The Guardian: Family Halloween Events 2012

Haunted castles, eerie woodland walks, hair-raising ghost rides and spooky activities for all the family in our round-up of Halloween events around the UK.

Halloween night laser show at Muncaster Castle, Laake District, Cumbria

24 Oct 2012:

Bat Hunting, Gloucestershire

Kids will be able to roam through the grounds of Puzzlewood, hunt for bats and discover Halloween sculptures in the trees between until 31 October. This ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean is a perfect setting for an eerie game of hide and seek – the trees drip with moss and lichen and twist above spooky caves and strange rock formations. If the weather’s bad there are two indoor mazes and a new push-and-pedal bike racing track for under 5s.
puzzlewood.net, 01594 833187; adults £6.00, children £4.50, family £20, open 10am-4.30pm (last entry 3.30pm)

Grisly Gore Tour, Nottingham

Nottingham’s City of Caves attraction is adding an extra fright factor to its actor-led tours of the city’s atmospheric underground network of sandstone caves. You’ll encounter stinky smells and freaky feeling boxes – and maybe even a ghost or two – as well as the usual historic sights that include a medieval well and tannery and the slums of Drury Hill. There will also be free daily activities for children.
cityofcaves.com, 0115 988 1955, until 28 October, 10.30am – 4pm, adults £6.50, children £5.50, family £17.50, booking recommended

Frightwater Valley Halloween Festival, Ripon, North Yorkshire

If you’re looking for a more hair-raising experience, head for Lightwater Valley Theme Park near Ripon. The park’s thrill rides and roller coasters will take on a Halloween theme, with highlights including the Haunting of Skeleton’s Cove (the pirate-themed area of the park), getting lost at the Horror Maze and a live Raptor Attack dark ride set in an abandoned mineshaft. They’ll also be magic shows and some rides will be operating in the dark – and the promotional trailer is pretty scary too!
Advance booking recommended. lightwatervalley.co.uk, 31 October to 4 November, 10am-7pm, online booking £16pp, standard day ticket £19 (under 1.3m in height) or £23 (over 1.3m in height)

The Ghost’s Touch, Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield

Catch this heart-thumping new play by John Goodrum at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield on 1 November. Adapted from a short story by Wilkie Collins – the author of the Woman in White – it follows widower Stephen Rayburn’s encounter with a ghostly woman whose tangled past with the dead threatens to spill out from beyond the grave.
Advance booking required. windingwheel.co.uk, 1 November, 7.30pm, adults £14, children £8.50

Meet the Owls and More, Muncaster Castle, Cumbria

It’s reputedly one of Britain’s most haunted castles and ghost spotting aside, there’s plenty of Halloween activities for all the family to try. Meet Foppletwig the Genie Hunter and his baby dragon Ozric, enjoy creepy crafts and face painting, take part in the fancy dress competition or older children can brave the maze (over 12s). There will also be a new Creepy Owl Crypt this year, where you can come face to face with feathery members from the World Owl Trust. After dusk, the gardens will be transformed into a mile-long route of spooky lights and sounds, and there’ll be evening ghost tours.
Advance booking recommended, and required for ghost tour. muncaster.co.uk, 01229 717614, 27 October to 3 November; general entry to castle, gardens, maze and owl centre, adults £13, children £7.50, under fives free; ghost tour (includes general entry), adults £19.50, children £9.50, under fives free, 15% off all prices if booked online

Scaresville, Suffolk

A haunted “village” comes to life in the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk every autumn, and daring souls are invited to follow a dimly lit trail through dark rooms, forests and farmlands while ghosts and other creatures of the night may appear at any moment. The award-winning experience will last about an hour, and is not recommended for the faint hearted or young children.
Advance booking required. scaresville.co.uk, 01787 310207; £14.95-£24.95 on selected days until 3 November

The Insect Circus, Jacksons Lane, London

Join a circus of bugs, beasts and creepy crawlies as they take to the stage for a family extravaganza. The insect-attired actors perform a range of circus feats and tricks, with lots of silliness in between. For Halloween the audience is invited to come dressed in their best bug outfits.
Suitable for anyone over the age of two. Advance booking required.jacksonslane.org.uk, 020 8341 4421, 29 October to 2 November; £12.95/£10.95, family £40 for four people

Ghost Trail, Castle Fraser, Inverurie, and Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Scotland’s castles provide the perfect setting for ghostly-goings on. Spooks will come alive at Castle Fraser where kids can explore the building’s colourful and haunted past as they complete the Halloween quiz. Alternatively, they can have their faces painted in a ghostly style, get a gory scar in the great hall, try their hands at creating some scary crafts, or listen to some haunted tales in the library. At Glamis Castle in Angus there’ll be a ghostly guided tour and storytelling. Dress up for the chance to win a prize. And visitors to Scone Palace in Perthshire, once the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, can listen to storytelling around the ancient graveyard and take part in spooky witches, goblins and Dracula puppet making workshops, then watch a puppet show.
nts.org.uk/Property/Castle-Fraser-Garden-Estate, 0844 4932167, 13-27 October, 12pm-4pm; adults £9.50, children £3, family £23, no booking required. Glamis Castle: Halloween at Glamis 6, 7, and 8pm, 27 & 28 October, adults £9.25, child £6.75, family (two adults, two children) £27.50. Scone Palace: 27 & 28 October. Puppet workshop: £10 including access to the grounds and puppet show. Storytelling: £12.50 adults, £5 children.

Welsh Witches and Wizards, Chepstow Castle, Wales

This impressive cliff-top castle dates back to Norman times, so it’s sure to harbour some gory stories within its walls. But on 27 and 28 October the tales will be of Welsh witches and wizards, from ancient myths and legends to spells and potions to cast away gloomy weather.
cadw.wales.gov.uk, 01291 624065, open 9.30am-5pm (until 31 Oct then 10am-4pm from 1 Nov); adults £4, children £3.60, family £11.60 (2 adults and children)

Bodelwyddan Castle, Denbighshire

Prepare to be spooked as you join the castle’s paranormal team for a six-hour night-time investigation into areas of the castle usually off limits to visitors. In a slightly less scary tour, hear real life paranormal accounts on a ghost walk of the castle after dark, followed by a trip into the cellars. For little ones there’ll be horrible stories about the castle’s ghosts and ghouls – come in your best scary outfit.
Paranormal tour: 9-3pm, 26 October, £60 per person. After dark ghost walk (12 years old and over): 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4. Scary stories (five and over): 5.30-7.30pm, 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4. bodelwyddan-castle.co.uk, 01745 584060

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The Guardian: Desert Adventures (Round Up)

Set for a western in Spain's Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.
Set for a western in Spain’s Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.

16 Nov 2012: As film classic Lawrence of Arabia is re-released, why not channel your inner Omar Sharif with a few adventurous trips into the dunes?

Trek through Almería’s movie hotspots: Spain

It may not immediately ring any bells, but the Tabernas in Almería is considered to be Europe’s only real desert and has provided the backdrop for many famous films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Lawrence of Arabia. Who can forget Omar Sharif emerging from the wobbly desert heat haze? Tour Dust offers a six-day walking tour, with picnic lunches and the chance to tour the so-called “mini Hollywood” film set.
The Tour Dust (020-3291 2907, tourdust.com) trip starts at Lanjarón and costs from £501pp for six days including tour guide, six nights’ accommodation, as well as airport transfers (to and from Málaga, Granada or Almería)

Help deliver mail in the outback: Australia

Coober Pedy, a small mining town in South Australia, halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, is known as the opal capital of the world. It is so hot that many people live in underground houses, and visitors can get a taste of the subterranean experience by staying in the airy, dug-out rooms of the Desert Cave Hotel. The hotel offers ways to explore the area, such as the Painted Desert Tour, which will please Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fans as it includes a trip to Moon Plains, a fossil-rich former seabed where the movie was set. The Mail Run, operated by local outfit Desert Diversity, is a trip that allows would-be Postman Pats to meet Coober Pedy residents by helping to deliver their post.
The all-day Painted Desert Tour (+61 8 8672 5688, desertcave.com.au, doubles from £160) costs £138pp, including morning and afternoon tea, lunch and entry fees. The Mail Run tour (+61 8 8672 5226, desertdiversity.com) starts at the Underground Bookshop in Coober Pedy, £125pp for the day

Visit a film studio in the Sahara, Morocco

Atlas Studios is where The Mummy, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed. A visit to the studio is featured on a four-day Atlas Trek Shop tour of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and Ait Benhaddou Desert which starts and ends in Marrakech. It includes a two-hour scenic drive along Tizi n’Tichka, the highest mountain pass in the Atlas, and offers guests the chance to spend a night in a traditional Berber tent. Other stops along the way include various valleys and gorges and the 11th-century Ait Benhaddou kasbah.
The Atlas Trek Shop (+212 6 6876 0165, atlastrekshop.com) tour costs from £200pp for four days, including breakfast, dinner, accommodation, a two-hour camel ride, and 4×4 or minibus with driver

Kite buggy into the Gobi Desert: Mongolia

Happy Camel offers a 15-day guided expedition crossing 50km of this wild landscape. You will pass monasteries and castle ruins, as well as the Flaming Cliffs, where American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews discovered a vast collection of dinosaur bones and eggs in the 1920s. It also takes in Gobi Gurvansaikhan national park, where desert gazelles and golden eagles can often be spotted.
The Happy Camel (happycamel.com) trip costs from £3,230pp for 15 days, including accommodation in tents, Mongolian ger tents and hotels, food, guide, and van

Slice through the desert on a sandboard: Peru

Peru Adventure Tours runs day trips that will take visitors into the Arequipa Desert in a 4×4. Beginners may join the Arequipa Sandboard Tour, which sees guests slide down three different dunes before cooling off by the beach – followed by a visit to the Mejía Lagoons national bird sanctuary. Experienced boarders may prefer the Cerro Blanco Sandboard Tour, which lets them tackle the highest sand dune in the world at 2,070m.
The Arequipa tour with Peru Adventure Tours (+51 54 9738 42688,peruadventurestours.com) costs £121pp for nine hours, including tour guide, 4×4, boards, lunch, porter, water and entrance to the bird sanctuary. The Cerro Blanco tour costs £59pp for eight hours, including tour guide, van, board, snacks and access to swimming pool

Drive your own off-roader across the sands of Arizona: US

On this excursion, intrepid off-roaders can cross the Sonoran Desert in Tomcars (rugged two-seater buggies), accompanied by local guides. The trip takes in a “ghost town”, Indian ruins, and a turquoise mine, where visitors can try their hand at mining for the stone and keep what they find. Wildlife includes coyotes, rattlesnakes and desert mule deer.
The half-day tour with Desert Wolf (+1 882 613 9653,desertwolftours.com) starts at New River, Maricopa County, and costs £90 for adults, £55 for under-12s