WHETHER or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no denying the notoriety of Scotland’s spirits. Some are iconic historical figures; others only became famous in the afterlife. As Halloween approaches, Alex Watson profiles Scotland’s most well-known spooks
It seems fitting that one of Scotland’s most famous historical figures may have stuck around in his home country for a good seven hundred years after his untimely execution in 1305. William Wallace’s ghost is said to wander the ruins of Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire on stormy nights. Ardrossan was the site of infamous bloodbath Wallace’s Larder, where Wallace lured his English enemies from safety, slaughtered them and disposed of their bodies in the castle’s dungeon.
While very little is known about Wallace’s early life, there are theories that the knight was actually born in Ayrshire and not Renfrewshire as is commonly assumed. This could be another reason why the spirit of the long-dead warrior feels an affinity with Ardrossan Castle.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots, who died after being executed in England in 1587, has reportedly haunted several places in and around the UK. Stirling Castle’s regularly sighted Pink Lady apparition is thought to be the spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots, who visited the castle frequently. Various other spectres thought to be the queen in question are also said to pop up at Loch Leven Castle, where Mary was held prisoner, Borthwick Castle in Midlothian, Craignethan Castle near Lanark and Hermitage Castle in the Borders – a location the royal never actually visited while alive. Surprisingly, Linlithgow Palace has not yet been visited by the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots – only the spirit of her mother, Mary of Guise.
The Princess of Castle Fraser
Although her name remains a mystery, the ghost of the young princess that haunts Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire is a notorious presence. The story goes that she was brutally murdered in her sleep while staying in the castle’s Green Room. Her body was dragged down a set of stone stairs, leaving behind a trail of bloodstains that couldn’t be removed, no matter how hard they were scrubbed. The stairs were then covered in wood panelling to hide the gruesome stains, but the young girl’s ghost is still spotted wandering throughout the castle, accompanied by disembodied whispers.
Sir George Mackenzie
The ghost of Scottish lawyer and former Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie may well be the most written-about spirit in recent history. The volatile phantom was apparently disturbed at some point in the late ‘90s when a homeless person attempted to seek shelter in Mackenzie’s mausoleum, at Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard. Since then, visitors to that area of the graveyard have reportedly experienced an overwhelming sense of dread and left with unexplained bite marks, scratches and bruises.
In life, Mackenzie was highly educated and well respected, but carried the prescient nickname of ‘Bloody Mackenzie’ after imprisoning more than a thousand Covenanters and allowing hundreds to die, either as a result of execution or poor treatment.
The Grey Lady of Dryburgh Abbey Hotel
Now a country house hotel, Dryburgh Abbey Hotel near Melrose was once a private residence and home to an ill-fated young lady in the 16th century. Allegedly, the young woman, known only as the Grey Lady, fell in love with a monk living at the nearby monastery and the two began an affair. When they were discovered, the monk was hanged and his distraught lover threw herself off a nearby bridge and drowned in the River Tweed. Since then, her ghost has restlessly haunted both the hotel and the bridge, scaring countless guests and visitors.
While not originally from Scotland, Irish aviator Desmond Arthur died in Montrose after crashing his plane in 1913 – the first ever fatal air crash in Scotland. Since Arthur’s death, the pilot’s ghost has supposedly never left the former RAF airfield in Montrose, now the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, where he took off on his final flight. Eyewitness over the years have spotted Arthur’s ghostly figure on the ground, as well as his mysterious ghost plane in the skies.