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With its long history, there’s no surprise that Scotland has more than its fair share of ghosts.  Spread around the country are some of the most iconic castles in the UK and again, it’s no shock that they have picked up a few paranormal residents over the years.  So let’s take a peek at 12 of the most haunted castles in Scotland and get a chill just reading about them!

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle is in Aberdeenshire near Banchory and was built and occupied by the same family for almost 400 years, the Burnetts of Leys.  It was given to the family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323 and at first, there was a crannog, a common Middle Ages fortification.  Work on the castle started in 1553 and it was completed in 1596.  It is also known for being the site of the oldest known lunar calendar, found during excavations on the grounds that is thought to date from 4000BC.

On the paranormal side, there is a Green Lady haunting the castle, the ghost of a woman who is seen wearing a green robe.  She is believed to have been either a serving girl or a ward of the lord of the manor who vanished after having a child.  Interestingly, skeletal remains were found behind a fireplace in the room where she is most commonly seen during work in the 1800s.

Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde near Carrock on the coast of Ayrshire.  Formerly the home of the Marquess of Ailsa, the chief of Clan Kennedy, it is now a National Trust property.  The castle was built by the 10th Earl of Cassilis to replace an earlier country house as the seat of his earldom.  It was built between 1777 and 1792 and include a large drum tower.

Brooding over the Firth of Clyde, it looks like it should be haunted, and it is, by several types of ghosts.  There’s a young woman in a ballgown and a weird misty figure seen moving up the oval grand staircase.  A ghostly piper plays his pipes, especially just before a family wedding and has also been heard playing on stormy nights, accompanied by the crashing ocean waves.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is a ruined fortress dating from medieval times 3km south of Stonehaven.  Most of the current remain date from the 15-16th centuries when it was the location for the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, while being hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army.  The last Earl Mariscal lost the castle for taking part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and the castle went to ruin.

One of the ghosts of the castle is a young girl who wears a plaid dress and is seen in the brewery area.  Another is a man described as ‘Scandinavian-looking’ who is seen entering the guardroom.

By Eduardo Unda from Aberdeen, UK – Dunnottar Castle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16004464

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle is a stately home in Sutherland in the Highlands and is the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and Clan Sutherland.  It is one mile north of Golspie.  Occupied since the Middle Ages, the current building was constructed by Sir Charles Barry from 1835-1850.  It is now the largest house in the north of Scotland and having spent time as a boarding school, it is now open to the public.

The ghost of the castle is a young woman seen in the Seamstress’s Room in the upper floors.  The story says that she was imprisoned by the Earl of Sutherland in the 15th century and was the daughter of a rival clan leader who the earl intended to marry.  Attempting to escape, she climbed down a rope of sheets but fell to her death.  Her screams are still regularly heard.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the country, sitting on Castle Rock and overlooking the whole of the city.  There has been a castle on the site since at least the 12th century if no earlier and the castle was a royal residence right until 1633.  It then became a military barracks with a large garrison and by the 19th century, restoration work began, recognising the unique position it had in Scotland’s history.  Today it is Scotland’s most visited paid tourist attraction with millions of visitors each year.

The castle is also said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland and has been the subject of a number of paranormal investigations.  Ghosts include former prisoners and a headless drummer first seen before the attack by Oliver Cromwell in 1650.  His drums have been heard around the battlements, but he is rarely seen, and an appearance foretells trouble for the city.

By Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18616664

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan is a tidal island where three lochs meet in the Highlands of Scotland.  The castle was built on the island in the 13th century and was a stronghold of Clan Mackenzie and their allies Clan Macrae.  By the 18th century, the castle was destroyed due to the Mackenzie involvement in the Jacobite rebellions.  The reconstructed ruins can now be seen in the present day buildings.

There are two main ghosts mentioned in the spot.  One is ‘Lady Mary’ a female ghost seen in one of the castle’s bedrooms.  The other is a Spanish soldier who died during the Jacobite rebellion siege of 1719.

By Syxaxis Photography – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51062527

Fyvie Castle

Fyvie Castle is located in Aberdeenshire, near the village of Fyvie.  Some parts of the castle date from the 13th century and it was where Robert the Bruce held an open-air court and Charles I lived as a child.  It then became a private residence with five different families owning it and adding to the castle.  It is now a National Trust property.

The main haunting of the castle involves the finding of a skeleton of a woman in a bedroom wall in the 1920s during a renovation.  When the skeleton was laid to rest, there were strange noises and weird happenings in the castle.  The Lord decided to have the skeleton exhumed and returned to the wall, at which time the noises stopped.  A green lady haunts anyone staying in one bedroom.  There are also two indelible blood stains, two other ghosts and a cursed attributed to Thomas the Rhymer.

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle near the village of the same name is in Angus and is the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.  The castle has belonged to the Lyon family since the 14th century and the current castle dates from the 17th century.  It was the childhood home of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, wife of George VI and their second daughter, Princess Margaret, was born there.

One ghost of the castle is a young woman who was accused of being a witch by James V and was burned at the stake.  She appears as a Grey Lady and is seen in the corridors of the castle.  Another ghost was seen by Sir David Bowes-Lyon when walking one evening.  He saw a girl gripping the castle window and went to speak to her, but she vanished.

CC SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=102596

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle is near Argyll in Western Scotland and is located on the longest sea loch in the country, Loch Fyne.  Since the 18th century, it has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, the chiefs of Clan Campbell.  The castle was rebuilt in the 1750s to replace an earlier building in Gothic Revival style.  It was badly damaged in 1975 by fire and the Duke and his family lived in the basement for a time while repairs were done.

The castle has a few ghostly residents.  There is an Irish harpist who was killed by the men of the Duke of Montrose in 1644 and who now haunts the MacArthur Room.  Another is a grey lady, thought to be a daughter of one of the dukes.  A third ghost is the ‘Galley of Lorne’ which is seen to float away from the castle when a Duke dies.

By DeFacto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43283799

Jedburgh Castle

The original Jedburgh Castle was important during the Wars of Scottish Independence and was demolished in 1409.  A new jail was built on the site in the early 1820s and closed in 1868.  It is now open to the public.

The ghosts seem to date from the period as a jail rather than the castle as there is a lot of rattling of chains.  Cries of people who died in the prison can also be heard.

Newark Castle

Newark Castle is a ruined castle near St Monans on the eastern Fife coast.  It was built in the 13th century and King Alexander III spent time there.  It was later owned by David Leslie who was prominent in the England and Scottish Civil Wars, becoming Lord Newark.

As recently as 2015, a ghostly woman was spotted in the ruins of the castle by a local historian.  Her pictures showed a surprising blur in the corner which she believed was the ghost of a large lady, maybe a fisherman’s wife.

haunted castles in Scotland

By John Allan, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28828757

Stirling Castle

Located in Stirling, the castle of the same name is one of the largest in Scotland.  It has steep cliffs on three sides and guards the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, meaning it was an important fortification.  Most of the castle dates from the 15-16th centuries, a few being a little older while the outer defences date from the 18th century.  It was a royal residence including for Mary, Queen of Scots and has withstood at least eight sieges, the last in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlies tried unsuccessfully to take the castle.

The ghost of the castle is one that is unmissable – a Highlander in full traditional costume including a kilt.  In fact, he is so realistic that people have mistaken him for a tour guide and asked him questions about the castle, only to have him turn around and vanish before their eyes.

Further reading