Browse “most haunted sites in Scotland” on the internet and the same names come up time after time: Stirling Castle, Mary King’s Close, Glamis, Cawdor, Glencoe, Culloden. But fear not; us Scotland natives have put together our own list of the 10 lesser-known spooky sites, so you can venture off the beaten track and explore Scotland’s dark history for yourself.
The World War Ghosts of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre (DD10 9BD)
The most famous ghost is Lt Desmond Arthur, who crashed in May 1913 and has been seen many times since (though the Air Station was on a different site at that time…). Phantom footsteps are heard in several places, as are voices and even a plane taking off. On your visit, keep an eye out for ghostly bi-planes in the sky (though none should be in operation now) and airmen in their flight suits; a visit at twilight should increase your chances.
The heritage centre itself has several genuine aircraft from WW1 and WW2, but they are keen to highlight the men and women of the base, so you’ll also find memorabilia and old photographs. Perhaps the presence of so many heirlooms on the site, is what led to the haunting in the first place.
The old runways and hangars are still there and the wide open space of the airfield is now very popular with dog-walkers. Try and visit on a day without too much wind, though – it can be distinctly bracing!
The White Lady of Falkland Palace (KY15 7DA)
Falkland is a tiny gem of a palace, a favourite hunting lodge of the Stuarts and especially Mary Queen of Scots. Nowadays, they have a ghostly resident; a classically tragic White Lady, weeping over the loss of her lover who reportedly never returned from battle. You may see her in the Tapestry Gallery on your tour, watching for him out of the window.
Falkland Palace is a delightful Scottish Renaissance building with glorious gardens and a fine Chapel, and the picturesque small town is worth wandering round, too. You might recognise the central fountain in Falkland from the popular tv show Outlander (travel around the shooting locations of Outlander with our Jacobite Trail). Once you’ve wandered round Falkland’s ancient streets, why not crank it up a notch with a bracing hill walk up the nearby East and West Lomond Hills!
The Wandering Piper of Culross Abbey (KY12 8JD)
Culross was founded as a Cistercian Abbey in 1217, where the monks of this Catholic order strove to replicate the simpler monastic life of Saint Benedict’s time. Before this time, it’s thought the site once held an early Pictish church. The building is still used today as the local parish church by the Church of Scotland.
Despite the monks’ strict vows of poverty, legend has it that there was a room full of gold under the Abbey, reached by a secret passage. The tale is that a piper (sometimes reported to be blind) and his dog were sent in to investigate. The terrified dog made it out but the piper was never seen again… And the gold remains unfound. The sound of muffled piping now lingers in the tunnels, and a hooded figure has been seen wandering the grounds.
The ruined Abbey is a bit of an architectural puzzle, as bits of it have been re-used, rebuilt, re-purposed and generally altered, so take your time to uncover its secrets. Various other ghosts have been spotted throughout the abbey and in the nearby town with it’s rich history of magic and witchcraft.
Don’t try and park by the Abbey. Not because of any ghostly threat, but because the street at the top of the hill is too narrow for a motorhome.
Culross itself is a beautiful little town in central Dunfermline. Some of the narrower streets may be tricky by motorhome though, so park up at Culross West Car Park by the river (with nearby facilities).
The Wizard of Yester Castle (EH41 4PH)
Only a few tall walls are still standing, with others reduced almost to rubble. To find the Goblin Ha’ you go through the arch in the highest wall and follow a narrow path to a tiny doorway. You enter crouching but the passageway does get higher.
Take a torch; it’s quite dark when you first go in, and there’s a staircase down to the blocked-up well that’s hard to see. This is the scene of that dark magic that gave the place its spooky reputation.
The easiest place to park is at the nearby golf course – the ruined castle is a short walk away and you’ll spot the first masonry fairly soon.
The Ghostly Presence in Skaill House, Sandwick, Orkney
The present laird claims he has often heard footsteps wandering around the house in the night, which spooks the dog. These has been attributed to the ghost of Ubby, the man who build the small island in the middle of Skaill Loch many years ago, by rowing out and dropping stones. He is supposed to have died out on the water, and now haunts the house where he once lived.
When preparing the house for the public, fifteen skeletons were found under the floors, all believed to be Norse, further confirmation that the house is situated on a Norse burial ground. Spooky noises, cold spots, and mysterious occurences abound in this house.
Footsteps sound, doors open and close of their own accord, people are seen who aren’t really there and, oddest of all, fresh cigarette smoke is smelt when no-one is smoking.
You can get your motorhome to Orkney via ferry; either from Aberdeen, Scrabster, or Gills Bay.
St Andrews Cathedral and the Ghost of the Hidden Coffins (KY16 9QL)
St Andrews Cathedral, in the famous golfing town of St Andrews in NE Fife, has two ghosts, both at St Rule’s Tower. You have to climb to the top to see the first ghost; a friendly monk whom you’ll pass on the stairs. The White Lady ( though it’s only her gloves that are white, in fact) is more commonly seen in the grounds near the tower.
Stonemasons repairing the tower broke through a wall, so the story goes, and found several coffins in the sealed-up room. One of them was open and contained the well-preserved body of a beautiful young woman, wearing white gloves. No-one knows who she was, why her coffin was open when the others weren’t, or why she haunts the churchyard, but she’s been seen by visitors for over two centuries.
The cathedral itself is a ruined Roman Catholic Cathedral in the middle of the town, which was built in 1158 and was, for a time, the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. You can drive right up to the gates in your motorhome, but may prefer to settle into one of the nearby caravan and camping parks first, so you can take your time and see the town.
The Mysterious MacKinnon’s Cave, Isle of Mull
Another story has it that the cave was occupied by early Christian hermits, who used the flat slab inside the cave (known as Fingal’s table) as an altar, and that the eponymous MacKinnon was an Abbot who hid in the cave in the 15th century.
Many tales exist about Mackinnon’s Cave, and whichever one might be rooted in truth, it cannot be denied that the cave has a forbidding atmosphere, full of forboding and mystery.
Dr Johnson and James Boswell managed to measure the cave without getting eaten, which bodes well for future visitors. If you want to try, you’ll find a parking area between Gribun and Balmeanach Farm, then follow the signs (carefully – it can be very mucky) down to the boulder beach.
The Haunted Kinmount Straight on the A75 between Dumfries and Gretna Green
If you go down to the Solway Firth in the most south-westerly area of Scotland, you’re sure of a big surprise. Well, not “sure” perhaps – but locals avoid this stretch of road at night. It’s known as the most haunted road in Scotland, if not Britain, with ghostly happenings going back around 50 years. There are several accounts of people having accidents as they swerve to avoid the spectres of men and women in Victorian dress who appear out of a mysterious mist.
A well-documented story says that, in 1962, two brothers were driving near Kinmount one night. Suddenly a hen flew towards their windscreen but vanished before it hit. An old lady followed the hen, then a man and several other animals (“great cats, wild dogs, goats, more hens and other fowl, and stranger creatures”). To cap the lot, a ghostly furniture van nearly hit them before disappearing.
The 1934 Austin Ghost-Car of Sligachan, Skye
It’s not often that vehicles turn into ghosts, but there’s one on Skye. The Sligachan 1934 Austin has been seen by many people since the 1940s, most commonly on the main road near Sligachan. Witnesses have said the ghost car travels at dangerously high speeds, threatening other vehicles from behind and often forcing them off the road. The car then vanishes.
The story is that the car was involved in a fatal accident and the driver went mad with guilt – though that doesn’t stop his ghost from speeding!
The Tay Bridge Rail Disaster and the Phantom Train
Still on the subject of ghostly vehicles, Scotland even has its own ghost train. On the night of 28th December 1879, the Tay Bridge, over the River Tay at Dundee, collapsed in a storm as a passenger train was crossing it. The tragic event (commemorated in deathless verse by William McGonagall) is now forever repeated by a phantom train on the anniversary of the disaster every year: the lights of a ghost train appear to follow the line of the collapsed bridge and then vanish exactly where the train fell into the river.
Travel safely! So far there are no stories of ghostly motorhomes touring Scotland …