Tucked away amongst the trees on Howle Hill, Hill House stands defiantly at the top of a ridiculously steep drive. My car does NOT like that hill. I've rolled back down it more times than I've successfully driven up it! Maybe it's the other way round? Maybe the hill, and the house don't like my car? I'll leave that thought for now. I say Hill House stands defiantly, because the house has an attitude about it. 'Take me as I am or don't take me at all'. And I have to admit, I'm very taken with it.
The oldest part of the house dates back to 17th Century and has rumoured links with nearby Goodrich Castle. There have been additions to the house in the Victorian era, 1920s, 1950s and 2000s. When you're inside, it's not obvious which parts are extensions. It's like the house has welcomed and embraced each new room. Made each one its own, made each one part of the master plan. I'm aware that I'm talking about the house as if it's alive. It isn't, of course, and I'm not barking mad either. But don't you ever feel that some buildings have a soul? I do, and this house does. It's more than just bricks and mortar.
The house is set in a wooded area, which makes for a lovely, yet still spooky walk on a warm evening. The views of the surrounding Herefordshire countryside are stunning, and set the scene for some the most beautiful sunsets I've seen. And I've travelled! In the daylight hours, the rooms are welcoming and comfortable. I think the wood burner and 7ft 4-poster, curtain draped bed are the only reasons that I keep going back to the Dryad Suite. Sitting around the large dining table, in a room lit only by candle light, you could imagine you're dining in a medieval manor house. The perfect setting to start a night of paranormal investigating. In truth, after the amazing dinner Duncan cooks, followed by homemade ice cream, followed by cheese and crackers, all I really want to do is lie down!
My first visit to Hill House was 6 months ago. When I left, I can honestly say I had no intention of returning. I wouldn't go as far as to say never again, but definitely not any time soon. Don't get me wrong, the place is incredible. But the spirits are challenging, and mixed with a complete lack of sleep, I was drained. Physically and emotionally.
October Halloween weekend was my first visit, and our group were already talking about returning in January. I still wasn't ready, I just didn't want to go. And yet, I knew soon enough, I'd have to go back. By the time February came round, we had booked to go back at the end of March, and I couldn't wait! What a complete turnaround. I've been told the house can do that to you. And now, after my second visit, I'm desperate to get back. The house is pulling me in.
On the drive there this March, I tried to explain how I was feeling to my mum, who was joining me at Hill House. As I drove nearer, reaching Tewkesbury, my excitement was beginning to turn into a nervous adrenaline. I felt like I was off to visit a scary grandma, someone you know you love deep, deep down, but terrifies you all the same. I guess this mixture of emotions just goes to show how unpredictable the house can be. So very welcoming in daylight, and yet when night falls, it becomes a whole different place.
Hill House is currently operating as a bed and breakfast, as well as being a family home. It has a unique style, and a very homely atmosphere. I absolutely love investigating in my slippers and going down to breakfast in my pjs. There is a home cinema to enjoy, with an endless collection of DVDs, a sauna if you enjoy them (I hate the things), and a dark, cosy bar with Chesterfield couches and a crackling open fire (much more my scene).
Once featuring on Channel 5's 'The Hotel Inspector', Hill House and owners Alex, and more specifically Duncan, were up against the critical eye of show host Alex Polizzi. When I caught up with the episode after my first visit, I felt a strong protectiveness building inside me. Alex may have had some good points, I'm glad I never got to see the old fish tank, and the place is definitely a bargain to stay at, but hey, that's no bad thing from a guest's point of view! On the whole though, I think she was trying to turn Hill House into something that it isn't. And I'm glad she was 99% ignored. There is some choice artwork and the cobwebs come as standard. But I've been thinking about those cobwebs, and the reasoning behind them has become clear to me. Even if you're not in the oldest, nearing 600 year old parts of the house, you feel as though you are. It builds and adds to your experience. Very considerate, I'd say!
So lets talk about the spirits in Hill House. They are plentiful, varying in personalities and temperaments, and they certainly make it known who they like and who they don't like. My most bizarre moment? My friend Carly was washing her hair over the bath in the Dryad Suite. She shouted me through because she had run out of shampoo. She's not the bravest, and was too scared to lock or even close the bathroom door. So I squirted a blob of shampoo onto her wet hand for her. I noticed that the lather she had already worked up was a pink colour. I assumed it was a hair colour washing out and thought nothing of it. When she came back into the bedroom, she told us about the pink bubbles with a look of horror on her face. Only then did it dawn on me. When we were younger, Carly had her hair dark. It's now blonde! And no, the shampoo wasn't pink!
And the time when I was most scared? In hindsight, I was really brave, and nothing too scary happened. That's hindsight for you! But trying to get to sleep in the infamously haunted Dryad Room had me petrified. Putting yourself in your most vulnerable state in a haunted location is a pretty terrifying ordeal, and one I seem to be getting a good bit of practice at!
It's so hard to describe Hill House, and the activity we have experienced there. And some part of me doesn't really want to. I've tried to explain it to people, and my stories are often met with blank expressions, or looks of disbelief. So with this place it seems easier, and almost more satisfactory to keep our experiences to ourselves. Duncan and his wife Alex welcome paranormal investigators to Hill House. So if you have a passion for ghosts, and a love of a hearty full english breakfast, then maybe you need to go and visit for yourself!
If you'd like to find out more about The Hill House, visit The Ghost Book's Hill House feature page. The link's below.