Scotland is certainly no stranger to spooky stories about paranormal activity and tragic legends leading to the living dead haunting castle rooms and even the great outdoors where the cobwebs should have been long blown away. So many hotels and pubs brand themselves the “most haunted pub in Scotland” with ghost stories to match, to the point that it becomes a bit of a gimmick.
Whether you believe the hype of historical ghosts or not, there are certainly some spooky places to visit all over the country!
And as we’re getting into the spirit of Hallowe’en, I thought I’d share some of the best haunted places with the spookiest ghost stories in Scotland with you.
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Edinburgh
Certainly top of my list of spooky places to visit in Scotland, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is worth a visit regardless of whether you want stories of hauntings. However, if you do – this is the place to come! All the ghost tours in Edinburgh come here, as well as the South Bridge vaults (more on that further down).
One of Scotland’s biggest ghost stories is of George Mackenzie, a notorious government lawyer who was responsible for the deaths of 1,200 covenantors. They were buried in a mass grave underneath the cemetery, but have now been moved to their own part of the graveyard, which is locked up – George Mackenzie, meanwhile, is laid to rest in a huge mausoleum nearby, which is generally accepted to be haunted, and is also locked up.
However, it wasn’t always off-limits – tour groups used to go inside, and visitors in the groups have reported being chased by shadows and waking up the next day with marks around their necks. It became so common that the tomb was eventually chained up, until one day someone got permission to run exclusive tours into the tomb. Even so, they were quickly stopped too after so many people reported strange happenings again! Spooky.
The Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond
I highly recommend a visit to the Drovers Inn, if just for a look around in the amazing bar areas. We’ve stopped a few times for food – but I would love to stay there one day! Room 6 is rumoured to be the most haunted, with several accounts of unfathomable chills, doors opening and closing while locked, and even a girl climbing into the bed! Would you stay there?
It doesn’t seem too surprising that Edinburgh Castle should have its own ghost stories, and there have been reported sightings of prisoners and other ghostly beings. There’s one in particular that is most famous, though.
The headless drummer boy of Edinburgh Castle is very rarely seen – but is occasionally heard drumming around the castle. This ghost story goes back a long time – first sighting was reported around 1650!
A similar story is of a young bagpiper who, when some tunnels beneath the castle were discovered, was sent down to see where they ended up. He took his pipes so that he could be tracked as he went, and was never seen again – but the bagpipes are sometimes still heard underneath the castle and nearby streets! How eerie.
Eilean Donan Castle
As one of Scotland’s most famous castles, it’s inevitable that there would be a ghost story or two here.
There are a number of rumoured hauntings, but the main one involves a Spanish garrison soldier, killed during a siege in a Jacobite rebellion in the 18th century and doomed to rest there forever more.
One of Scotland’s more famous ghost stories is from Crathes Castle near Dundee. This beautiful castle is said to be haunted by a young woman who disappeared shortly after she had a child. In fact, a skeleton of a child was found in the very room she haunts, making it quite a plausible story compared to some of the ghostly tales you hear! Still, it makes for a sad tale as you wonder what might have happened to the two of them, and she is allegedly often seen with the child in her arms.
Banshee’s Labyrinth, Edinburgh
Banshee’s is my favourite pub in Edinburgh, so naturally it was going to get a mention. Along with many others, it claims to be the most haunted pub in Scotland, and there are a couple of stories to back it up. Next to one of the booths is a story about a little girl called Molly who went missing in 1841 until she started haunting the pub. They found her shoes in one of the chimneys, with her name on.
And then there’s the story of why the pub is called Banshee’s in the first place. Rumour has it they were renovating the vaults and one of the workmen was working late one day. He turned to leave and was faced with a ghostly woman who screeched in his face.
It’s completely unsurprising that there are lots of stories about this place – it’s within the Southbridge Vaults where poor families used to find shelter and often die of the inevitable diseases that spread through the “residents”. It’s then rumoured that Burke & Hare would use this as a hunting ground for bodies! A gruesome history at best.
You can read more about the ghostly happenings in Banshee’s in this article!
Inveraray Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland, but it’s not without its gruesome history. A young boy is sometimes heard playing the harp in the MacArthur Room, after he was sentenced to death for peeking at a lady in there. Perhaps his ghost is trying to catch a second glance!
There are a few other stories in this castle, including the Galley Of Lorne which is purportedly seen when a Duke dies.
Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh
A popular attraction hidden in plain sight in Edinburgh, Mary King’s Close offers an opportunity to explore the old underground streets – of course, they weren’t underground back then, but the Royal Mile has been built on top of it! Given the intrigue surrounding the history of the tiny close, it should come as no surprise that ghost stories have also infiltrated their way into the street.
The most famous of these is of the little girl Annie. A psychic once visited and could not bring herself to enter one room as she felt so much pain in the air. She sensed the girl, and managed to discover that poor Annie had lost her favourite doll. It’s said that as long as there is a doll in the room, Annie won’t disturb anyone – which means, of course, that the room is now full of dolls from visitors and well-wishers! I hope Annie has the best time playing with them when all the tourists have gone home.
You can read the full story of Annie on the official Mary King’s Close website.
Sligachan, Isle Of Skye
Quite a fun one I’ve read about is a regular sighting of an old car, thought to be a 1934 Austin, driving around the Sligachan area of the Isle Of Skye. Apparently it speeds along at night and has even been reported to the police, but nobody has ever been caught.
People who spot it then watch as it disappears into thin area after it passes them! It’s thought to have belonged to someone who died in a car accident along the road, and this post suggests that he was a farm worker who died when he crashed into the bridge.
Killiecrankie is a beautiful spot in Perthshire which we actually visited last weekend, completely unaware of the stories hidden within the trees. We did make it to a scenic spot called Soldier’s Leap, which, as the name gives away, is where a soldier leapt into the river to escape a fateful battle in which 2,000 men from the government’s army met a bloody end. Apparently if you visit on the anniversary, the 27th July, you might just hear the footsteps of an army marching through the forest…
Killiecrankie is best visited in autumn though as it dons a very colourful coat – read my post on the best places to see in Perthshire in autumn!
There are tons more ghost stories in Scotland, many of which aren’t particular to a place, as well as lots of spooky places that don’t necessarily have ghost stories attached. I can’t really post about spooky places in Scotland without mentioning another of my favourite graveyards – the Necropolis in Glasgow.
I don’t think it has quite as colourful a history as Greyfriar’s, but it’s absolutely worth a visit and commands wonderful views over Glasgow.
Another cool but somewhat macabre place to visit is Christie’s Bar in Perth. While it’s not haunted, it lies atop the cellar where James I of Scotland met an unfortunate grisly end, and they’ve now installed a glass panel in the floor of the pub so you can look down to where he was murdered.
Anyway, enough about murders – I’m off to watch a spooky movie! Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!