THE GHOSTLY CARRIAGE ARRIVES AGAIN AND AGAIN
The Royal Castle Hotel, Dartmouth, Devon
The white, castellated facade of The Royal Castle Hotel gazes out across the shimmering waters of the River Dart.
Inside there is a veritable time capsule of ancient panelling, beams of hand-hewn timber reputedly salvaged from the wood of a wrecked Spanish Armada vessel and countless other period features.
Queen Victoria, Edward VII, Sir Francis Drake and Cary Grant are just a few of the illustrious clientele who have enjoyed its hospitality, and, it is rumoured, that several of Charles II's mistresses were sent into polite retirement here once the famous royal ardour had waned.
The great winding staircase, undoubtedly the hotel's most commanding feature, rises from what was the original courtyard.
It is here that the sounds of a phantom coach and horses are sometimes heard in the early hours of autumn mornings.
It was at this time of year, in 1688, that William and Mary, following the flight into exile of James II, headed for England from The Netherlands to claim the throne.
Mary arrived first and lodged at The Royal Castle, which in those days consisted of two pairs of houses, divided by a narrow court.
William had intended to land at Dartmouth, but a storm in the Channel forced him to put in at nearby Torbay instead.
A coach, despatched to collect Mary, arrived at The Royal Castle shortly before 2am, and its phantom has continued to do so ever since.
Guests and staff have frequently been roused by the sound of horses hooves clattering over cobblestones.
Footsteps are heard, followed by a carriage door being opened and then slammed shut.
There comes the crack of a whip, the whinnying of horses, and the phantom coach thunders off into the night, its passing always marked by the sound of an invisible clock chiming twice in the street behind the hotel.