With it’s rich history, majestic landscapes, and awe-inspiring fortifications, Scotland is a fascinating place, but some places are breathtaking for more sinister reasons. There are ghostly pipers, a ten foot tall mountain man and a bridge that turns dogs suicidal. Read on to get a vampire-bite sized history of some of Scotland’s spookiest places to visit. Whether it be a terrible history of murder, sightings of ghosts and unexplained happenings, have a look at where to go to get your spook on!
Ackergill Tower is said to be haunted by the ghost of the beautiful Helen Gunn, who was abducted by John Keith who had fallen in love with her. It isn’t known if she flung herself or if she fell, but she died falling from the highest tower to escape the advances of her abductor. Sightings of a ghost with long dark heir wearing a long red ball gown are legendary. The stunning location of Ackergill Tower at the northernmost tip of Scotland on it’s own private beach is a dramatic place with or without the ghost stories.
Airth Castle has the chilling history of a number of ghostly goings on. A nanny and two young children are said to have died in a fire at the castle resulting in the haunting sounds of children playing in certain rooms. There are also reports of cries and screams believed to be from a maid who was attacked by her master as well as a ghost dog who patrols the hallways of the Castle. Overlooking the village of Airth and the River Forth, in the Falkirk area of Scotland the castle is now an award-winning Hotel & Spa.
The A75 Road
The fifteen-mile stretch of the A75, between Annan and Dumfries, is reportedly one of the most haunted roads in Scotland with numerous encounters having been reported over the last 50 years. Many locals refuse to drive on the road after dusk thanks to tales of mysterious mist that descends, a Victorian woman and an elderly man who appear on the road causing near accidents as drivers try to avoid them. The screaming hag, eyeless phantoms and other unearthly creatures have been sighted on the eerie road, with one truck driver reportedly giving up his job completely after one such sighting.
The legend of Ardvreck says that in the 16th century the Macleod Chief dealt a deal with the Devil to help get the castle built by offering his daughter in marriage to “Auld Nick’ – the Devil Himself. After finding out who her groom truly was, she flung herself from the tower and her ghost is said to be heard weeping bitterly there to this day. It is now a ruined castle which stands on a rocky cliff jutting out into Loch Assynt in Sutherland in the north west of Scotland.
Ben Macdhui and the Big Grey Man
Famous for it’s ‘Big Grey Man’, Ben Macdhui is the second highest mountain in the UK and the biggest in the Cairngorms. First noted and made famous by the eminent scientist, Professor Norman Collie in 1891, who reported to becoming so spooked by being followed by “Fearlas Mor ” or locally known as the Big Grey Man who was taking one crunching step in the snow for every three he took, that he panicked and ran for four miles down to the lower ground at Rothiemurchus. Climbers then and in more recently years alike have said to have seen a figure who approaches the pile of stones known as a cairn that marks the summit, who them walks around out of view. Once at the summit, having noted the Man is the same height as the stones, they realise that like the cairn, the man they have seen must be at least 10 feet tall! Some have suggested possible explanations such as a meteorological phenomenon which only occurs when there is a type of gap in the cloud which allows the viewer to see their own shadow cast upon cloud. A spooky effect indeed, with a giant grey shadow stretching from your feet into the atmosphere and in certain conditions it is accompanied by a circular rainbow which surrounds the shadow (known as a Glorie) – but that still doesn’t explain Prof. Collie’s crunching footsteps! PHOTO: Gerald Davison
A murdered mother and child are said to inhabit the Great Hall and Red Room of this 1430 castle. A chancellor who was burned to death for stealing money from the family is also said to accompany the gruesome apparitions. Borthwick Castle is is said to be one of the most notorious places for visitors to get the ‘feeling of being watched by unseen eyes’. The Castle is also famed for having been visited twice by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563 and 1567, when she was besieged inside while under the protection of 6th Lord Borthwick. She escaped the siege by disguising herself as a page and ever since then an ghost of Mary, dressed as a page boy, is said to have been seen.
Known as Scotland’s most haunted youth hostel, Carbisdale Castle has a long record of ghost appearances of from a eerie piper, fallen soldiers of the Battle of Carbisdale (1650) and a white lady. The ghost of the castle gardener, known as “The Hooded Gardener”, is also said to roam the grounds looking for his lost daughter. He is said to haunt girls that are the same age as his own 15 year old daughter, and has reportedly been seen dressed in black, with a black hood and only part of his face shown. Sounds pretty spooky to us!
Castle Fraser allegedly has a number of ghosts, but the most famous one being a princess who had been staying at the castle who was murdered while she slept in the Green Room. According to legend, her body was dragged down the stone staircase leaving a bloody trail, with the stain never to be removed no matter how much scrubbing was done. As a result the steps were covered in wooden panelling as they remain until this day. Visitors and staff members have heard piano music, voices and whispers from the empty hall and the sound of children laughing and singing. Some witnesses claim to have seen Lady Blanche Drummond’s ghost who died in 1874. She is said to appear in a long black gown in the castle grounds and on the staircase. Castle Fraser is an atmospheric baronial castle dating back to the 15th century and was the ancestral home of the Fraser family.
The ‘Green Lady’ is said to haunt the Green Lady’s Room in Crathes Castle. Always seen in this one room, she would walk across it to the fireplace carrying an infant child. She is thought to be a girl who had a child with a servant from the castle, and while most believed the girl and child to have mode away, when renovations were made it is said they uncovered skeletons of a woman and child under the fireplace that the Green Lady is seen to enter. Queen Victoria is counted amongst those who have witnessed the Green Lady, when she stayed at Crathes Castle. The Green Lady has not been seen for many years and tradition says that when she is seen it is an omen of death for a member of the Burnett family. PHOTO: Iain Middleton-Duff
It was on Culloden Moor near Inverness that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebel army was crushed by government troops in 1746 in the battle of Culloden. The Prince’s army was made up of Scottish clans such as the Stuarts, the Macdonalds and the Frasers and the moor is the site of one of the most brutal battles in Scottish history. Here it is said the birds don’t sing, the clashes of swords still sound across the boggy ground and the dead are rumoured to walk the grave mounds, muttering their confusion in endless defeat. Cairns, or rock monuments, stand where these men died and visions of the battle and apparitions at the memorial cairns are said to occur in this mournful place.
Culzean Castle is reputed to be home to a number of ghosts including a piper whose pipes mix eerily with the howling wind and waves on stormy nights. The spirit of a woman dressed in a ball gown is said to haunt Culzean as recently as 1972. Other sightings include the ghost Sir John Cathcart who is said to have murdered his wife and apparently was planning on murdering a May Kennedy. Luckily May discovered his murderous plans and managed to push Cathcart to his death from cliffs near Carelton Castle, where he lived and still to this day haunts it’s ruins. PHOTO: Robert Orr
Edinburgh castle has a long and bloody history and has many a ghost. From a headless drummer boy who is said to play when the castle is about to be attached and was first seen in 1650 before Oliver Cromwell and his English army attacked. Many years ago a piper was sent to explore a series of secret tunnels that had just been discovered and was told to keep playing so his progress could be tracked. However, halfway down the Royal Mile, the music suddenly stopped and the piper was never found. It is said the piper still walks the Royal Mile and sometimes the faint sound of music can be heard from within the castle. There are also stories of the ghosts from the dungeons who had been tortured and often perished. One desperate prisoner hid in a dung barrow, hoping to be carried out of the castle down the Royal Mile and escape to freedom. The unfortunate man died when the barrow was emptied down the rocky slopes of the castle, sending him to his death. Visitors have said his ghost has tried to push them from the battlements and is accompanied by a strong and unpleasant smell of dung. In the 16th century Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder King James V. She was burned at the stake on July 17, 1537, and her young son Gillespie was brought out and forced to watch from the battlements. Lady Janet’s restless spirit is said to still haunt parts of the castle. Hollow knocking sounds are sometimes heard at night these are attributed to the workmen building the platform on which she was burned.
The beautiful Fyvie Castle’s haunted past includes a story from 1920 when, during renovation work, a skeletal woman was discovered behind a bedroom wall. On the day her remains were laid to rest in Fyvie cemetery, the castle residents started to be plagued by strange noises and unexplained occurrences. Fearing he had offended the deceased woman, this castle’s Laird had the skeleton exhumed and replaced behind the bedroom wall, at which point the haunting ceased. It is said that there is a secret room in the southwestern corner that must remain sealed, lest anyone entering meet with disaster. Fyvie castle is also said to be haunted by Lilias Drummond, or the Green Lady, as she was known who was starved to death in 1601 for being unfaithful to her husband. The ghost of Andrew Lammie, who was a trumpeter and unsuitable suitor for the Laird’s daughter, was accordingly banished, but swore the sound of his trumpet would foretell the death of every laird of Fyvie, and he kept his promise with various sights of a Lammie in full tartan attire.
Goblin Ha (Hall) in East Lothian, also known as Yester Castle, is near Gifford in East Lothian and is an underground system of corridors and gothic vaults sunk beneath an ancient ruin. In the 13th century, Sir Hugo de Gifford, a local warlock, made a deal with the devil, and summoned an army of goblins and demanded they build him the hall. Once finished, the necromancer spent the rest of his years practicing sorcery and Satanism in the underground vault. The vault is still open to this day, but many have experienced heightened ghostly atmospheres. PHOTO: Alex Morrice
Inveraray Castle is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a harpist who was hanged by the Duke of Montrose’s men in 1644 for “peeping at the lady of the house”. The ghost is said to remain near the elaborately carved bed of the Lady of the House and when the bed was moved from the old Inveraray Castle to the present one, the murdered boy’s ghost travelled with it. It is said when a member of the family is about to die, the harp music is heard coming form the room. The castle also has a grey lady, who is only seen by the daughters of a Duke of Argyll, a floating boat or ‘Galley of Lorne’ which floats away on the horizon on the death of the Duke.
Kinnaird Head Castle
Kinnaird Head Castle is famous for the story of Isobel, the daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser’s who jumped from the ancient Wine Tower adjacent to castle after her father murdered her unsuitable suitor. Her lover is still heard playing the pipes on stormy nights. The Castle at Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, is now converted into a lighthouse, and is part of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh was a small street that lead off The Royal Mile just down from Edinburgh Castle which was was bricked up during an outbreak of plague and and has only recently re-opened. Said to be the most haunted place in the Scottish capital, the spirit of a young girl has often been seen by visitors. Legend says that plague victims were trapped by the local councilmen and left to starve to death in an attempt to stop the spread of the plague.
Known as the dog suicide bridge, the eerie arch in the village of Milton near Dumbarton has been the place where it is said hundreds, yes, hundreds of dogs have plunged, willingly, to their death. There are many theories from the scent of male minks luring them to their death or strange acoustics, but many assume there are more sinister forces at work. During one six month period in 2005 it is believed 5 dogs jumped to their death and some dogs have been known to survive the fall, but then run up and jump off again front he bridge which is the equivalent of a four storey fall. All of the deaths have occurred at the same spot on the bridge, have happened on clear sunny days and are long nosed breeds such as labradors, collies and retrievers. In Celtic mythology, Overtoun is known as ‘the thin place’ – an area in which heaven and earth are reputed to be close and in 1994, local man Kevin Moy threw his baby son to his death from the bridge and shortly after he unsuccessfully tried to end his own life by jumping from it too. Experts feel it is ‘highly unlikely’ the dogs were trying to kill themselves and a spokesman for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, calls the dog jumping phenomenon a ‘heartbreaking mystery’. It does, however,rather beg the questions why people are taking their dogs on walks there!
Rosyln Chapel was built in the fiftieth century by the Sinclair family and is said to have ghostly goings on in the shape of flames that flicker in the burial vault when one of the Sinclairs is about to die. Apparitions of the apprentice who carved the famous Apprentice Pillar and was then murdered by his teacher, can also sometimes be seen or heard. The chapel is south east of Edinburgh and was made even more famous by the novel and movie “The Da Vinci Code”.
Sandwood Bay, near Cape Wrath
This spooky beach has had many sightings of a bearded sailor who leaves no footprints, and who is always described in the same way down the the brass buttons on his coat. A red-headed mermaid has also been spotted on this enchanting beach. An encounter by Alexander Gunn, a local farmer, who was on the beach, searching for one of his sheep, was described as such: “On 5th January 1900 … Gunn’s Collie suddenly let out a howl and cringed in terror at his feet. On a ledge, above the tide, a figure was reclining on the rock face. At first he thought it was a seal, then he saw the hair was reddish-yellow, the eyes greenish-blue and the body yellowish and about 7ft long. To the day Alexander Gunn died in 1944, his story never changed and he maintained that he had seen a mermaid of ravishing beauty.” PHOTO: Adrian Fagg
Southern Necropolis, Glasgow
Famous for the “vampire hunters” The Southern Necropolis in Glasgow is an enormous cemetery, with a quarter million residents. It is said to be the lair of a 7ft child-eating vampire known as the “Gorbals Vampire” with metal teeth. In 1954, rumours that the vampire had killed two local children, resulted in hundreds of children aged between four and fourteen coming to the cemetery armed with sticks and knives, looking to kill the beast that had apparently eaten the two boys. The entrance to the cemeterymwas built in 1848 to designs by the Glasgow architect Charles Wilson.
Halloween Events in Scotland