As Halloween approaches, Susan Welsh delves into some of the myths, legends and spooky tales of Scotland
From the Loch Ness Monster and “ghosts” of soldiers at Culloden Moor to mysterious green-lady apparitions sweeping through rooms, there’s no shortage of Scottish tales that can tingle the spine.
Those in search of a spooky tale or two will not be disappointed during the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014.
Events taking place around Halloween include Scotland’s first festival of the paranormal, the chance to get spooked aboard the Queen’s floating royal residence, the opportunity to hear tales of history and the supernatural during the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, as well as a “ghost tour” that uncovers the darker history of a working whisky distillery.
Details of some events taking place are listed below, but if you don’t want to go to an organised event, there’s still plenty of spooky places to visit.
Culloden Moor, for example, is the site of the tragic battle where the Duke of Cumberland and more than 9,000 government troops defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army.
By the memorial cairn, there has often been seen the dim form of a battle-worn Highlander, while it’s said that if you look into the Well of the Dead, you might see the reflection of a Highlander looking back at you.
Elsewhere in the Highlands, some people claim that, at Dornoch, the scene of the last judicial execution for witchcraft in 1772, an old woman is seen on occasions, struggling and cursing against the rising flames and smothering smoke on autumn evenings, when the moon is on the wane.
On Ben Macdui, in the Cairngorms, there’s said to be a spectre known as the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui.
Said to be at least 10ft tall and walking with great long strides, it has been seen or heard by many people, mostly mountaineers.
Sometimes, footsteps can be heard following individuals on the mountain until they reach the safety of the lower foothills.
Running footsteps, the sound of panting and a long drawn-out sigh can sometimes be heard on the shores of Loch Assynt in Sutherland.
On March 11, 1830, a peddler was murdered and robbed. On the anniversary, the sounds of a dreadful single blow followed by the aforementioned sounds can be heard.
Tulloch Castle Hotel at Dingwall is said to be home to a female ghost called the green lady – said to be the
ghost of a little girl called Elizabeth Davidson
who hung herself accidentally on the stairwell
curtain while running from her parents’ room.
It’s said a clan chief’s daughter also haunts the hotel. Her lover was killed in the War of the Roses and, due to this, she hurled herself from the castle tower to her death below. She has since been seen many times, wandering around the castle, often playing a harp.
Dunstaffnage Castle, close to Oban, is where it’s said a lady dressed in green walks the ramparts when momentous events are about to unfold for the castle’s owners, Clan Campbell.
When smiling, the fortune will be good. But if she is seen weeping, trouble lies ahead.
Sandwood Bay, in Sutherland, is also famously haunted, with reported sightings including mermaids and a bearded sailor ghost.
There’s no shortage of hauntingly scary venues to visit in the north-east, either.
Castle Fraser, at Sauchen, near Inverurie, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a princess who was murdered in one of the upper bedrooms.
Her body was dragged downstairs and, no matter how hard the servants tried to clean up the bloodstains on the wooden staircase, they would not be removed.
It is said that the blood would return thicker and darker. Eventually, when all attempts to remove the stains failed, it was ordered to cover the stairs with stone. To this day, one of the staircases remains stone while the other is wooden.
Crathes Castle, Banchory, is said to be haunted by a green lady and a child.
The green lady is said to glide across the haunted room to stand beside the fireplace, where she picks up a baby and then both apparitions vanish.
Some years ago, when restoration work was being carried out, the skeleton of a woman and a child were unearthed near the fireplace.
Fyvie Castle, near Turriff, also has a green lady ghost, who emerges from a haunted chamber at regularly intervals. A complete skeleton was found there.
There is also a secret room, never opened, which, it is believed, will lead to grave misfortune to the inhabitants of the castle if it is entered.
Glamis Castle, just outside the village of Glamis, near Forfar, is reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Scotland.
King Malcolm II was murdered there, leaving a bloodstain on the floor which defied all efforts to be removed. Eventually, the floor was boarded over.
The castle is also said to contain secret rooms. One is believed to house a monster which roams at night. This monster was believed to have been the son of a Laird of Glamis who was horribly deformed and was kept in one of the secret rooms. A ghost named the grey lady is also said to haunt the chapel.
But it’s not only in rural locations that ghosts are seen.
HM Theatre, in Aberdeen, is said to be haunted by Jake, a stagehand who was killed by the theatre hoist.
Meanwhile, Moray also has plenty to offer those in search of a day out with a difference at Halloween.
For a harrowing Halloween, visit Burghead Well, a round chamber 15ft by 15ft which is carved into the rock.
A stone stair leads down to an arched chamber, at the centre of which is a deep pool. The Celtic head which is carved into the wall suggests that this was a place of worship in Pictish times, when executions were carried out by drowning.
If you’re brave enough, take a walk around the grounds of Brodie Castle at Forres and listen out for any moaning or loud noises which, it is said, can be heard coming from Grandfather Brodie’s locked office in the castle tower.
Burned to the ground by the Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, Spynie Palace at Elgin has a somewhat dark tale to tell.
From a phantom piper to a ghostly lion and a history of black magic, a visit to Spynie Palace on Halloween is not for the fainthearted as the tower of the palace was said to be the location for the witches’ Sabbath.
At this time, the tower lit up like fire and the sound of demonic merriment could be heard across the town.
Experience the thrill for yourself by taking a walk around this haunted ruin or step back to the days of witchcraft and black magic by visiting the Witches Stone at Forres.
Thought to date back to Pictish times, the stone marks the resting place of the barrels witches were squashed into, filled with tar and rolled down the town’s Cluny Hill.
Cluny hill is also where the three insightful witches tell Macbeth, who is on his way to see King Duncan at his castle at Forres, that he would become Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland – prompting Macbeth to start thinking about killing the King.
Read on . . . if you dare
Special events taking place over the next few weeks include:
The Scottish Paranormal Festival, Stirling (various venues), October 30-November 2
The first festival of its kind to take place in Scotland, it celebrates the full spectrum of supernatural happenings from ghosts to UFOs, and aliens to vampires.
There is something for all tastes and beliefs: Halloween storytelling for adults and children, comedy, ghost walks, film screenings, music and sessions with both a psychic and a sceptic.
Close Fest at The Real Mary King’s Close,
Building on the success of last year’s festival, it launches on Halloween with the Dark Truth Tour, when visitors are invited to the Real Mary King’s Close to join in a collection of underground events as distinctive as the attraction itself.
Expect dance, drama and murder mystery, all to the atmospheric backdrop of one of Edinburgh’s best-loved attractions.
Follow in the footsteps of royalty and climb onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia this Halloween.
Berthed in Leith’s harbour, the Royal Deck Tearoom will be serving spooky refreshments, including festive pumpkin cupcakes and pumpkin soup.
Join a spooky tour of the building which was originally a cotton mill, dating from 1785.
It has long been associated with spooky sightings and scary noises and it’s said that Helen McDougall, reputed wife of the infamous William Burke, the bodysnatcher, was attacked and killed at the mill.
Contact: 01786 843010.
Late-night Haunted Halloween Tours, Underground Vaults, Edinburgh, October 30-November 1
These no-holds-barred late-night candlelight tours will have a guide revealing the most chilling tales that Edinburgh has to offer.