Castles and ghosts
There are over a hundred and fifty Scottish castles reputed to be haunted. Spectral apparitions, queer noises, and curious presentiments of possible nocturnal visits abound. Visits of vapoury, lost souls, but still far more at home historically, than any daring guests could ever feel. Castles steeped in history, some dating back to the thirteenth century.
To begin with there's Ackergill Tower, Caithness. At a certain period it was owned by the Keith family who were often at loggerheads with the Sinclairs and Gunns. Legend has it that the castle is haunted by the ghost of Helen Gunn. She was captured by a member of the Keith family and taken to Ackergill Tower. Any hopes of ransoming her off were thwarted by her refusal to be held hostage, for she died dramatically by throwing herself from the tower's battlements.
In Dumfries and Galloway there's Auchen Castle, the ruins of which date back to 1220. Next to it was built a more habitable version in 1849. The residents and staff have received Margaret Thatcher, The Beetles, the King of Norway and Barbara Cartland amongst other notable personalities.
The castle is supposed to be haunted by a wan child who, before dawn, silently strolls along the corridors and slowly ascends the main staircase. The ethereal child has also been seen drifting about the Italian styled, terraced gardens of the castle.
Also in Galloway one could visit the ruins of Baldoon Castle. The owners were the Dunbars of Westfield. It was the family's residence from 1530 to 1800. The ghost of Baldoon Castle, 'The Bride of Lammermuir' was the subject of one of Sir Walter Scott's novels.
During the seventeenth century, the parents of the hapless bride obliged her to marry David Dunbar, although she was already deeply in love with another man. The great sadness and torment caused her to lose her mind. David Dunbar's wedding night was fatally unromantic, for his bride stabbed him to death.
The ghost of the 'Bride of Lammermuir' has haunted the castle ever since. It's said that she sadly wanders through the castle dressed in a white, blood-spattered night gown, and that she appears especially on the anniversary of her own death.
One of the finest castles in Aberdeenshire is Castle Fraser of the Fraser family. It has a traditional 'Laird's lug' in its Hall. (A 'Laird's lug' is a small, secret gallery built within the walls of a castle enabling the laird to hear conversations carried out in the Hall, from his rooms above).
Less fine and intriguing however, is the story of a young woman who was brutally murdered and dragged down the stairs of Castle. This took place in the 19th century. The blood on the stairs still tells the macabre tale, for apparently the stains could never be removed.
In Aberdeenshire was built Fyvie Castle in the 13th century. Owned by several wealthy families throughout its history, they all added their own personal, elaborate touches. There are various ghosts who haunt this castle. One of them is known as the 'Grey Lady'.
A skeleton was found in a secret room during a period when renovation work was being carried out. From then on the 'Grey Lady' was seen quite often. It was only when the bones were respectfully replaced to where they were first found in the secret room, that the 'Grey Lady' no longer needed to make her spectral presence felt.
Even more curiously disturbing is another ghost of Fyvie Castle, the 'Green Lady'. She is thought to be the spirit of Dame Lillias Drummond, the unfortunate wife of tyrannical Sir Alexander Seton who starved her to death in order to remarry.
It's said that the 'Green Lady' ghost inscribed her name on the windowsill of the bedroom when it was first used by Sir Alexander Seton and his new bride. To add more credence to the legend, the inscription can still be seen there today.
In Banff, one can visit the Castle of Park with its 16th century tower house. From one of the upstairs windows of the tower, yet another 'Green Lady' (in Celtic mythology the colour green represents an ill omen) is alleged to show herself. She was a servant callously dismissed when she became pregnant. Desperately unable to accept this, she committed suicide.
Another ghost in this castle is that of a monk who was supposed to have been walled up and left to die in a secret room somewhere within the castle.
The residents often feel that they are being observed. They have also spoken of inexplicable occurrences such as objects moving about mysteriously, sometimes from one room to another.
This is only a small token of the subject. An eerie impression. In order to recount the legends that add history, horror, hoax or charm to over one hundred and fifty Scottish castles reputed to be haunted, one would have to be a tireless specialist with plenty of time, will and stomach to fill the necessary tomes.
Scotland naturally evokes history like its lingering mists, dewy heather, moss-covered, flat red rock, and the constant, sweet babble of falling fresh water. It inevitably evokes the distant, shrouded skirl of the pipes, but also cheerful, peat flavoured whisky drinkers in front of a blazing wood fire at their local, never short of a tale to tell.
The awe inspiring legends of Scotland might make one think that the ancient Scots were an evil and barbarous bunch, but perhaps that would be more incredible than many of the awe inspiring legends.
Scottish myths 27
Scottish myths 27
Scottish myths 25
Text and image © Mirino. Sources include 'Rampant Scotland', with many thanks.