With tales of ghosts wandering among the heather of windswept moors in Scotland, it's probably no surprise that a landscape dotted with old castles also is home to so many spirits. If you want to better understand this beautiful landscape and its Celtic history, then take a tour of some of the most haunted castles in Scotland.
Stirling Castle is under an hour away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, making it an easy day trip. The castle has an impressive number of ghosts. Most of these spirits have colorful stories told by highly skilled ghost tour guides.
The Green Lady, Blue Lady, Pink Lady, Black Lady, and White Lady all haunt Stirling Castle, but it's the Green Lady who is the most famous. She's also the most feared of the four ghosts and said to be an omen of doom, gloom, despair, and even death.
- Green Lady: This spirit could be a Commander's grieving daughter who committed suicide when her father murdered her lover. Another possible identity is Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, or Mary's serving girl, who died after accidentally setting the Queen's chambers ablaze.
- Blue Lady: Her identity is unknown, but this spirit is also considered a messenger of doom and ill-fate.
- Pink Lady: Two stories give possible identities to this spirit. She is either a young noblewoman pining for her Scottish knight, or an old woman seeking revenge against grave robbers who stole her flesh to sell to learning surgeons. Her presence is announced by the scent of roses.
- Black Lady: This ghostly nun haunts the Back Walk, a pathway encircling Holy Rude graveyard. She seeks her lover, a priest. Don't let her see you, or you'll be dead by dawn.
- White Lady: Another ghost lady with no identity, she is equally feared.
In addition to the ladies of the castle, there is a large cast of frightening haints inside and outside the castle walls such as Brother Damian the Flying Friar and the monstrous spirit of The Hanged Man of Stirling Tolbooth. With over 30 castle spirits, each with their own tale of the cursed, visitors keep a watchful eye for the ghostly cast that includes the devil, witches, poltergeists, selkies, and many other phantoms.
Edinburgh Castle is located in the capital city of Scotland in the Lothian region at the Firth of Forth. Time magazine named this location as one of the 10 most haunted places on earth. Built in the early part of the 12th century as a military fortress, the castle is now a tourist destination.
Some of the resident ghosts include:
- Lady Janet Douglas of Glamis: In 1537, she was accused of being a witch and was burned alive at the stake. Since her death, she's roamed the halls.
- Headless drummer: In 1650, people began to see and hear this frightening ghost.
- Ghost dogs: Ghostly dogs are seen in the dog graveyard, especially one called Greyfriars Bobby.
Skeptic psychologist and ghost debunker Dr. Richard Wiseman of Hertfordshire University recruited 240 volunteers for a 10-day paranormal study at the castle. Volunteers had no knowledge of Edinburgh hauntings. Over half of the volunteers experienced some form of paranormal encounter in areas known to have paranormal activity. These included:
- Unexplained sudden drops in temperature
- Shadow figures appearing about the castles
- Feeling of someone touching their faces and tugging clothing
Glamis Castle is located in Angus, just five miles southwest of Forfar and 12 miles north of Dundee. Duncan's Hall is considered the most haunted area of Glamis Castle. Shakespeare chose it for his setting of Macbeth slaying King Duncan.
Among the mysterious aspects of the castle is the famous secret chamber supposedly hidden deep within the castle somewhere in the crypt walls. The story goes the Lord of Glamis played cards with the Devil on the Sabbath which resulted in such a disturbance that the chamber was sealed.
There have been many reports of eerie sounds, such as the screams of a man being tortured and the banging of a hammer. Guests have reported seeing an old woman who vanished and a ghost in armor moving through a guest's bedroom.
Regular resident spirits include:
- The White Lady: The Lady of Glamis was burned at the stake for witchcraft and her spirit is said to haunt this castle, too.
- The Gray Lady: This unknown spirit wanders inside and outside the castle. Over 100 people once saw her at the same time.
- Young servant boy: This youth is seen sitting inside the Queen Mother's sitting room.
This 12th-century castle in Argyllshire sits on 5,000 acres that includes six coastline miles. Duntrune Castle also boasts five miles along the River Add. Built to serve as a stronghold for the MacDougall Clan, it's known as the "oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland." The Clan Campbell seized the castle and eventually sold it in 1762 to the O'Challums (anglicized to Malcolm). The estate claims that its resident ghost, the handless piper, is well-authenticated.
The handless piper (The Piper of Duntrune) saved Sir Alistair MacDonald and the clan from an ambush by the Campbell Clan by playing The Piper's Warning. In retribution, the Campbells chopped off the piper's hands, and he bled to death.
The story of the handless piper was generally believed to be a myth, even though many people over the years claimed to hear his music. In the 1880s, the handless piper's remains were discovered during castle renovations. At long last, the piper received a proper burial.
The music isn't the only paranormal activity going on in Duntrune Castle. Witnesses claim to have seen furniture moving on its own, and objects have mysteriously been thrown against the walls by an unseen force and shattered to the floor.
A favorite Scottish home for the Royal Family, Balmoral Castle is located in Aberdeenshire. Prince Albert purchased it in 1852 for his wife, Queen Victoria. The original castle was torn down once Prince Albert's new castle was completed in 1856; it was built only 100 yards from the original castle. A stone was placed where the front door of the original castle once was.
A beloved friend of Queen Victoria, John Brown, a servant, frequently appears moving about the castle corridors. Rumor suggests the Queen was in love with Brown. Queen Elizabeth II saw his ghost during a stay in the castle.
The Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire was home to the Burnett family from the last half of the 1500s until the family donated the castle and its gardens to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951. Not a famously known Scottish family, the Burnetts were highly distinguished admirals, generals, judges, and bishops. The main part of the castle is six stories high.
People mostly see the Green Lady in the castle tower. Witnesses have seen her move across the tower room to pick up a ghost child and then walk through the fireplace, disappearing. Even Queen Victoria once witnessed the ghostly figure. The tower room is known as The Green Lady's Room.
During renovations, the skeletons of a woman and child were discovered in the wall near the fireplace. Their identities are unknown and they were given a "proper burial," but the apparitions continue to appear in the tower.
Built in the late 17th century near the head of Glen Lyon, Meggernie Castle sits between Perth and Kinross. Its gardens were replanted during the mid-19th century. The castle estate landscaping includes the amazing original Caledonian pine forest. The grounds are so incredible Meggernie has been dubbed a "work of art."
The castle has a rather fun ghost, a very flirtatious female called the White Lady. She isn't shy at all and loves to appear. She reveals herself to the castle staff workers regularly and flirts with male visitors. Male guests have claimed the White Lady kissed them, waking them from sleep. The story about this apparition identifies her as the wife of the Menzies clan chieftain.
The White Lady is a unique ghost since she has two halves--upper torso and lower body--that appear in different parts of the castle. The lower half of her body wanders the lower floors of the castle and the castle grounds. Her upper half materializes along the upper castle floors, especially the staircase. The White Lady story explains that her jealous husband murdered her and then chopped her body in half so it would be easier to dispose of her remains. She's never seen whole, just in halves.
Dunstaffnage Castle is one of Scotland's oldest stone castles, built in the early 1200s. It was most likely built by Duncan MacDougall. Many bloody battles took place at Dunstaffnage during the Wars of Independence, which took place from 1296 to 1356.
In 1308, Robert the Bruce laid siege to the fortress, and after his victory over Clan MacDougall, he gave Dunstaffnage and the MacDougall lands to his MacDonald and Campbell allies. Dunstaffnage itself served as a royal castle until the 1460s, when it passed down to the Campbell earls.
A mysterious spirit of a woman dressed in green haunts the castle. She's said to be linked to the Campbell family, and she's been seen wandering the castle's ramparts. According to the legends, if the Ell-Maid is smiling, good fortune lies ahead, but if she's crying, trouble awaits.
Eilean Donan Castle
The Eilean Donan Castle is perhaps the most recognized Scottish castle thanks to the Highlander films. The castle was built in the 13th century by the Clan Mackenzie and Clan Macrae as a defense against the vikings. The castle shielded Robert the Bruce and later was used as a stronghold during the Jacobite Rebellion.
It's steeped in a bloody past. For example, the Earl of Moray ordered the heads of 50 men he had slain to be displayed on the castle walls. In 1719, the English government destroyed the castle, and it sat in ruins until 1911 when Lt. Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap purchased and began restoring it. He completed the restoration in 1932.
There are two main resident ghosts. One is said to be the spirit of a Spanish soldier who helped the Jacobites defend the castle and was killed in battle. The apparition of the headless soldier in a Spanish uniform often appears in the castle gift shop, carrying his head underneath his arm.
The other ghost is known as Lady Mary. The female ghost is said to be the spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots, who is also credited with haunting several other castles in Scotland. Lady Mary is seen in the castle bedrooms of Eilean Donan Castle.
The 17th century Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire is part of the 120,000 acre Queensberry Estate and is the family home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It also boasts some rather unique spirits.
There are several ghosts and other types of spirits haunting the massive castle.
- Lady Anne Douglas: The lady appears dressed in white carrying a stylish fan in one hand and her head in the other.
- Monkey-like creature: This disturbing apparition appears in the Yellow Room.
- Phantom dog: Witnesses have seen a phantom dog described as an Alsatian.
Castle Ghosts in Scotland
There is a wealth of haunted castles in Scotland and the majority are open to the public. You should always check with the castle administration about possible ghost tours and investigations before undertaking your own.