Scotland has long been associated with supernatural spectres, and ghost sightings and strange happenings have been reported across the country. From Stirling Castle to the Old Tay Bridge, we rounded up some of the most haunted spots for you to visit (if you dare) the next time you’re north of the border.
Described as “one of the scariest places on earth” and “Scotland’s most haunted cemetery,” this ancient resting place also contains the Covenanters’ Prison and the tombstone of Thomas Riddell Esquire, the real inspiration behind a famous Harry Potter villain, Voldemort. Perhaps the most irking of all is the Mackenzie Poltergeist, the benevolent spirit of Sir George MacKenzie who has left people on ghost tours passed out, scratched, bruised and severely shaken. The tale goes that Bluidy MacKenzie’s poltergeist was unleashed after a homeless man broke into his tomb one frigid night looking for shelter and has played havoc ever since.
Behind the grand facade of Culzean Castle hides a plethora of paranormal activity. Lurking atop sea-battered cliffs, the castle has historical ties with the famous Kennedy Family but is better known for its spectral residents. On stormy nights, a shrill cacophony of ghostly bagpipes can be heard echoing against the crash of the nearby waves. Numerous apparitions have also been reported, including a lady in a ball gown, a hazy mist and a servant girl who was mistreated. Culzean Castle is also featured in the cult horror classic The Wicker Man.
On 16th April 1746, Culloden Moor, near Inverness, bore witness to one of history’s bloodiest battles between government forces and the Bonnie Prince Charlie. This brief yet gruesome battle demolished the soul-sunken Jacobite army and the many Scottish clans who fought for them. This sombre spot today has been reported as haunted by multiple sources, including Outlander author Diana Gaboldon, who was reduced to tears by the presence of the fallen when visiting the battle site. Some hear sword clashes and painful cries, while others set eyes on a Highland warrior or injured cadavers. Either way, the lingering bloodshed and pain from the battle are evident in the area today.
The fact that Skaill House was constructed within such close distance to the grounds of Orkney’s own Skara Brae – the most complete Neolithic settlement in Europe, also known as the Scottish Pompeii – gives some inkling as to why it has such an abundance of ghostly reports and sightings. Several skeletons have been found under the floorboards of the historical house, with their identities not always known. Over the years, an almost unfathomable number of spooky occurrences have been reported by guests to the eerie grounds.
Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Although a great number of Scotland’s castles are deemed haunted – Edinburgh, Eilean Donan and Crathes included – Stirling is up there with the best of them. Architectural and historical significance aside, an eerie amount of paranormal activity is locked within these ancient walls – from the ghost of the Green Lady, a said servant of Mary, Queen of Scots, to a supernatural Highlander adorned in full Highland garb. There are countless reports of tourists asking him questions, having mistaken him for a tour guide, before seeing his form diminish and disappear.
Crathes Castle near the city of Aberdeen is famed for the mysterious Green Lady, one of Scotland’s best-known spectres. Seen throughout the lifetime of the castle and recently said to have been caught on camera, the Green Lady has stalked the long halls for centuries. During a renovation of the grounds and buildings, a child’s skeleton was found buried under the fireplace, with no one being able to discover her identity. Today the castle is open to the public and, outside of its ghostly past, has plenty on offer for its guests.
Eilean Donan Castle
Definitely one of the eeriest places on the list, the Eilean Donan castle has stood in place since the 13th century and been the site of some notable historical events. Part of the castle’s grizzly past includes the capture, murder and decapitation of 46 Spanish soldiers during the first Jacobite rebellion; they are now said to stalk the castle walls and corridors. The castle can now be hired for weddings and weekends away, although the guests may get more than they bargained for.
This now ruined castle was once the seat of the Earls Marischal, a very notable family in Scotland, but is now home to several supernatural residents. The castle has a long and bloody past, being the scene of several ruthless battles and the setting for the horrific imprisonment of 180 men, women and children in what is now known as the Whig’s Vault. The castle is said to be haunted by a tartan-wearing woman and a possible Viking raider. And during the dead of night, it’s said that the screams and cries of the former prisoners can be heard echoing around the empty walls. Open to visitors, the grounds offer picturesque views across the Scottish coast and some wonderful photo opportunities.
The Old Tay Bridge
The setting of one of the biggest engineering disasters in the 19th century, when a train carrying 75 passengers fell from the bridge into the icy waters below, the Old Tay Bridge is said to host the spectral locomotive once a year on the anniversary of its crash. Deep in December on a cold still night, visitors to the bridge can allegedly hear the rumble of the train as the bridge around it collapses, as well as the screams of its passengers as they head for the dark abyss.
St Andrews Cathedral
Cathedral, Church, Ruins
Once the biggest medieval church in Scotland, St Andrews in Fife is home to a multitude of spooky tales and ghostly appearances. Although the town is known for its famous golf course, its ruined cathedral is said to be one of the most haunted places in the country. The White Lady, one of the most famous St Andrews ghosts, is said to haunt the main tower, where she died of a broken heart, and to fill those that look upon her with a tremendous sense of dread.