Haunted castles in Scotland

Edinburgh Castles-Blackness-Castle

Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. As well as being known for traditions such as haggis and the Loch Ness Monster, its castles are one of its most popular features. With more than 2,000 castles – ranging from the fairytale, turret-laden masterpieces to imposing fortresses – each has its own story to tell.

And with many of them being the sites of much bloodshed and terror, several of Scotland’s castles have dark histories swirling with myths and legends. In this post, we’ll introduce you to some of the most haunted castles in Scotland and tell you their grisly stories.

11 Haunted Castles to visit in Scotland

1.Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle is one of the best examples of a medieval castle in Scotland. The stronghold gives incredible views over to Bass Rock, and large colonies of seabirds in the North Sea.

The castle was besieged many times and was heavily damaged by Cromwell and his forces in 1651. There are many myths and legends surrounding Tantallon Castle, including some accounts that say it was the origin of King Arthur’s Camelot.

More recently, Tantallon has been popular with ghost hunters; in 2009, photographs circulated online that seemed to show a 17th-century figure looking out from the windows of the ruin.

Where: North Berwick

When: 14th century

Style: Medieval

Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 from April to September. 10:00 – 16:00 from October to March. On weekends in July, the castle is open until 20:00.

2. Falkland Palace & Garden

Built between 1501 and 1541, Falkland Palace and Garden is one of the finest examples of a Scottish Renaissance Palace. The ‘pleasure palace’ was designed to enable King James IV and his son to engage in pursuits such as falconry and hunting.

As well as being home to the world’s oldest surviving tennis court, you may come across the Grey Lady in the spooky Tapestry Gallery. She is said to be waiting for her lover to return – a soldier who rode off into battle.

Where: Falkland, Cupar

When: 16th century

Style: Renaissance

Open for Visit: Yes. 11:00 – 17:00 Monday – Saturday from March to October. 12:00 – 17:00 on Sundays. Closed from November until February.

3. Skaill House

Built atop a Norse burial ground, it takes a brave traveller to spend the night at Skaill House. It’s not a castle, but probably the most exquisite 17th-century mansion on the Isle of Orkney.

It is just 200 metres from the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, which was unearthed by the 7th laird who lived in the house. There are said to be ghosts living in the house. The current laird of the manor reported hearing footsteps late one night and his dog barking at seemingly nothing.

Other stories have included the smells of cigarette smoke in the attic and doors opening and closing of their own accord. The residents at least agree the ghosts are friendly!

Where: Sandwick, Orkney

When: 17th century

Style: Manor House

Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 April – September. 10:00 – 16:00 October.

4. Hermitage Castle

This eerie and remote castle in the Scottish Borders stood watch over ‘the bloodiest valley in Britain’. Many castles in Scotland’s share the claim to fame that Mary Queen of Scots spent time there, and Hermitage is no different. She is one of the restless spirits said to inhabit the castle, among many others. There are countless tales of torture and black magic taking place within the thick stone walls.

Where: Newcastleton, Hawick

When: 14th century

Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 from April to September. Closed October to March.

5. Blackness Castle

Film buffs will recognise Blackness Castle from Mary Queen of Scots, in which it played the role of Holyroodhouse Palace, while TV addicts will remember it from Outlander. However, Blackness is a fearsome castle with its own horrible history.

Since being built in the 15th century, the formidable stronghold has been a royal castle, prison, and ammunitions depot. If you’re of a nervous disposition, stay away from the central ‘Prison’ tower; the phantom of a knight in armour is said to call it home.

Where: Blackness, Linlithgow

When: 15th century

Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 from April to September. 10:00 – 16:00 October to March

6. Inveraray Castle

This country house castle is in the county of Argyll on the shore of Scotland’s longest sea loch, Loch Fyne. It’s one of the first and most beautiful examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Scotland, although there are other influences too.

The ghost here is unlikely to scare you, but its story is fascinating all the same. During Britain’s Civil War in 1644, the castle was ransacked and burned, with the resident harp player one of the victims. The charming ghost who is said to live here more often appears to women, and ghostly harp music can often be heard in the castle library.

Where: Inveraray

When: 18th century

Style: Gothic Revival, Baroque, and Palladian architecture

Open for Visit: 10:00 – 17:45 from April to October.

7. Kellie Castle

Kellie Castle is a blend of medieval architecture and Victorian style, as the castle was refurbished in the 19th century by the artistic Lorimer family.

The spooky stories come from the oldest part of the castle, which dates back to 1360. Guests have reported hearing ghostly footsteps pacing the castle tower at night. But who is it? It’s said to be the spirit of Anne Erskine who fell from an upstairs window of the tower… or maybe she was pushed?

Where: Pittenweem, Anstruther

When: 14th century

Style: Medieval

Open for Visit: 11:00 – 17:00 from June to September. 11:00 – 16:00 during October.

8. Alloa Tower

One of the few remaining examples of a tower house in Scotland, Alloa Tower was one of the first built around 700 years ago and is the largest surviving keep in Scotland.

From the top of the tower, you can admire spectacular panoramic views, which stretch across nine counties. The Erskine Family are said to have put a curse on the tower in the 16th century, and there are a gaggle of ghosts who live in this tower, including a man in chains in the dungeon.

Where: Alloa

When: 14th century

Style: Medieval tower house

Open for Visit: 12:00 – 17:00 Friday to Monday from June to August. 12:00 – 16:00 Friday to Monday from September to October.

9. Kinnaird Head Castle Lighthouse and Museum

Kinnaird Head Castle was built in the 16th century but altered in the late 18th century to add the first working lighthouse on the Scottish mainland. And while you think that the haunting comes from a ship that washed up on the shore, you’d be wrong.

In fact, it’s a ghost piper you need to be on the lookout for (or at least listen to) here. It’s said that the laird’s daughter fell in love with a servant piper, who was then locked up in a cave below the castle. The piper drowned in the bad weather. When Isobel heard the news, she threw herself onto the rocks below.

Where: Fraserburgh

When: 18th century

Open for Visit: 10:00 – 17:00 Monday to Sunday from March to October. 10:00 – 16:30 Wednesday to Sunday from November to March.

10. Castle Menzies

This 16th-century castle is in the Highlands of Perthshire and was the seat of the Clan Menzies for almost 500 years. It has been restored from ruin not only as a visitor attraction but as a wedding and concert venue too.

Castle Menzies’ most terrifying ghosts are the rumoured coven of witches who haunt the meat cellar, but there have also been mysterious voices and ghostly orbs witnessed by tour groups. Spooky!

Where: Weem, Aberfeldy

When: 16th century

Open for Visit: 10:30 – 17:00 Monday to Saturday. 14:00 – 17:00 Sundays from April to October.

11. The Castle of Mey

When the weather is clear, you’ll be able to see the Orkneys from the Castle of Mey – around six miles west of the most northerly point in the UK John o’Groats. In fact, it’s the most northerly castle in Scotland!

The castle is the former holiday home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. When staying at the castle, the royal would have been wise to stay away from the top floor of the castle, which is haunted by Lady Fanny Sinclair.

Where: Mey, Thurso

When: 16th century

Style: Gothic Revival

Open for Visit: 11:00 – 15:00 Wednesdays and Thursdays in April. 10:00 – 17:00 from May to September.

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