste of adventure. Dark Tourism is the new fad, so we’ve decided to find the most unique, bizarre, and just plain eerie destinations for you to explore.
So if you’re looking for chills and thrills, here’s a guide to must-see dark tourism sites in the UK.
12 Dark Tourism Sites In The UK You Have To Experience!
1. The Tower of London
The Tower of London is infamous for its history of death and atrocity, piquing the curiosities of history buffs and fans of the macabre just itching to see the crumbling walls.
The Tower is home to some interesting and unique aspects of British history, including the Crown Jewels and nine resident ravens with their own legends and superstitions.
It’s a World Heritage Site, known for its influences throughout the ages and the twisted history behind its walls. But while open to the public, the Tower of London still has its secrets, which simply adds to its mystery. Especially knowing that somewhere hidden out of sight are torture chambers that once held London’s most infamous prisoners.
Perhaps one of the most famed stories in its history is the beheading of Anne Boylen, King Henry III’s 2nd wife; after all, it caused a noticeable change in British history.
It is rumoured that her ghost still haunts the Tower, with sightings of the pale visage dating back as far as the 16th Century, shortly after her execution.
Tags: Ghost Tourism; Dark History; Morbid Tourism; Heritage Tourism
2. St. Leonard’s Ossuary
St. Leonard’s Ossuary is a crypt beneath the Parish of St. Leonard in Hyde that houses the skulls of over 1000 individuals. It’s the largest known collection of human skulls in all of Britain and was mentioned in text dating back to the 18th century.
Speculations about the bones’ origins have been made, but no answer has been found. The most common working theory is that the bones were collected from numerous cemeteries around the town when they were put out of use in the 16th century.
The Ossuary is entombed in intricate architecture that suggests it might have once acted as a Charnel House, but the history of the building is as steeped in mystery as the origin of the skulls.
The sight of walls of skulls and mounds of bones is surprisingly humbling and does well to remind us of our mortality. And while the idea of thousands of hollow eye sockets seems scary, there have been no reported incidents of paranormal activity in the Ossuary, if that helps you sleep at night.
Location: Hythe, Kent
Tags: Dark History; Grave Tourism
3. Jack the Ripper Tours
Jack the Ripper was a notorious serial killer active in the Autumn of 1888 in Whitechapel, London. He has become the boogeyman of many stories, not because of the high victim count; only 5 known victims were discovered. No, it was the brutality and severity of the murders that garnered international attention, which was a feat for that day and age.
His mystery has lived on, much like modern serial killers such as the Zodiac, and has inspired a few to create walking tours that throw you back to that haunting time.
These walking tours take you to the sites where the atrocities happened and, at length, detail the brutal discoveries and the investigations that came back fruitless.
While the real name and face of Jack the Ripper are still unknown, the fear he struck into the impoverished community of Whitechapel still exists. These tours keep horror alive and are a great thrill for people intrigued by murder and mystery.
To date, very few advancements have been made in the Jack the Ripper case, although detectives and historians often try to use modern forensics to determine exactly who the savage killer was.
Location: Whitechapel, London
Tags: Macabre Tourism; Murder Mystery; Morbid Tourism
4. The Poison Garden at Alnwick Garden
Tucked within the seams of the gorgeous 12-acre Alnwick Garden is a wrought-iron boundary that separates beauty from death. Labelled the “Poison Garden,” this fenced-in section of the garden is home to over 100 species of the world’s most lethal plants.
Created as a sort-of pet project by the Dutchess of Northumberland, this garden serves to educate. She believed the idea of deadly plants would appeal more to kids and those who suffer from morbid curiosity, and she was right!
The garden is only available through guided tours, as strict safety protocols are in place. This hasn’t stopped the plants from doing their thing, though, and it’s not uncommon to hear of a guest fainting after inhaling toxic fumes.
The garden has varieties from all around the world. It even features common garden plants that people don’t realise have a nasty reputation. The dutchess has even made sure to grow some narcotic plants, such as Marijuana and Coca (the mother to cocaine), as part of an initiative against drug abuse.
Either way, you don’t have to be a green thumb to admit that’s pretty cool; as scary as it might be, finding out your garden variety hedges could kill you.
Location: Denwick Lane, Alnwick
Tags: Morbid Tourism; Macabre Tourism
5. Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey, a once gorgeous feat of architecture, had fallen into disrepair since the early 15th century when the already war-torn buildings were further destroyed for other purposes by King Henry VIII.
It was originally built by the Benedictine Monastery as a place of worship and learning, and played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity in the area.
Throughout its years, it was the subject of invasive forces, who had destroyed some of its walls and left it derelict.
But its most infamous visitor was the author of the original Dracula novel, who used it as a setting for some of the most pivotal points in the book.
Today, that heritage is a prominent part of the old abbey, with fanatics gathering to live their deepest, darkest vampire fantasies within the walls of Count Dracula’s stead. They even broke the World Record for the most Draculas in one venue!
So if you’re looking to explore the creepy ruins, learn more about its history, or just want to feel like a creature of the night, Whitby Abbey is a must-see Dark Tourism destination in the UK.
Location: Abbey Ln, Whitby
Tags: Dark History; War Tourism; Supernatural Tourism;
6. Pluckley: The Most Haunted Village in England
Pluckley is a town of immense history dating all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon period. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the village thrived, growing in industry and population. Still, with several factors influencing the turn of the 20th century, it underwent a major population decline.
The town still boasts its historic buildings, which are a hub for tourist activity. But the real reason curious onlookers visit Pluckley is its reputation as England’s most haunted village!
Paranormal and dark tourism enthusiasts flock to this UK village for the chance to have a close encounter with ghosts and ghouls, so much so that the town’s entire tourism industry is moulded around it.
Ghost tours are available throughout the year, taking brave visitors to haunted buildings and sites in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a ghostly figure. Popular sites include the Black Horse Inn and the Church of St. Nicholas.
The legends around the town are quite interesting, and if you plan to get your fair share of goosebumps, you’ll surely find it when hunting for any of their dozen resident ghosts.
Location: Pluckley, Kent
Tags: Paranormal; Dark History; Macabre Tourism; Morbid Tourism
Sellafield is a nuclear fuel reprocessing and decommissioning site located in Cumbria, England. It was originally built in the 1940s and 1950s as a nuclear fuel production facility and was known as Windscale at that time.
In 1957, a fire erupted in Windscale’s Unit 1 with devastating effects. While this was before the meltdown in Chernobyl, it has been on the list of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, rating at a 5 on a 7-point scale of the Nuclear Event Scale.
The towns surrounding Sellafield still show the detrimental effects of it today. While nuclear waste has been “safely” disposed of since the ’50s, environmentalists are still picking up radioactive activity on beaches and surrounding lands.
It is known as England’s most polluted area, which is yet to deter people from living there. So if you’re looking for a place in the UK to feel humbled by human impact today, Sellafield would be the place to visit.
Tags: Dark History; Disaster Tourism; Nuclear Tourism
8. Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle was once a pillar of history for the UK and went through many transitions since its initial build. From palace to prison, the ancient building has so many memorable characteristics on display through guided tours and exhibitions.
Other than the heinous torture and housing of some of the UK’s most notorious prisoners of the time, Lancaster Castle is involved in another dark era of history that might tickle your fancy.
Lancaster Castle is known for the infamous Witch Trials of the 17th century. It was a central hub for Witch Hunts at the time and often became the final resting place for people accused of having otherworldly powers.
The executions were brutal and, as a result, left behind some spectral entities that add to the charm of the old building. That’s right, prisoners, witches, and now ghosts; Lancaster Castle seems to rightfully be a hub of supernatural activity, so enter if you dare.
Location: Castle Grove, Lancaster
Tags: Supernatural; Dark History; War Tourism
9. Overtoun Bridge
The phenomena of Overtoun Bridge have attracted the attention of mystery enthusiasts intrigued by the enigma of the “Dog Suicide Bridge.”
That’s right. Since the ’50s, the bridge has seen hundreds of dogs throw themselves off into the rocky gorge below. But people have yet to learn why. Dog owners often report strange behaviour from their beloved pooches before they suddenly throw themselves from the ledge.
The mystery behind the cause of this phenomenon is heavily debated, but the local lore dictates some supernatural force is at play. Some think it’s due to the ghost of the grieving widow, “The White Lady of Overtoun.”
Some dog walkers have sworn that they could see their dogs recognising a presence around the bridge, while others just seem convinced that the dogs made the great leap after smelling mink, which is common in the area.
It’s morbid curiosity at its finest, especially since nothing sounds worse than the idea of a dog harming itself. But we’d like to mention that in most cases, the dogs survive and fully recover.
That still begs the question, why are the dogs doing this? Aside from this creepy factor, the area makes for a lovely walk through the woods.
Location: Dumbarton, Scotland
Tags: Paranormal; Morbid Tourism; Mystery Tourism
10. Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms also offer a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made during the war and the importance of peace and diplomacy. It is an interesting destination for those interested in the history of WWII and the role of the UK in it.
The war rooms were the underground command centre for the British government during the war and were used by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his staff to plan and coordinate the country’s defence efforts.
Guided tours are available, but it acts as a museum that preserved the scene of the UK’s strategic planning operations that ultimately helped the allies win the war against Nazi Germany.
It’s humbling in all capacities and a much-needed relic of the past to remind us of the tragedies that unfolded. But it reminds us of the horror and death that the world faced at the time, making it a hub for Dark Tourism in the UK.
Tags: Dark History; Disaster Tourism; War Tourism
11. Hunterian Museum
Morbid curiosity can lead people to do some rather odd things, and a visit to the Hunterian Museum is one of them. There’s a reason horror movies often use preserved organs as a backdrop to creepy scenes; it’s disturbing, but realistically, there’s a reason most of these backdrops are featured in places of medicine and science.
While the Hunterian Museum was not originally designed to be a creepy sideshow attraction, and that still is not its purpose, it has become a hit amongst the dark tourism crowd for its strange human and animal anatomy collection.
The original collection was started in 1923 as a learning aid for those studying human and animal anatomy. Named after the Hunt Brothers, who were some of the first few individuals to originally study anatomy as part of science, it is home to everything from severed limbs to growths, tumours, and congenital abnormalities, all perfectly preserved and displayed.
We can’t deny that it’s intriguing, and although rather disturbing to think some poor bloke’s foot is now trapped in a jar of formaldehyde, we can forgive it; it’s for science. But those who enter are warned that the displays are gruesome and disturbing if you aren’t prepared to face the reality of strange medical anomalies.
After all, if you’ve never seen what diseases like syphilis can do to the body, the results might be incredibly horrifying. But that’s part of the experience that makes it so interesting. And you’ll be thanking your lucky stars upon leaving for modern medicine.
Location: The Royal College of Surgeons of England 38, 43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London
Tags: Morbid Tourism, Macabre Tourism
12. The Crime Through Time Museum
An unfortunate part of human existence is that murderers walk among us. While names like Bundy and Dahmer have recently hit the screens as biographies of their lives were turned into movies and series, there are even more disturbed individuals out there.
The Crime Through Time Museum highlights some of the UK’s most infamous killers and heinous criminals through memorabilia and exhibits that hint towards their gruesome nature and show the disturbing truth behind their guise.
Not only can you find Murderabilia such as Fred West’s tie, but you can also find gear from organisations like the KKK, Nazis, and more that can create a disturbing image of humanity’s dark side.
But if the dark and disturbing isn’t for you, you’d enjoy hanging around the celebrity scandal section and enjoying some hot gossip dating back a few decades!
Honestly, the museum is packed full of crazy and interesting things. The creator behind the concept, Andy Jones, has brushed shoulders with some of the UK’s most notorious individuals and has found a unique way to remind people of their horrible deeds.
The whole idea is quite terrifying because most documentaries often forget to highlight just how normal individuals appeared before committing acts of violence. Is anyone else developing trust issues, or is it just us?
If the disturbing contents of the museum weren’t enough, let’s sprinkle in some resident ghosts from the Littledean Jail the museum is housed in to make it even more freaky and outlandish. For a dark tourism site in the UK, The Crime Throughout Time Museum is a must visit.
Location: Littledean Hill Rd, Littledean, Cinderford
Tags: Morbid Tourism; Dark History; War Tourism; Paranormal; Murder Tourism
Our Final Thoughts
So if all the regular tourist sites have lost their lustre, and you’re looking for something exciting and different, here you have it, a small guide of a handful of the most disturbing, emotion-evoking, and just plain creepy dark tourism destinations in the UK that’ll truly make for a memorable trip.