With it’s myriad castles and manor houses, gothic history and ghostly legends, Scotland has to be one of the most haunted places in the world - and it's the subject of SBS series Secrets of the Scottish Manor Houses. A hotbed of paranormal activity, the country boasts countless structures haunted by spirits with macabre pasts (or it that presences?). Join us as we take you on a spooky journey to some of its most haunted places.
Rosslyn Castle: the Black Knight and the Phantom Hound
While it’s overshadowed by the infamy of Rosslyn Chapel, thanks to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Castle and its surrounds are the scene of a rollicking haunting of a black knight on horseback and a phantom hound. Both are said to have died in a battle at the castle between English and Scottish forces in 1302. You can hear the hound’s howls around the castle on stormy nights and motorists claim to have seen the black knight, who remains unaware he died hundreds of years earlier, riding around the area.
Cawdor Castle: the Handless Woman
Immortalised in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this medieval castle in Nairn, Inverness-shire has a ghost story that instead mirrors Romeo and Juliet. The story goes that in the early 1880s, the Earl of Cawdor happened upon his daughter and her young lover from a rival family. As the Earl chased her through the castle, his daughter attempted to escape through a window. As she dangled there, her father chopped her hands off with his sword. Visitors have reported seeing the ghost of a handless young woman in a blue velvet dress.
Dryburgh Abbey Hotel: the ghost monks and the Grey Lady
Built around 1845 where Dryburgh Abbey once stood, Dryburgh Abbey Hotel in Melrose, Roxburghshire has an especially eerie ghost story. A young woman is said to have began an affair here with a monk that ended brutally when he was executed for his sins. In her grief, the woman drowned herself in the River Tweed. Her ghost known as the Grey Lady has been seen walking the site and guests have reported seeing spectres of chanting monks. Were they responsible for their fellow monk’s death?
Fyvie Castle: the Green Lady
Built in 1211, this Aberdeenshire castle harbours a particularly nasty haunting. It’s said that Dame Lilias Drummond, aka the Green Lady, was starved to death by her husband, Sir Alexander Seton, who wished to wed her cousin. As the newlyweds slept, they heard scratching and moaning in their room and found the dame’s name carved upside-down on their windowsill the following morning. Sightings of the Green Lady have been reported over the past 250 years and sometimes you can smell her floral scent, too.
Mary King’s Close: Abandoned Annie
One of the most famous haunted locations in Scotland, Mary King’s Close, with its walls made of human ash, is a warren of ancient alleys running beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The area was devastated by the plague and walled up during the 18th century. A popular tourist attraction, some visitors say they’ve felt the grasp of the small hand of the Close’s most famous spirit, Annie, who died of the plague and was abandoned by her family.
In 1992, Japanese psychic Aiko Gibo visited the site but refused to enter what’s known as Annie’s Room, saying she felt sick, hungry and cold. But she went in after being invited by Annie’s ghost, who tugged at her han telling her she’d lost her doll. Since then, there’s been a tradition of guests leaving the little ghost dolls and gifts.
St Andrews Cathedral: the Smiling Monk and the White Lady
Among the gothic majesty of St Andrews Cathedral’s remains, two ghosts are said to roam. You might spot the friendly monk on the St Rule’s Tower stairs or the beautiful White Lady with the white gloves who vanishes once reaching the cathedral’s haunted tower. The legend is that stonemasons restoring the tower happened upon a sealed chamber housing a number of coffins. There was one that was open - inside lay the preserved body of a young woman… in white gloves. Spooky.
Overtoun Bridge: the suicidal dogs
This bridge situated in West Dunbartonshire has a truly bizarre and horrific history. The Mirror reports of the chilling phenomenon of at least 50 dogs that have jumped to their deaths from the 15-metre century-old supposedly haunted bridge. Bizarrely, the dogs that jump are breeds with long snouts, and they mainly jump from the same side and in clear weather.
The Celtic belief is that Overtoun Bridge is a “thin place” where the worlds of the living and dead meet. Could it be that ghosts are spooking the dogs to their deaths?
Airth Castle: the maid, the nanny and the bitey ghost dog
If you’re planning to stay in this stately Stirlingshire castle, be prepared for ample frights from a selection of ghosties. According to The Lad Bible, they include a wailing maid beaten by her master, a nanny and her two charges who perished in a fire in the 1800s, and an ankle-biting ghost dog. Woof!
Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Aqueous Spa: the ghost who sits on your bed
Its name makes it sound relaxing, but this 13th century hotel just outside of Edinburgh has a seriously invasive ghost who’ll give you a scare between the sheets. Lady Catherine, aka the Grey Lady, was the daughter of the house who was banished to the tower after falling for the stable boy in 1695. The little-footed lady is said to have died of a broken heart, and haunts weddings, waves morosely from windows, and sits quietly at the foot of your bed. She likes to watch. Sleep tight!
Explore some of Scotland's most magnificent country estates, each with their own story to tell on Secrets of The Scottish Manor Houses this Saturday night at 7:30pm on SBS. Previous episodes are streaming now on SBS On Demand: