From ghostly glens to creepy castles, Scotland is already renowned for its haunting beauty – but it’s world-famous for its supernatural stories too.
This blog will take a look at some of the most haunted places in Scotland, and the spine-tingling tales that attract fans of the fantastic along the VisitScotland Ghost Trail.
Are you sitting comfortably boys and ghouls? Then let’s begin…
Top haunted places in Scotland
Many locations can lay claim to being the most haunted place in Scotland, but Glen Coe is certainly one of the most chilling.
Glen Coe Massacre
This giant valley is said to echo with the screams of the 38 men, women and children who were slain here on 13 February 1692.
The unsuspecting MacDonald clan had been sheltering government troops, who turned on their hosts in the early hours of the winter morning.
There was no escape for many of the survivors, who died of exposure after fleeing, and bloody spectral figures are said to be seen in the hills on the anniversary of the massacre.
Battle of Culloden
Misery also echoes at the eerie surroundings of Culloden Moor, which is still soaked with the blood of 1,500 soldiers of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army.
It was here in April 1746 that they were put to the sword in under an hour by merciless government forces – and their ghosts are said to reappear every year, with reports of a solitary ghostly casualty writhing on the ground.
The Ghost Road
Travelling further south and the A75 in Dumfriesshire is one of the most unexpected spooky spots in Scotland. This stretch of Tarmac looks innocuous but it’s been dubbed the ‘Ghost Road’ by terrified travellers. A phantom horse and carriage is said to patrol at night, with a host of screaming banshees and other monstrous apparitions also reported.
Scottish ghost stories
From the borders to the islands, this wild land is alive with blood-curdling tales and Scottish ghost stories that have chilled visitors to the bone for centuries.
One such fable is the phantom bagpiper said to terrorise Scotland’s south-west corner. Visitors to Clanyard Bay, near Stranraer, have reported hearing the skirl of pipes beneath their feet. The player is said to be a hapless piper who wandered into a fairy cave and disappeared centuries ago – leaving behind his trembling dog, which shed its fur in shock.
Another tale of canine creepiness can be found in Rosslyn, where a ghostly hound haunts the local castle. The mythical mutt was slain at the Battle of Roslin more than seven centuries ago, only to rise again and terrorise enemy soldiers and his master’s murderer. Ever since, locals have reported chilling howls as the pooch patrols his final resting place.
From soldiers to sailors, and a horde of seafaring souls said to haunt the waves of Sandwood Bay on Scotland’s northern coast. Before the nearby lighthouse was erected in 1828, countless mariners perished in the icy depths and there have been numerous sightings of doomed crews leaving their watery graves to roam the nearby sands.
Another 19th century apparition awaits in the rural north-east on the site of the former Dava Railway. In the 1920s, eyewitnesses reported seeing a brilliantly illuminated train levitating above the ground – 30 years after a cattle train went up in flames on exactly the same spot.
Our final famous Scottish ghost story can be found in an Orkney mansion built on a Norse burial ground site. Skaill House has a fearsome reputation, with mysterious noises and smells, doors opening and closing, and sightings of a tall, thin figure called ‘Ubby’. Spookiest of all? The 15 skeletons found under the floorboards and flagstones during renovations…
Haunted castles in Scotland
Let’s turn our eye from spooky stately homes to fearsome fortresses, with a look round the most haunted castles in Scotland.
Culzean Castle in Ayrshire is one of Scotland’s most famous fortifications, with an equally infamous phantom said to haunt its ramparts.
During the storms that lash the cliff-tops, the subterranean sound of bagpipes can allegedly be heard – played by a piper who vanished without trace after being sent into the caves below to prove they weren’t haunted.
On the opposite coast, a mysterious Green Lady is the most mysterious resident of Crathes Castle in Royal Deeside.
Visitors to a certain room in the 16th century tower house have reported seeing this young woman walking back and forth in front of a fireplace with a baby in her arms – said to be the ghost of an unmarried servant who became pregnant.
Another Green Lady haunts the corridors of Stirling Castle, but this one has a royal past. Allegedly a serving girl to Mary Queen of Scots, she reportedly perished in a fire that swept through her mistress’s chamber and has spent the last 450 years roaming the castle.
Tragedy also lies at the heart of our final haunted Scottish castle, where a murdered harpist still plays a ghostly refrain. The musician was allegedly murdered when the Duke of Montrose invaded Inveraray Castle in 1644 – and the instrument can still be heard ringing out across the waters of Loch Fyne from the library.
Edinburgh ghost stories
On to Scotland’s capital now, where lovers of the supernatural will not be disappointed. Ghost stories of Edinburgh are plentiful – and here are just a few.
Looming over Auld Reekie, Edinburgh Castle is an imposing landmark that’s home to centuries of tall tales. The most famous is the sound of the headless drummer who’s said to roam the ramparts after dark, beating a deathly rhythm. Legend tells that if he is seen in person, disaster will strike – just like in 1650, when he was glimpsed shortly before Oliver Cromwell seized the castle following a lengthy siege.
Crossing the city to Edinburgh’s most famous graveyard, we stop next at the Black Mausoleum, which stands behind Greyfriars Kirk.
This tomb is said to be haunted by the spirit of its notorious occupant, ‘Bluidy’ Sir George Mackenzie, a lawyer who condemned many Covenanters to death in the 1600s. A vicious poltergeist now often attacks those who venture here, with visitors reportedly being grabbed and pinched by the malevolent spirit.
Bringing the curtain down on our Edinburgh ghost stories is ‘Albert’, who haunts the city’s Playhouse theatre. Visitors have reported seeing this figure in a grey coat, accompanied by sudden cold spots throughout the building. Whether he was the suicidal night watchman or former stagehand of folklore, his performances continue to run… and run...
Edinburgh’s underground city
It’s not just above ground where ghosts lurk in Auld Reekie – there’s a whole underground city in Edinburgh that’s home to ghouls galore.
Dating back to the 16th century when a new wall was built around the city, space suddenly became a premium, with cellars turned into housing. In the 1700s, Edinburgh’s underground city extended beneath the many new bridges being built, with the population swelled further by a mass influx in the 19th century.
Mary King’s Close
The most notorious part of this hidden neighbourhood is Mary King’s Close, deep beneath the City Chambers in the Royal Mile.
Said to have once housed plague victims who were sealed up alive, many ghosts walk here. The most famous is ‘Annie’, a young girl separated from her family and pining for her lost doll, who has been left toys by scores of recent visitors as comfort.
Blair Street Vaults
Another underground inhabitant is the ghostly – and ghastly – Mr Boots, who is said to torment those who descend into the Blair Street Vaults. Wearing a dirty blue coat and worn leather boots, this protective spook is said to push and shove unwelcome visitors and has even been heard to hiss: “Get out!” We suggest you comply…
Best Edinburgh ghost tours
With all these spooky celebs flitting around the city, what are the best ghost tours in Edinburgh? And how can you experience its eerie atmosphere for yourself?
The Doomed, Dead and Buried walking tour takes you on a gruesome journey through the medieval Old Town, complete with costumed guide. Explore hidden alleyways and soak up sinister stories of witches, murderers and grave robbers. Highlights include a spell in a ghostly kirkyard and following in the footsteps of notorious bodysnatchers in the South Bridge Vaults.
In the Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour, you’ll be treated to horrifying tales of mystery and murder in a two-hour trip back into the city’s murky past. Wander the ancient cobbled streets of Calton Hill, North Bridge and Canongate Cemetery and listen to ghoulish stories of torture, treason and death.
Fancy a slightly lighter bite? The Ghosts and Gore Walking Tour will see you scream with laughter and fear as you learn about the horrors of witchcraft and other dark secrets lurking in the shadows from your tour guide.
Discover the haunting beauty of Scotland
Tales of spooky goings-on are just part of Scotland’s story. Our tours are carefully designed to weave history, romance and folklore with the natural beauty that Scotland is rightly famed for. Experience Scotland for yourself with Scottish Tours.
Book your Scotland Tour today.