As if the thought of having to entertain the kids for half-term week isn't ghastly enough, Halloween hysteria is upon us. The country is crawling with ghoulish goings-on, so if you're racking your brains for ideas to entertain your little fiends for the next few days, why not scare them witless at a castle near you?
Try Hampton Court Palace (0844 482 7777; hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace), where winter ghost tours will be kicking off next Sunday – at the same time providing an opportunity to see all sorts of places not usually open to the public. Children can hear eerie tales about centuries of hauntings, and they might even bump into the ghosts of some of Henry VIII's wives, which are believed to wander here (great stuff for that history project on the Tudors). If you want to spend a sleepless night listening for ghouls afterwards, book into a haunted hotel, such as the Macdonald Berystede near Windsor (0844 8799104; macdonaldhotels.co. uk/berystede), where the resident ghost, the Blue Lady, is said to roam. For a full list of Halloween happenings and haunted places to stay, see enjoyengland.com.
Warwick Castle (0871 265 2000; warwick-castle.co.uk), too, is running spine-chilling dungeon tours full of Halloween-inspired horror this week. Visit the Ghost Tower, where the kids will come face-to-neck with headless spirits, while in the bowels of the building, gore seekers will be greeted by a number of unsavoury characters who'll tell the kids all about things that go bump in the night. Mini ghosts and ghouls can also trick or treat along the museum's cobbled streets, collecting sweets as they go.
Meanwhile, Derbyshire has become Spookyshire for the week. At Peveril Castle (01433 620613; english-heritage.org.uk) you can take part in a Halloween family fun trail to discover the building's hair-raising secrets. And the Halloween Spooktacular at the Tropical Butterfly House, Sheffield, (01909 569416; butterflyhouse.co.uk) has haunted hayrides around the Freaky Forest, as well as the chance to go trick or treating with the witch in the wood, pumpkin carving, and creepy crafts.
So that's Halloween sorted. Next stop Christmas. Now that really is a terrifying thought.