Scotland is now a part of the United Kingdom, abiding by the same laws and paying the same taxes. At one point in history it was an individual country. Like the rest of the UK Scotland is rich in historical castles. Many wealthy Americans of Scottish descent return and purchase a castle. The average citizen would be unable to afford the formidable cost today. In the Middle Ages a king or lord was able to hire servants for very little money. Usually it took a staff of twenty or more to maintain a castle.
Of all the castles in Scotland, Wales and the rest of the UK, over one hundred are
considered haunted. They hold much history including war, murder, love and hate. Some are over six hundred years old. Imagine the kings who were absolute rulers,
the knights and the fair maidens who enjoyed life and prospered. Think of the servants and the peasants who farmed the lands surrounding the castles. During the Middle Ages there was an enormous economic gap between the all powerful royals and their subjects.
The saddest cases were the unfortunate souls who were thrown into the dungeons. Perhaps it is their wails and shrieks heard echoing through the night. Unmerciful instruments of torture are on display in most castles. Chains and cuffs are attached to walls. There are racks, chairs with spikes on the seat and beds of nails. One particularly nasty implement was the Iron Maiden. It was the size of a coffin but shaped to resemble a woman. The victim was encased inside it and tortured with thumb screws, branding irons and spikes.
The dungeons were lit only by the small amount of sunlight filtered through small openings in the walls. There was constant dampness and scanty amounts of poor quality food served to the prisoners. Statistically, only ten per cent of all those thrown into the dungeons came out alive. Skeletons can be seen on the floors of many castle dungeons. They are witness to the horrific things that were done in those dungeons.
A seldom mentioned fact is that there were some dungeons that were too small to allow the prisoner to lie down to sleep. He was forced to stand continuously in a space approximately eight feet high and three feet wide.
One of the haunted castles is Baldoon Castle in Galloway. From 1530 to 1800 it was
owned and occupied by the Dunbars. Sir Walter Scott used it as the subject of a novel he wrote called "The Bride of Lammermuir." As the tale goes the prospective bride was forced by her parents to give up a man she loved to marry David Dunbar. She complied with their wishes but losing her true love caused her to go insane. On her wedding night she stabbed David Dunbar to death in the bridal chamber. Since these horrific events took place in the seventeenth century they say she roams the halls of Baldoon Castle wearing a bloody white dress. Could it be that she was still wearing her wedding gown when she murdered the husband forced upon her. Each year on the anniversary of her own death she is known to walk the halls still clad in that blood spattered gown.
An apparition of Mary Queen of Scots makes her appearances at the Borthwick Castle in Lothian. This impressive castle was built in 1430. On 15 May 1567 a marriage between Mary and the Earl of Bothwell was performed. While the newlyweds were in residence the castle came under attack. When the enemy was unsuccessful at gaining access they surrounded the castle and a siege began. History says Mary Queen of Scots was able to escape. She allegedly disguised herself as a man by wearing a page boy uniform.
The spirit of a woman named Helen Gunn is seen in Ackergill Tower, in Caithness. Her sad tale is part of its six hundred year history. The castle was owned by the Keith family who were enemies of the Gunn family. Their disputes often turned into fights. One of the worst resulted in a member of the Keith family kidnapping the fair Helen. She was held captive in a tower but preferred death to confinement. She climbed up over the battlements of the tower and threw herself to the ground below. She roams the castle grounds; her ethereal appearance as young and lovely as she was in life. Perhaps she wants revenge against the kidnapper who robbed her of life. Perhaps her spirit seeks his spirit to express her rage.
Cawdor Castle is one of the most beautiful and magnificent in all of Scotland. Parts of it were built in the fourteenth century. The story goes that William Calder had a dream in which he was told to build his castle at the location where his donkey paused to rest. In 1511 a kidnapping took place. Muriel Calder was carried off to become a bride at the tender age of twelve years. She became the wife of Sir John Campbell, the Earl of Argyll's son. She has never been identified as the ghost walking the halls of Cawdor Castle. The resident spirit appears wearing a blue velvet gown.
The fourteenth Earl of Sutherland, owner and resident of Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland lived during the thirteenth century. When his daughter insisted on marrying a man he considered a poor choice he locked her in one of the towers. The determined girl attempted to escape by sliding down a rope to the ground. Instead she lost her grip on the rope and plummeted to her death. She now haunts the upper floors of the castle bemoaning having been deprived of marriage to her one true love.
Many of the earliest built castles are in ruins. Others have been reconstructed and turned in to museums. Still others are used as private homes. Some have turned to
offering tours, rooms as hotel rooms and booking weddings in the large ballroom or great hall. You may or may not be aware that castles always had their own chapel. These entrepreneurial pursuits can be extremely lucrative. The ghost watching tours which begin after dark are immensely popular with believers and skeptics alike. How frightening can it be when you are part of a large group and are familiar with the life and death story of an often sympathetic ghost.