The most haunted places in Scotland
I’ve been co-hosting the Generally Spooky Podcast for over a year now.
In that time, we’ve made our way around a lot of Scotland, exploring the history and the hauntings associated with each of them.
So I got in touch with Chris here at Live Breathe Scotland, and he’s allowed me to put together this list of the most haunted places and castles in Scotland.
Some of these are spooky encounters we’ve had for ourselves, others we’ve read about, but this is the definitive list when it comes to haunted Scotland.
Let’s dive in!
The Edinburgh Vaults
Location: Edinburgh City centre
My co-host (and wife) Eilidh and I took part in a ghost tour around Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Edinburgh Vaults, hosted by the City of The Dead Tours.
The Edinburgh vaults are made up of 19 chambers that were built into the arches of the South Bridge around the end of the 1700s. The chambers became the locations for taverns, houses, workshops and businesses like that.
But they became a hotbed of illegal activity, with people taking part in gambling, illegal whisky distilleries and there were even rumours of body snatchers storing corpses down here!
However, the hustle and bustle disappeared as the vaults fell into disrepair, and then they were sealed up sometime in the mid-1800s.
People began exploring the vaults once again when they were excavated in the 1990s and were astounded at what they found.
It should be said that I’m not the most attuned to the paranormal. In fact, it’s become something of a running joke on the podcast that I’m about as psychically inclined as a ham sandwich. No matter how spooky the setting, it doesn’t move me up or down.
Thankfully, Eilidh is much more aware than I am. And during our visit to the ancient vaults under Edinburgh, Eilidh felt a small hand touching the back of her left knee, a hand about the size of her palm. A few seconds later, the woman in front of us jerked violently forwards and then told the guide that someone had pulled down on her arm.
Eilidh was stunned. Had they both just been touched by the same lost soul?
Taken and destroyed by Robert the Bruce in 1314; the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542; and seiged by the Jacobites in 1746, Stirling Castle could truly be called the heart of Scotland’s history.
As far as tourist attractions go, this one is brilliant and well worth a visit.
It has its share of ghostly goings-on. William Douglas is said to haunt the Douglas Gardens, where pushed out of a window overlooking the gardens by the King himself.
There are also a whole host of ghostly ladies who have been seen around the castle.
Stirling’s Black Lady has been seen and felt on the Back Walk of the castle.
There’s also the Pink Lady, who fills people with feelings of longing, sadness, and even unrequited love when they encounter her.
But the most famous of all is the Green Lady who was first sighted all the way back in 1561! The Green Lady is unusual compared to the other ghosts, as she’s been seen by an incredible number of people.
Some people claim that the Green Lady is the spirit of a lady’s maid who died in a fire that happened in Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedroom.
Another story claims that she is the ghost of a Commander’s daughter, who fell in love with one of his soldiers. The commander was so enraged when he discovered their affair, that he shot the soldier dead.
The young woman was so overcome with grief that she threw herself from the tower, and now haunts Stirling Castle as the Green Lady.
John Leith was killed in 1763 after being shot in a drunken brawl in Aberdeen. He now haunts Leith Hall, and appears as a ghostly apparition wearing dark green trousers, a white shirt and a dirty white bandage around his head, obscuring his eyes. The ghost wails, lamenting its injuries.
Location: South Ayrshire
Perched atop sheer, jagged cliffs, Culzean Castle is everything you could hope for if you’re looking for a spooky castle.
The current structure was built at the end of the 18th century, but some form of the castle has stood here for hundreds of years more. Culzean Castle has actually been in the Kennedy family since around the 1300s!
That’s a long time for spooky things to happen and Culzean Castle is actually the location of my favourite ever ghost story.
Sir Archibald Kennedy, or Archibald the Wicked, lived at the castle around 1685.
As his nickname suggests, he wasn’t well-liked and when he passed away some very strange things happened.
As his funeral was taking place, a great storm began. A ship was in the bay near the castle, trying to make its way through the rough waves caused by the strong winds.
The helmsman spotted another boat heading towards them, but as it got closer and closer the crew realised that this wasn’t a boat at all - it was a carriage. On the water. A carriage pulled by four black horses.
The captain called to the driver of the carriage: ‘From whence to where?’
‘From Hell to Culzean’s burial,’ the driver replied, before disappearing again.
Spooky or what?
There is also a haunted cave underneath the castle, where you can supposedly hear a ghost piper playing to this day.
You might even hear the crackle of a fire and screams from the dungeons where a man was roasted on a spit over a fire until he gave up his land.
All in all, I think it’s fair to say this is a spooky place.
Culloden Moor is where the famous final battle between the Jacobites and British Government forces took place.
It was a bloody battle that spelt the end for Bonnie Prince Charlie as the Jacobites suffered a grievous defeat.
Today at Culloden Moor there’s an excellent visitor centre and museum, with lots of fascinating exhibits. I’d also recommend taking a guided tour of the battlefield itself while you’re there.
But what about the ghosts?
It’s a very atmospheric and unsettling place, especially in the winter when haar from the nearby Moray Firth bathes the moor in thick mist. It’s nothing short of spooktacular.
People report hearing echoes of the infamous battle taking place: cries of pain in the mist, ringing gunfire and clashing metal.
Some people even claim to have seen a Jacobite soldier wandering the battlefield alone. Others claim to have seen Bonnie Prince Charlie himself, in full Highland regalia.
I will say that if anywhere was going to be haunted, it would be Culloden Moor. It has a weird vibe all the time, so I believe people who say they’ve heard and seen strange things there. And that’s a lot coming from me!
The ancient site of Clava Cairns lies nearby, a very magical place.
Larkhall and Broomhill House
Location: Larkhall, outside Glasgow
Larkhall is 14 miles outside of Glasgow, a quaint town that had a large manor house on its outskirts known as Broomhill House. And it’s in this house that a ghost is said to wander…
You can make it to Larkhall from Glasgow pretty easily, but Broomhill House is pretty much a ruin. It was damaged by a fire in 1943 and has since fallen into disrepair.
If you’re set on seeing the house for yourself, you’ll have to visit on foot.
But beware of the Black Lady who has been spotted wandering the grounds.
The Black Lady is thought to be Sita Phurdeen who came to the house in 1902. She was brought to Scotland by the master of Broomhill House, Captain Henry McNeil-Hamilton when returned from war in South Africa.
She was his mistress and worked as a servant in the house, under the nose of Captain Hamilton’s wife.
However, it wasn’t long before Sita mysteriously vanished from Broomhill House. The Captain claimed she left abruptly to return to her home in Sri Lanka, but no one knows the truth. Many believe that she was murdered by Captain Hamilton himself.
There have been many sightings of her in the years since, but particularly on the path that runs around the house, which is now known as the “Black Lady’s walk”.
Comlongon Castle has a reputation as a popular wedding destination due to its location near the Scotland-England border, although it is now closed.
However, Comlongon Castle has for attracting visitors and interest… The Green Lady, who walks its halls.
She’s thought to be Marion Carruthers, who was born in 1541 and had a very difficult life.
After she and her sister were left Comlongon Castle and the surrounding Mouswald estate, Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig had his eyes on their fortune, claiming that it was impossible for women to be in control of so much power.
James took the girls to his castle at Drumlanrig under the guise of caring for them, but they were kept as prisoners and kept away from their inheritance.
Unfortunately, after many torturous years of neglect and isolation and the prospect of forced marriage, Marion threw herself from a tower window, and her death was ruled a suicide.
But today, many people who enter Comlongon Castle say they hear sobbing behind doors that lead to empty rooms.
Other people have talked about being pushed, being nudged and spotting a ghostly green form around the castle.
There’s even a legend that on the spot where Marion fell, at the bottom of the Lookout Tower, grass doesn’t grow and has never grown.
Undoubtedly an eerie place.
Mary King’s Close
This is a haunted Scottish spot with which I have a personal connection. It’s an underground close found under the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, which you can pay to get a tour of.
I went on this tour with my family when I was about 13, and I actually fainted inside the close! I had to be taken back up to the ground level to recover.
I think I probably overheated since it was warm down there, and I had my winter clothes on… But there are several people I’ve told that story to who think something spooky might have happened to me.
Who’s to say?
There are many ghostly apparitions that have been sighted in the Close, including a ghostly dog that curls up in a chair.
However, the most famous ghost is of a small girl who supposedly reached out to a Japanese psychic medium during her visit to the Close. The ghost was crying, saying she had lost her doll.
The medium was so touched that she left a doll there for the little girl, and now countless other visitors to the Close do the same thing.
Scotland's most famous castle has many of it's own ghost stories:
The Headless Drummer Boy - Said to appear on the eve of an attack on the castle. First seen in 1650 before Oliver Cromwell and the English army besieged the castle.
The Grey Lady - dressed as a 16th century noblewoman, she has been spotted around older areas of the castle, simply wandering, sometimes weeping.
The Prisoner - this ghost is said to smell of manure and attempts to push visitors from the castle ramparts. It's said he tried to escape the castle dungeon by heading in manure, but instead o the barrow being taken outside of the castle it was emptied over the wall, killing the unfortunate prisoner on the jagged rocks far below.
The Piper - This is the tale of a solider and piper who was sent to explore the depths of an underground tunnel from Edinburgh Castle. He played his bagpipes as he descended into the tunnel as a means to show his progress as he explored further only for the sound to suddenly stop. Despite a search the piper was never seen again, although it's said the faint sound of bagpipes can be heard coming from deep underground.
Good Boy - Once a regimental mascot, the spirit of a dog named Good Boy can sometimes be seen roaming the castle interior.
Location: Roslin, south of Edinburgh
Rosslyn Chapel is perhaps most famous for being featured in The Da Vinci Code as a possible hiding place of the legendary Holy Grail.
This doesn’t seem to be based, in fact… but no matter what, it’s a stunning chapel to look at and the St Clair family who own it have done a wonderful job preserving it.
Very close to the chapel are the ruins of Rosslyn Castle, and both are reported to be haunted.
There are a few different ghosts reported in and around the chapel but let’s start with the White Lady, who has been seen roaming the castle ruins.
The legend goes that she’s a member of the St Clair family who was bewitched into a magical sleep and is waiting for a knight to rescue her from the curse. Whoever manages to save her will be blessed with untold riches…
People have also talked about encountering the ghost of a black knight. Perhaps he’s looking to save the White Lady? Creepily, these sightings have happened while people have been driving near the castle, not even visiting the site itself.
On your visit, you might even hear the barking of a dog on the wind, as the ghost of a dog who charged into battle to avenge his fallen master, only to be slain itself, has also been seen and heard.
Finally, when workmen were renovating Rosslyn Chapel in 2010, they were having to work there overnight. They reported feeling like they were being watched the whole time they were in the chapel.
One of them even talked about turning round and seeing a monk standing over him, watching him work!
Now we’re going all the way up to Orkney.
Skaill House was built with the 5000-year-old Skara Brae - an ancient settlement - right on its doorstep. If you’re going to find ghosts anywhere, it’s going to be at Skaill House!
Skaill House is open to visitors and has accommodation that you can stay in if you’re looking for a spooky Scottish getaway.
The Laird of the house swears that he and his dog heard footsteps late one night when he was doing some work on the house. His dog raised her hackles and started barking loudly, before running out of the room. But there was no one there.
On another occasion, while he was working, he suddenly smelled fresh cigarette smoke, as if someone were smoking nearby or in the room. But he didn’t smoke. And no one else was in the house.
A very odd ghost encounter, indeed!
There are lots of other spooky goings-on at Skaill House. Ghostly figures have been seen, reflections when no one should be around and countless reports of disembodied footsteps walking around at night.
If you can only go to one haunted place in Scotland, I would recommend Skaill House.
This is a story close to home for me.
And although it’s not the spookiest place, Cawdor Castle is basically in my back garden. I love it, so I wanted to include it.
Cawdor Castle is a magnificent stone structure surrounded by some of the most well-kept gardens you’ll lay your eyes on.
But what lies inside?
There’s all the historic finery you would expect inside a castle: portraits on the walls, beautiful tapestries hanging from the ceiling, and more four-poster beds than you could ever sleep in.
But there are stories of a ghostly lady in a blue velvet dress… There isn’t a lot of information on who she might be, but she’s been spotted around the castle. And noting the fabric of her dress is an interesting observation.
Another female spectre has been seen in the Drawing Room of the castle, gazing up at the portrait of the first Baron of Cawdor. It’s assumed that this is his wife, gazing lovingly at her husband.
The Baron himself has even been seen walking the halls. Maybe one day they’ll find each other?
Cawdor Castle is the very picture of a haunted castle and is a great place to visit.
The Black Mausoleum
Perhaps the most famous and malevolent paranormal entity in Scotland exists in Edinburgh's Greyfriars Cemetary. The Mackenzie Poltergeist inhabits the Black Mausoleum and has become a big tourist attraction for those on the City of the Dead tours.
Sir George Mackenzie is interred in the mausoleum; he acted as Lord Advocate of Scotland in 1679 and was personally responsible for the torture and killing of many Covenanters who were persecuted due to their faith. He was given the name "Bluidy Mackenzie".
There have been many sightings of the poltergeist, with over 100 pages of eyewitness accounts and over 140 people claiming to have been directly attacked by the angry spirit. Visitors often report marks upon their bodies after a visit to the mausoleum, including cuts, bruises and burns, often hidden under their clothes.
St Andrews Cathedral
Built in 1160, St Andrews Cathedrals overlooks the north sea and the remaining ruins only hint at the wondrous structure that once existed here. No Scottish ruin would be complete without it's own ghost story, and this cathedral is no different - The White Lady haunts the ruin on stormy nights in the winter months gliding silently then vanishing. The wall tower became known as the "haunted tower" and locals would not pass it after night fall.
Although there have been many sightings of the white lady over the last 200 years, no interactions have been recorded.
Could Glamis Castle be Scotland's most haunted castle? The amount of Scottish ghost stories associated with this 650-year-old castle makes me think it might be!
Ghosts of Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle is closely associated with the Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon family and the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Members of the Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon family are said to have seen ghosts at the castle, including the Queen Mother's brother, Sir David Bowes-Lyon.
The Grey Lady of Glamis Chapel
Interestingly, the castle chapel has a seat reserved for the Grey Lady, who is said to appear to warn members of the Bowes-Lyon family of trouble. The ghost is that of Lady Janet, who was Lady of Glamis in 1537. As part of the Douglas family, she was seen as an enemy of King James V and, in a politically motivated attack, was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in front of her young son.
Jack the Runner
Another of the many Ghosts of Glamis, Jack the Runner sprints across the castle grounds on clear moonlit nights
The Earl's Devilish Card Game
Legend has it that Earl Beardie (possibly Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford) would not stop playing cards on the sabbath and proclaimed he would even play the Devil himself. Sure enough, the Devil appeared at his door, stripped the Earl of his soul and forced him to play a never-ending card game until the end of time.
The Monster of Glamis
This enduring tale came to prominence in the 1960s after it was revealed Lord Glamis' wife Charlotte gave birth to the couple's first son, who was born horribly malformed in 1821. The child was said to have died a few hours later.
Although the death was officially announced, rumours began about the status of the child after a baptism was recorded, but no grave in the local cemetery. Locals believed that the child was named Thomas and kept hidden away in a secret room. Said to be immensely strong and of monstrous appearance, he lived for over 100 years.
Upon his death, he was sealed in a coffin and walled up within the secret room. It's said his ghost walks the rooftops and castle walls along "Mad Earl's Walk", the only place he was allowed to walk outside of his prison.
Where is the most haunted place in Scotland?
I would have to say The Black Mausoleum in Edinburgh would be the most haunted location in Scotland. The sheer amount of strange things associated with this location and the Mackenzie Poltergeist makes it one of the most haunted places in Scotland.
This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creepy goings on in Scotland, there are reported sightings in many other locations, including:
House of Dun
The list of haunted locations is endless!
I hope this short guide to the most haunted places in Scotland has been of interest. Why not check out my article on Scottish Mythical Beasts & Monsters for more spooky tales?
Massive thanks to Kieran for writing this article: Kieran MacRae co-hosts the Generally Spooky Podcast with his wife, Eilidh. It’s a Scottish history podcast that also dives into the spooky goings-on associated with a lot of Scotland's places and people.
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6th of September 2022 @ 19:48:32
An amazing an informative article! I suppose, like Kieran, I'm very sceptical when it comes to 'spooky things' but just because I've never seen a ghost, doesn't mean they don't exist. I like to think I keep an open mind on things I don't fully understand though.