Scotland's castles and grand homes became the place to glimpse glowing or greying presences. Over the centuries, these strongholds witnessed more than their fair share of dastardly deeds. The Scottish nobility were often a wild and ruthless lot, and their treatment of their own families and servants - particularly their womenfolk - was as vicious as their dealings with their bitterest rivals.ARDBLAIR CASTLE
Perhaps, though, Scottish ghosts have become a shortcut back to the turbulent past, where the best stories are always to be found. No one would want to have lived through such storms of change, yet temporary time travel is a power to the imagination. We can better imagine how the hard-done-by wife of earl so and so might have lived if we think she might still be waiting in the shadows.
At Glamis Castle in Angus - reputedly Scotland's most haunted castle - visitors often find themselves ushered in by one such dame. The grey lady who haunts the 17th century chapel has been seen by several reliable dignitaries, including the 16th Earl of Strathmore. When large parties are shown into the chapel, guides have reported that one place is always left vacant, as if there was already someone there.
Some are less reticent, as well as more vibrantly attired. Although no reason has been attached to the particular colours of ghosts, it seems the large number of green ladies is explained by green being an unlucky colour in medieval times, as well as the colour of fairies.
Ashintully Castle, north-east of Kirkmichael in Perthshire, is where "Green Jean" is said to reside. The story goes that she inherited the lands and the castle in her own right, but her uncle wanted the property, and in one of the castle chambers he murdered Jean, who was wearing a green dress, along with her servant, who he stuffed up the chimney.
There is another Green Jean in Perthshire. The green lady who haunts Newton Castle, Blairgowrie, is said to be Lady Jean Drummond of Newton, who had fallen in love with one of the Blairs of Ardblair. The families had feuded and Lady Jean seems to have pined away with a broken heart, drowning herself after she was betrothed to another man. However, an old ballad tells it differently. It claims Jean had consulted a local witch after her lover spurned her. She was given an enchanted green dress, which won him back, but she died shortly after marrying him.
Tales of young girls falling for the wrong man and being punished for their passions are common. At the Castle of Mey in Caithness, the daughter of the 5th Earl of Caithness is still said to roam, heartbroken. She fell in love with a ploughman and was locked in the attic by her father. She threw herself from one of the windows and survives only as a green spirit.
Green, of course, is also the colour of envy. Visit Fyvie Castle, in Aberdeenshire, and you might come across the verdant-tinged Lady Lilias Drummond, wife of Alexander Seton, first Earl of Dunfermline. Lilias died in May 1601, possibly starved to death by her husband. He married Lady Grizel Leslie only four months after Lilias' death and his first wife's ghost is said to have scratched her name on the stone window sill of the newlyweds' bedroom, the Drummond Room, on the night of October 27, soon after they were married. The writing can still be seen.
The pink lady who haunts Stirling Castle may be Mary Queen of Scots (who has also been seen at Craignethan, Loch Leven and Hermitage castles). But she could just as well be the ghost of a woman searching for her husband who was killed when the castle was captured by Edward 1. Stirling also has a green lady, said to be the servant who saved Mary when her bedclothes caught fire. Not all the colourful ladies have such good intentions. Though fewer than their innocuous affiliates, certain ghosts are seen as decidedly wicked women. Among them is white lady Christian Nimmo, who roams Corstorphine Castle, west of Edinburgh. She is said to have murdered her lover in 1679 during an argument, for which she was tried and sentenced to death. At Castle Levan, south-west of Gourock, you might bump into Lady Montgomery, who also favours white gowns. She was supposedly starved to death by her husband for mistreating local tenants and farmers. Presumably, the husband got off scot-free for his noble act.
Much more usual among well-to-do husbands were crimes of fired by lust and jealousy. One such took place at Meggernie Castle, eight miles north of Killin in the southern Highlands, and gives rise to perhaps the goriest of female spirits. One of the Menzies lords of the 17th or 18th century is supposed to have murdered his wife in a fit of anger, cutting her in half with a mind to dispose of the body. It is said he stored the top half in the attic thinking to get rid of it later, and the poor woman's upper body can still be seen wandering the top floors of the building. The bloodied lower half is said to haunt the ground floors, as well as the family burial ground, where it was reportedly laid to rest. There is hard evidence to support this particular spook - in the 19th century, the upper bones of a woman were discovered in the building.
Typically, though, the most famous Scottish ghosts are all men. In fact, even the most renowned Scottish witch was a man. From 1649-50, Major Thomas Weir commanded the City Guard of Edinburgh, having been a leading Presbyterian light in Lanarkshire. But underneath his respectable "Angelical Thomas" cloak were dreadful deeds and the darkest character. He eventually confessed to a catalogue of sins including an incestuous relationship with his sister, womanising, bestiality and black magic.
He and his sister Jean were arrested and condemned to death. Weir was burnt alive, but before his ashes were cold his base spirit was back in Edinburgh's West Bow, in Anderson's Close or the "Stinking Close" as it came to be known. His black thornwood staff, carved with heads of satyr-like beasts, began taking walks of its own and a black coach was seen arriving and leaving in the area. For more than 100 years, no one would consider inhabiting his house - the first tenants were scared off by a calf-like creature in their bedroom. Back at Glamis, Alexander Lindsay the 4th Earl of Crawford - or "Earl Beardie" - can still be heard cursing through a game of cards in a walled-up chamber. He is said to have engaged in a poker game with the devil, after being accused of cheating in a previous game by Patrick, the first Lord Glamis. Earl Beardie is the best-known of several other Glamis spirits, including a little black boy (supposed to have died from hypothermia after being scolded and forgotten), a tongueless, handless woman (supposed to have unearthed a family scandal) and a "monster" (supposed to be the ghost of a deformed child born to the Glamis line).
Meanwhile, dirty deeds are still being done by Black Andrew Munro at Balnagown Castle, north-east of Alness. He was hanged from one of the castle windows for his dark doings, mostly with women. True to character, he appears mostly to the fairer sex.
A black coach carrying the corpse of James Carnegie, the 2nd Earl of Southesk who died in 1669, has been seen repeatedly at Kinnaird Castle, west of Montrose. Carnegie is said to have studied in Padua, where he learnt much about black magic and managed to lose his shadow. It is thought the devil came to collect his own when he died. Scotland's spirits are not limited to human realms - at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, a yellow monkey or similar creature has appeared time and again to guests, while there is said to be a canine ghost at Edinburgh Castle. Then, almost inevitably, there are the drummers and pipers. The most famous of these can be heard at Cortachy Castle, north of Kirriemuir, built by the Ogilvie Earls of Airlie. A ghostly drummer is said to signal the death knell for members of the Ogilvy family - reported incidents preceded the deaths of the 7th Earl's first and second wives. The drummer is thought to be a spirit from the Leslie family, who was either slain or thrown from the battlements.
At Gight Castle, East of Fyvie the sound of ghostly bagpipes has been heard ever since a piper was ordered to explore a tunnel under the castle and never returned. However, if you want to take pot luck with your ghost-hunting, the best place to go is the west coast of Sutherland. The area between Lochinvar and Cape Wrath has seen everything from encounters with dead sailors to face-to-face exchanges with mermaids. Sandwood Bay, now in the hands of the John Muir Trust, boasts far more spectres than it does people. Sandwood Cottage is one of the loneliest cottages in the country and both cottage and beach are said to be extremely haunted. But perhaps it's all to do with solitude and too much of the fiery Highland spirit. Never mind the grey ladies, sceptics might say - spend a night alone with the Glenmorangie and you'll be seeing purple by morning.
Murder and the case of Green Jean
Blairgowrie, Perthshire; is probably best known to-day as the centre of the soft fruit district in Scotland -- indeed the local guide book claims it as the "Raspberry Capital of the World"! In the century before the raspberry crop brought prosperity the town had grown out of two little communities united in using the water of the Erict for flax and jute mills. Blairgowrie can boast two castles, both still occupied, and sharing a ghost. Newton Castle is now the home of the Chief of the Clan Macpherson, but it was originally a Drummond stronghold, built in the middle of the 16th century. Ardblair Castle goes back much further, built by Alexander de Blair in the days of William the Lion. Needless to say the two families couldn't agree. ARDVRECK CASTLE
In the mid 16th century two Drummond men, father and son, were ambushed and murdered by the Blairs, which didn't help Lady Jean's cause at all when she fell in love with a Blair! A union with such a murderous family was out of the question. Nor was the Blair family in favour of the match, for Patrick Blair had been beheaded for his part in the murder. Heartbroken, Lady Jean wandered out into the marshes . . . and never returned. Her ghost, however, dressed in green silk, divides her time between the two castles.
Known as the Green Lady, she is also rumoured to have had dealings with the fairy folk, putting herself in their power by begging their help and accepting a Wedding Dress woven by them, but once having had dealings with them, this mortal life no longer held any enchantment for her. Whatever version is believed, it is a sad wistful ghost who haunts the castles, inspiring pity more than fear. In the 18th century the two families were still at odds. One of the Drummonds' most prominent members, George, a Hanoverian and supporter of the Union of Parliaments, is actually accused of informing on the Earl of Mar when he conspired to bring about the 1715 Uprising. A grateful government appointed him Lord Provost of Edinburgh and in this post, held six times by him, George Drummond became well known as a benefactor to the city, founding the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Ardblair Castle, meanwhile, had passed by marriage to the Oliphants of Gask, a family renowned as Jacobites. To-day the castle houses many relics of those turbulent times. When the family moved from Gask the 'flitting' included a table inscribed 'Charles, Prince of Wales, breakfasted at this table in the long drawingroom at Gask, 11th September 1745'. Other precious belongings of the Young Pretender are the shoes he wore when dressed as Betty Burke; gloves, spurs, bonnet and garter; and his crucifix. Laurence Oliphant had been Aide-de-Camp to Bonnie Prince Charlie so when his daughter was born he named her Caroline, after the Prince. Caroline discovered she had a talent for writing poetry and ballads, and under the pseudonym "Mrs Bogan of Bogan" she published many pieces well known to-day -- 'The Auld Hoose'; 'The Rowan Tree'; 'The Laird o' Cockpen'; and 'The Hundred Pipers'.
But being brought up as an ardent Jacobite her longings were expressed in such songs as 'Charlie is my Darling' and 'Will ye no come back again?' The Blair-Oliphant family still live at Blair Castle, cherishing possessions of their famous forbears, and undisturbed by the Green Lady who harms no-one as she searches through the rooms or sits quietly by the window, watching.
Groom was devil in disguise
Perched on a rocky promontory jutting into Loch Assynt are the ruins of Ardvreck Castle. The desolate scenery is a fit setting for a stronghold with a history of treachery, betrayal and intrigue with the devil. From its beginnings in the last decade of the sixteenth century it was reputed to have evil associations. The land had come to the Macleods through marriage with the Macneil heiress. Macleod had long envied his relatives of Dunvegan Castle and wanted nothing more than to own a castle at least as grand.ASHINTULLY CASTLE
The devil saw his opportunity and offered to provide means to build the castle; but at a price--the soul of Macleod. Stiff bargainingfollowed but Macleod was wily enough to hold out for immortality to enjoy his castle. That was too much for the devil and negotations might have been broken off had not Macleod's daughter appeared on the scene. The devil resumed his bargaining -- this time offering to build the castle in return for the maiden's hand in marriage. Her father hastily sealed the bargain. The wedding took place. The castle was built. All seemed well -- until the young bride learned just who her bridegroom was. The Devil in disguise! In terror she cast herself out the window onto the rocks beneath, and her ghost wanders the ruins to this day, weeping bitterly.
So the Macleods of Assynt got their castle -- but little joy did it bring them. Legend tells of a wicked old crone who lived in the castle and caused much unhappiness in the area through her malicious "claiking" tongue. She was reputed to be a 'familiar' of the devil, but went too far in her slanderous gossiping one day, and was challenged by her victim's brother -- a young man who had studied the occult and the black arts. Their confrontation ended with the appearance of the devil himself who completely vindicated the young man's sister -- but the area was left desolate for years. No crops would grow and no fish lived in the loch.
Ardvreck's best known tale is one which persisted in the Highlands for centuries, and was told and retold as a story of treachery and betrayal so contemptible that it is said that from that terrible day the family fortunes declined. It happened in 1650. Montrose had landed in the North and had mustered a force in support of his king. Defeated, however, and deserted by his foreignmercenaries, he became a fugitive. It is from here that versions of what occurred differ, probably to remain a mystery forever.
The most widely held belief was that Montrose sought sanctuary at Ardvreck and was welcomed and offered protection. But Neil Macleod was tempted by the reward and sent word to General Leslie where Montrose could be found. Montrose was taken and ignominiously led off. his feet tied under the horse's belly, to imprisonment and execution at Edinburgh. Macleod's reward was £20,000 and 400 bols of meal -- and writers ever since have taken delight in recounting that 'the meal was sour'
The vile act of treachery is commemorated in verse:
A traitor sold him to his foes,
o deed of deathless shame.'
The accusation has always been hotly denied by the Macleods, and recent research has cast doubt upon the motives of his loudest accuser, who, within the next twenty years raided the castle and harried Macleod until he was driven from Ardvreck, and the Mackenzies took possession. The ghost of a tall man, dressed in grey, has been seen among the ruins on several occasions. He seems a friendly fellow and willingly enters into conversation with any brave enough to approach him --provided they speak the Gaelic!
Phantom tinker and hunchback
ASHINTULLY, near Kirkmichael in North Pertshire, is the home of the Spalding family who originally took up residence in the late 16th century when Andrew Spalding married into the Wemyss family who owned the land round about. Andrew was not at all popular with his neighbours, for in 1587 a gang of them, thirty in all, descended on Ashintully and kept him prisoner. Whatever he had done to bring their fury on his head must have been serious in their eyes for Andrew was subjected to humiliation and torture. On his release he appealed to the king who declared the aggressors rebels, and pardon was withheld until 1598. Gratitude for the king's support was sadly lacking however, for Andrew's successor David was deeply involved in the Gowrie Conspiracy, supporting the Ruthvens.BALDOON CASTLE
The castle can boast of three ghosts. Green Jean" was really tempting fate one evening when she decided to don a green dress, for green is unlucky for humans, they say, being the fairy colour. But as owner of the castle Jean was used to having her own way, much to the resentment of her uncle who didn't believe in women inheriting property. That night he decided to get rid of her. He entered the bedroom where her maid was dressing her hair. Of course he had to dispose of the witness too! The maid's body was stuffed up the bedroom chimney and Jean, her throat cut, was dragged away to be buried. But she refused to remain at rest, and, still dressed in her green gown, is often seen wandering around the family burial ground, or in the castle corridors.
The other two ghosts are men seeking vengeance. "Crooked Davie" was a hunchback employed as a messenger by the family, not out of charity, but because he was noted in the district for being fleet of foot. On one particular day a great banquet was planned, and as the servants usually ate well from the left-overs and enjoyed festivities of their own "down-stairs", Davy was determined to be there, for he was courting one of the maids. Even when his master despatched him to Edinburgh with a message Davy was not all that much dismayed for he knew he could be there and back on time if he made an extra special effort. He had never run faster, but when he arrived back at Ashintully he was exhausted. As he waited before the fire in the hall for his master, he fell asleep. Spalding, coming past and seeing him, immediately jumped to the conclusion he had been disobeyed.
Without giving Davy a chance to explain he slew him . . . and only after his death did Spalding find the papers sticking out of Davie's pocket were the ANSWER to his message. Davie's companion in haunting the grounds of Ashintully is the ghost of a tinker hanged for trespassing. Before he was hanged the tinker (said to be a Robertson) put a curse on the family, and he still wanders the grounds with Davy, shrieking out his curse.
Murdered on her wedding night
BALDOON CASTLE: "There never was trouble brewing in Scotland but that a Dalrymple or a Campbell was at the bottom of it!" -- so Charles II is reputed to have said. The Dalrymple family home in Wigtownshire was Carscreugh Castle now in ruins. From the family home one day in the middle of the 17th century a bridal procession set off -- with a most reluctant bride. Janet Dalrymple was madly in love with Archibald, third -- and penniless -- son of Lord Rutherford.
The parental foot had been set down very firmly however on any romantic notions the young couple may have had a union with David, eldest son of Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon was all arranged for Janet.
No one knows exactly what occurred in the bridal chamber that night, for ever after the bridegroom refused to talk about it. All sorts of rumours were bandied around. One claims the bride in her grief went insane and attacked her unwanted husband. Another says no it was Archibald, who~ madly jealous, somehow or other concealed himself in the room until the newly-weds were alone, then sprang out and attacked the groom. Yet again it is the groom himself who is said to have stabbed his reluctant bride . . . whatever the case, Janet ended up mortally wounded.
The paths of the two families who had been so eager to unite took widely different paths after that. The Dalrymples became better known by the title they received shortly after -- Earls of Stair. As the Master of Stair John Dairymple eventually became Secretary of State for Scotland and was responsible for the Massacre of Glencoe. The Dunbars of Baldoon turned their energies to the improving of agriculture that was beginning to take effect in the last quarter of the 17th century. In his way Sir David Dunbar was a pioneer of the enclosed land for grazing and the importation of cattle--albeit illicit--from Ireland. Sir David recovered enough from his first unhappy matrimonial venture to wed a daughter of the 7th Earl of Eglinton.
What that lady thought of the ghost of her husband's first wife haunting the castle is not known. But legend lives on in more than tradition for the tale so captured the imagination of Sir Walter Scott that he wove "The Bride of Lammermuir" round the tragic heroine. Janet's ghostly figure clad in her blood-splattered white bridal gown, is often seen at Baldoon especially on the anniversary of her dreadful experience.