A tour of Scotland’s haunted castles and buildings
The National Trust for Scotland has created a tour of spooky sightings at historic castles and buildings across the country.
While some might not be on board with the mutation of the event away from its traditions of guising, neep lanterns and apple dooking, there’s no doubt that this is good news for historic places, and over the past five years the number of Halloween events the trust runs has almost tripled.
Trust marketing manager, Carly Lamberty, said: “We try to pitch a range of events at different audiences from the family friendly, like Fyvie Castle’s Spooky Stories, to the much spookier - Halloween III at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is not for the faint-hearted.
“The combination of quality events in authentic, atmospheric settings, often with real ghost stories to add to the mix, seems to be touching a nerve.”
We take a look at some of the spine-chilling tales of witchcraft and the supernatural, ghosts and ghouls, torture and murder most foul at trust properties in Scotland.
Culzean Castle, Maybole
Perched high on the Ayrshire cliffs, this Robert Adam masterpiece is shrouded in tales of terrible deeds and evil spirits. In 1570 the 4th Earl of Cassillis captured the abbot of Crossraguel Abbey and roasted him alive until he agreed to sign over his lands.
Sir Archibald the Wicked of Culzean, a man so evil that the devil himself attended his funeral. There is also a ghostly knight dressed in armour who appears to household staff and of the phantom piper who plays on stormy nights as the waves pound the cliff-face below.
Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran
Beneath the towering peak of Goatfell, brave souls can discover 800 years of ghosts and paranormal activities.
Listen to witness accounts of the Grey Lady and White Stag, to tales of murder and the supernatural.
Walk in the footsteps of clairvoyants and paranormal investigators and stand on the very spot that castle pets refuse to cross.
Visit the hanging tree and the portcullis where plague victims were entombed.
Greenback Garden, Clarkston
With several resident ghosts, this garden oasis is both idyllic and mystical. Look out for the Lady in Red - who has been encountered in the dining room of Greenbank House - a phantom large black dog and the spectre of a young girl skipping beside the burn – believed to be the ghost of a local girl tragically killed in the courtyard in the early 20th century.
The Hill House, Helensburgh
This Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece was built in the early 1900s for the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, who is said to appear occasionally on the upper landing.
Dressed in a long black cape, he emerges from the dressing room before vanishing into the main bedroom. Do not be concerned if you smell the aroma of pipe smoke in or around the library – smoking was one of Walter’s favourite pastimes.
Gladstone’s Land, Edinburgh
Home to the murderous Burke and Hare and scene of many public hangings, the vennels and passageways of Scotland’s historic capital are full of ghostly goings-on. Join paranormal investigators and explore the 17th-century tenement, close to Edinburgh Castle, on a special ghosts, witches and murder tour.
Visit the Painted Chamber and the Georgian Wing in search of spirits both good and bad. Not for the faint-hearted!
Culross Palace, Culross
This peaceful 17th-century village is a living open-air museum.
Listen to tales of the Culross witches who were imprisoned and tortured in the Town House, of petty criminals branded for life with the S-shaped courtroom key (S for sinner) and of miscreants dragged to the Mercat Cross to have their ears nailed to the town stocks.
Culross Palace was built by Sir George Bruce around 1600. Visit its remarkable stone-vaulted strongroom and you may interrupt Sir George counting his money. Although he smiles and waves to children, he wards off adults who venture too close to his fortune.
You may also encounter a young and elegantly dressed Mary Erskine, holding a bouquet of lavender as she admires in the early 18th century.
Alloa Tower, Alloa
This 700-year-old keep, the oldest in Scotland, is home to numerous ghost stories from across the centuries. Learn of the Abbot’s Curse and visit the dungeon where the spectre of a man in chains is helped by a ghostly serving girl who bandages his rat-gnawed foot.
In the Great Hall you may encounter a young girl trapped in the stone well, a woman dressed in black watching over a cradle and a maid pacing nervously up and down close to the family portrait that depicts Alloa Tower with an adjoining mansion – the very mansion which burned to the ground in August 1800 when a maid placed a lit candle too close to bedclothes.
On the anniversary of the fire, visitors often report the acrid smell of burning.
In the Charter Room you may come across a young boy crying, an armed man with strange eyes or a gaunt clergyman dressed in black. Most frightening of all is the Solar Room, where a man has been seen hanging dead and where you may be overcome by the physical sensation that you too are being strangled.
Falkland Palace, Cupar
Besieged by Rob Roy and partially destroyed by Cromwell’s troops, the palace has a turbulent history soaked in murder and despair. In 1402 the Duke of Rothesay, heir to the Scottish throne, was imprisoned in Falkland Castle, where he reputedly starved to death. In 1542 James V’s body lay in state in the Chapel Royal for almost a month before being taken to Holyrood Abbey and buried.
Over the years the palace has had visits from the ghosts of Mary, Queen of Scots; the White Lady, who roams the Tapestry Gallery awaiting her lost lover; and the Grey Lady, who walks the ruins of the East Range and disappears through a wall where once there was a door. Most chilling of all are the sinister faces that appear at the window of the Queen’s Room.
Kellie Castle, Pittenweem
Once home to a daughter of Robert the Bruce, Kellie Castle is brimming to the battlements with spooky stories. Dating from 1360, the oldest tower is said to be haunted by the spirit of Anne Erskine, who died when she ‘fell’ from an upstairs window.
Although rarely seen, she makes her presence known by the rhythmic thump of her footsteps on the turnpike staircase. The ghost of Professor James Lorimer, who began the restoration of the castle in 1878, has also been seen seated in quiet contemplation. It is said that Kellie Castle was once exorcised ... without success!
Fyvie Castle, Fyvie
Tales of murder and betrayal cast a spine-chilling shadow over this 800-year-old Scottish Baronial fortress. When the room temperature drops suddenly and the air fills with the scent of roses, it is said that you are in the presence of the ghost of Lilias Drummond, ‘The Green Lady’.
Legend tells that Lilias was starved to death by her husband, Alexander Seton, for failing to provide a son and heir. On the night of his second marriage, her ghostly laments were heard outside the marital bedchamber – in the morning, and still visible today, her name was found freshly scratched into the castle walls. Listen to tales of phantom soldiers, poltergeists and the curse of the weeping stones, then visit the secret burial chamber of the Grey Lady, whose remains were discovered encased in the castle walls and whose spirit roams the passageways.
Brodie Castle, Forres
Home to the Brodie family for nearly 450 years, this iconic 16th-century Scottish tower house has experienced a number of ghostly sightings over the centuries. In the Blue Sitting Room a phantom uniformed soldier has been seen sitting in contemplation; the spectre of a small dog has been spotted heading towards the children’s nursery; and occasionally the ghost of Lady Margaret, wife of the 21st Best Bedchamber, where she died in a fire in 1786.
Haddo House, Ellon
This elegant Georgian mansion was home to the Gordon family for over 400 years. One of its most famous residents was Lord Archibald Gordon, affectionately known as Archie.
Unfortunately, he died in 1909, one of the first people in Britain to be killed in a car accident. Dressed in hunting tweeds with a shock of ginger hair, Archie’s ghost is often seen smiling and talking to visitors. Haddo also has a more menacing supernatural side, where locked attic doors shake violently at night and staff have been threatened and chased by spirits through the servants’ corridors and vaulted cellars.
Castle Fraser, Inverurie
One of the grandest Castles of Mar, Castle Fraser is full of quirky features including secret staircases, trapdoors and a spy hole. Over the years there have been numerous sightings of a young woman who was murdered in the Green Room. Her bloodied body, dragged down the round tower, stained the steps to such an extent that they had to be covered in the wooden panelling we see today. Dressed in a long black gown, the ghost of Lady Blanche Drummond, who died in 1874, wanders the castle and its grounds;whispers, laughter and music have also been heard in the Great Hall.
Crathes Castle, Banchory
Visit the Green Lady’s Room, named after the spirit of a young woman who has often been seen by the fireplace wearing a green dress and cradling an infant in her arms.
When the castle was renovated in the 1800s, the bones of a child – presumed murdered – were discovered under the hearthstone of the fireplace. The archives tell of the unearthly appearance of a luminous block of ice that moves like someone walking but is not human in shape – these visions are always accompanied by a sharp drop in room temperature. The tower house is also home to the White Lady, thought to be Alexander Burnett’s young lover, Bertha. Poisoned by Lady Agnes for being unworthy hand in marriage, Bertha visits on the anniversary of her murder.