Step away from the supernatural hotspots of Edinburgh and Stirling, take to the country lanes and Highland hills and you will find a hellish host of hauntings, tied to massacres, tragedies and murders.
Assisted by National Trust Scotland we tracked down some of the country’s most haunting and often overlooked ghost stories and the true incidents which give them a macabre twist.
House of Dun, MontroseNestled in dense woodland, this Angus stately home could lay claim to being one of Scotland’s most haunted properties. It seems that every room, corridor and stairwell in House of Dun is home to a spirit, whether it be a wailing baby or a headless horseman. The undeniable fact is that the house has seen more than its fair share of death and tragedy. It was used as a hospital by the RAF during World War II and there is a long history of settlements on the site, dating back 9,000 years.
Crathes Castle, BanchoryThere are traces of the Burnett family everywhere at Crathes. Their faces look down, captured forever in oil paintings, while their family symbol, the ancient Horn of Leys, gifted to the family by Robert Bruce, hangs above a fireplace. There have been other remnants left behind and when the castle was renovated in the 1800s, the bones of a child were discovered beneath the hearthstone in what has long been known as the Green Lady’s Room. The discovery was taken as tangible evidence of ‘the Green Lady’ who has lingered through the centuries, her ghost seen cradling a baby by the fireplace. Queen Victoria is among the visitors who have seen her.
Drum Castle, BanchoryDrum Castle is said to be haunted by the son of the 20th Laird of Drum. Young Alexander Irvine was just six years of age when he died in 1865. And since his premature death many have reported hearing the young boy’s laughter. Others have seen his mother, Anna Forbes Irvine, who died soon after Alexander.
Falkland Palace, FifeScotland’s first Duke, David Stewart’s rapid rise to power ultimately proved to be his downfall. His rival, Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, engineered his arrest and had Stewart taken to his home at Falkland, hooded and riding backwards on a mule. He was thrown in a cell and either starved to death or died of dysentery 18 days later, aged 23. He is believed to be one of the ghosts who haunt Falkland palace, with sinister faces also spied at the windows of the Queen’s Room.
Fyvie Castle, TurriffA windowsill at Fyvie still carries the marks of the broken-hearted lady betrayed by her husband over 400 years ago. Lilias Drummond had five daughters with Alexander Seton but no male heir. Impatient, the First Earl of Dunfermline’s eye turned to one of her younger cousins and Lilias found herself sidelined and humiliated and is said to have died of a broken heart. Lilias’s name was found scratched in the sandstone, where it remains to this day.
House of the Binns, LinlithgowSir Tam Dalyell worked hard for the epithet ‘Bluidy Tam’ and was responsible for the death, torture and deportation of thousands of Covenanters during the 1600s. It helped that there were also accusations that he was in league with the Devil, playing cards with Old Nick at his home in Linlithgow. One game is said to have ended with an enraged and beaten Satan throwing the card table out a window and into a pond outside. Bizarrely, when the water level dropped more than 200 years later, a card table was pulled from the swamp. It is still on display at the house today.
Culross VillageCulross’ violent past has seen it become a hive of supernatural activity. Petty criminals used to be branded for life with an S for ‘sinner’ while others were dragged to the Mercat Cross and had their ears nailed to the stocks. Then there were the ‘witches’, with so many arrested and put on trial in 1643 that there was nowhere left to hold them.
Castle Fraser, InverurieOne of numerous secret staircases at Castle Fraser leads to the Green Room and the Green Lady, who was reputedly murdered here and her corpse dragged down the steps. Her blood stained the steps to such an extent that they had to be covered in the wooden panelling, which is still there today. The castle also has a Lady in Black, Blanche Drummond, who died of consumption in 1874 and reputedly wanders the castle and grounds.
Alloa Tower, AlloaThe oldest keep in Scotland has stood for 700 years. Alloa Tower has survived fires, curses and a handful of attacks. This violent history has seen a number of spirits take up residence in the Clackmannanshire abode. The tower has a spectre of a man in chains in the dungeon accompanied by a serving girl. Another young girl can allegedly be seen in the Great Hall and a woman dressed in black found watching over a cradle in one of the rooms. In the Charter Room a young boy has been seen crying, as has an armed man with strange eyes and a gaunt clergyman dressed in black. The most frightening of the tales emanates from the Solar Room, where a man has been seen hanging. Visitors have also reported the physical sensation of being strangled while standing in the room.
Kellie Castle, FifeKellie Castle’s crow-stepped gables and fairytale stone tower hide a multitude of frightening secrets. The Fife site’s oldest tower is said to be haunted by the spirit of Anne Erskine, who died when she fell from an upstairs window. The ghost of Professor James Lorimer, who began the restoration of the castle in 1878, has also been seen. They are among the friendlier spirits, but one malevolent presence required an exorcism.
All of the properties are in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, the national conservation charity which cares for Scotland’s historic buildings and locations. You can support their work by becoming a member, which also guarantees free entry to all NTS properties. Find out more and plan your visit here.