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Interactive map: North-east castles and their spooky stories

Leith Hall
Leith Hall

From grey and green ladies to corpses hidden in walls, you can follow a trail of hauntings and terrifying tales through the castles and grand houses of the Aberdeenshire and Moray.

While Stirling and Edinburgh’s strongholds attract most of the visitors, the north-east in particular is castle country and the best location to see the different styles of fortifications used to protect the nation’s lords, ladies and chieftains.

The castles also form Scotland’s biggest castle ghost hunt.

Each of the castles or stately homes are cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, which means that if you are a member there is no admission fee.

You can pinpoint their locations on our interactive map and read some of the stories below:

  1. Crathes Castle, Banchory

Crathes Castle

Address: Crathes, near Banchory AB31 5QJ

Set against rolling hills, with its turrets and towers surrounded by beautiful walled gardens, Crathes stands as a picture-perfect Scottish castle.

Buried within those walls lies a secret which gives weight to the tale of the spectral Green Lady. The lady has haunted the castle in Banchory for centuries. Sometimes she was seen cradling a child, other times she was alone, clad in green and standing by the fireplace.

It is a familiar tale, there are spectral ladies of a range of hues haunting castles and stately homes all over Scotland. Crathes’ occupant was believed to be a servant girl who fell pregnant out of wedlock, fled the castle and was never to be seen again.

What makes this case truly haunting is that during renovations in the 1800s, the bones of a child were found beneath the hearthstone at the fireplace. This ‘evidence’ perhaps explains why the Green Lady still appears today, showing up in one visitor photograph in 2016 and in a stunning mural on Union Row in Aberdeen, painted as part of the Nuart Street Art festival in 2018.

2. Drum Castle, Banchory

Drum Castle

Address: Drumoak, near Banchory AB31 5EY

The Royal Forest and Tower of Drum were given to the Irvine family by Robert the Bruce in 1323, with the castle ‘growing up’ on the site over the ensuing centuries. Given that history and the fact that some of the trees in the forest date back as far as the 1700s, there is plenty of history at Drum.

There are also numerous ghosts. An old lady has been seen, clad in black and roaming the halls. A ghost was caught on camera there in 2004 and there have been numerous sightings at the cemetery nearby. There is also the ghost of young Alexander Irvine, the son of the 20th Laird of Drum, who died aged six in 1865 and his mother, Anna Forbes Irvine, who passed away five years later. Family heirlooms have been moved in the night, accompanied by the sound of ghostly footsteps in the dark.


3. Castle Fraser, Sauchen

Castle Fraser.

Address: Sauchen, Inverurie AB51 7LD

With numerous secret staircases, hidden doors, trapdoors and a spy hole, the walls of Castle Fraser hold an abundance of secrets. They also hide a gruesome story of murder, one which left an indelible mark on the sprawling Z-plan castle.

There is an enduring tale of a young woman who was murdered in the Green Room. Her blood-soaked body was dragged down steps of the round tower and left such heavy bloodstains that the stone steps had to be covered in the wooden panelling.

That panelling remains to this day, perhaps hiding the sins of the past. There has been paranormal activity reported in the stairwell and in this room ever since. Castle Fraser also has a lady in black, Lady Blanche Drummond, who died of consumption in 1874 and wanders the castle and grounds. The sound of whispers, laughter and music have also been heard echoing in the Great Hall.

4. Fyvie Castle, Fyvie

Fyvie Castle.<br />Pic by Chris Sumner

Address: Fyvie, near Turriff AB53 8JS

A tale of tragedy haunts Fyvie Castle in Turriff, with evidence of the castle’s most famous haunting still visible today – over 400 years later. The ghost is believed to be Lilias Drummond. Some reports state that she died of a broken heart when her husband began an affair with her younger cousin – others that her husband, Alexander Seton, starved her to death.

Following her death, the new Mrs Seton moved in and on their first night together ghostly howling was heard outside. In the morning Lilias’ name was scratched into the windowsill. The etching remains there today. Like Crathes Castle, a skeleton was found walled up inside Fyvie.

According to reports there was a surge in strange activity when her skeleton was removed for burial in the cemetery. It only died down when the body was reinterred, back within the walls. Visitors also report dramatic and sudden drops temperature drops, accompanied by the scent of roses. There is also a phantom trumpeter and an ancient curse, left by Thomas Rhymer, which has haunted the occupants ever since.

5. Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire

Craigievar Castle

Address: Craigievar, Alford AB33 8JF

Said to have provided some of the inspiration for Walt Disney’s trademark castle, Cragievar’s history is punctuated by clan feuds and murders.

The castle’s Blue Room is a prime site for strange happenings and was supposedly where a Gordon was pushed out of the window to his death by the then-laird, Sir John Forbes. Much friendlier are the stories of ghostly cocktail parties and apparitions of children at play.

The most commonly seen spirit, however, is ‘The Fiddler’, who is said to have fallen into the castle well and drowned. His playing has been heard inside the castle walls. There are numerous stories of visitors sensing ‘something’ in a variety of rooms. Some have even been too scared to enter them.

6. Brodie Castle, Moray

Brodie Castle, Moray

Address: Brodie, Forres IV36 2TE

The castle dates back to the 1500s and was home to the Brodie family for nearly 450 years. The site itself has been occupied for even longer, with a carved Pictish stone standing in the grounds. It has several occupants, with a uniformed soldier seen in the sitting room.

A small dog has also been seen running towards the children’s nursery – where it disappeared. A tragic fire in the bedchamber in 1786 is said to have led to its most famous haunting, by Lady Margaret Duff.

Margaret, the wife of the 21st Brodie of Brodie, is said to have fallen asleep by the fire, where her dress caught light and she burned to death. She has haunted the rooms ever since with one recent sighting of a female apparition in the nursery.

7. Leith Hall, near Huntly

Leith Hall

Address: Leith Hall, Huntly, AB54 4NQ

Most people manage to shake off even the worst of hangovers after a couple of days. Leith Hall is still feeling the aftereffects of one drunken rammy 256 years on. The Huntly hall is haunted by the ghost of John Leith who was shot in 1763 in a drunken brawl in Aberdeen. He was carried home to the hall afterwards but died three days later on Christmas Day.

The hall was home to the Leith-Hay family for nearly 400 years and John lingers on, his spectral image has been seen clad in dark green trousers and a shirt, with a dirty white bandage wrapped around his head and covering his eyes, howling in pain over his mortal wounds. At least he has company. Other sightings at the hall include apparitions of a family dog and children at play.

8. Haddo House, Ellon

Address: Methlick, Ellon AB41 7EQ

The ghost of one of the very first people to die in a car accident in Britain haunts this elegant Georgian mansion. Home to the Gordon family for over 400 years, one of the hall’s most famous residents was Lord Archibald Gordon. ‘Archie’ died in 1909 but has since been seen dressed in hunting tweeds with his distinctive shock of ginger hair immediately recognisable.

He remains as amiable a soul in the afterlife and has been seen smiling and talking to visitors. The house holds a dark secret though, with the doors seen shaking violently at night. Staff have also been threatened and chased by spirits through the servants’ corridors and vaulted cellars.

9. House of Dun, Montrose

House of Dun, Montrose

Address: House Of Dun, Dun, Montrose DD10 9LQ

Where do you start with the House of Dun?

Numerous unknown figures have been seen around the house with the library and main staircase hotspots for supernatural activity. The ethereal strains of a ghostly harp have also been heard and knight has also been spotted in the grounds. The Headless Horseman is the pick of the bunch though and he rides the lanes at night, hunting down unwary travellers.