Scotland is a land steeped in history and legend, with its ancient castles, rugged landscapes and centuries-old traditions. But with that rich history and culture also comes tales of ghosts and the paranormal. From haunted hotels to eerie graveyards, Scotland is full of spooky stories and supernatural encounters.
This article will take a closer look at some of Scotland’s most haunted places. Whether you’re a believer in the paranormal or just a curious traveler, these locations are sure to send a chill down your spine.
So, buckle up and get ready for a journey through the supernatural as we explore the twelve most haunted places in Scotland.
1. Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian
Located in the village of Roslin, this 500-year-old chapel has long been rumoured to be home to several spirits.
Although the construction and ownership of Rosslyn Chapel have been well-documented, it has not stopped locals and pseudo-historians from spreading rumours about the various artefacts which may be found in the building.
Some have claimed that the chapel’s original crypt, which has been sealed off for many years, is, in fact, home to the Holy Grail. That claim may be a bit more believable had the crypt also not been rumoured to store the first crown jewels of Scotland or the mummified head of Jesus Christ.
There have also been stories of spirits lurking within the chapel walls and the surrounding area.
While these stories may at first seem just as ludicrous as the pickled head of the Son of God, it is important to note that many visitors to the chapel who were unaware of its reputation as a supernatural hotspot have reported odd occurrences and apparitions which vanish as suddenly as they appear.
Motorists and those exploring the area around Rosslyn Castle have recalled encounters with a black knight riding on horseback, seemingly unaware that he is hundreds of years removed from the Scotland he knew.
It is believed that he was killed in a 1303 battle in which Scottish Knights defeated an army of English soldiers despite the numbers game being stacked against them.
As with many haunted chapels, Rosslyn Chapel is also home to a mysterious lady in white who has appeared before several stunned tourists over the years.
2. Cawdor Castle, Cawdor, Nairnshire
William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”, in which the title character is proclaimed Thane of Cawdor, is infamously said to be cursed by a group of witches who were infuriated when the playwright used one of their spells in the iconic opening scene.
So perhaps it should be no surprise that Cawdor Castle has a long history of paranormal occurrences.
Cawdor Castle also seems to have been influenced by “Romeo and Juliet” events, perhaps Bard’s most famous work. In the early 1880s, the daughter of the Earl of Cawdor entered into a relationship with a young man from a rival family.
When the Earl stumbled upon his daughter and her forbidden lover in their secret hiding place, he was so infuriated by her perceived betrayal that he pursued his daughter through the castle until she had no place left to run. In a desperate attempt to escape, she climbed out of a castle window and began to lower herself to the ground below.
However, while she was still dangling from the window, the Earl drew out his sword and slashed off his daughter’s hands.
Those who have visited the castle since, quite often simply looking for a lovely day out, have reported encountering a handless young woman roaming the building in a blue velvet dress.
3. Stirling Castle, Stirling
You were probably aware of coming into this article that Scotland has a lot of castles. Furthermore, most of them are said to be haunted. Stirling Castle is no different.
Of the many spirits said to haunt Stirling Castle, the most frequently reported is “The Highland Ghost”.
The Highland Ghost is always decked out in traditional Scottish garb, hence his name. Visitors often mistake him for a tour guide and approach him for directions or with a question, only to be stunned when he vanishes before their eyes.
In 1933, The Highland Ghost was reportedly captured on film, though there is a debate about the validity of the footage.
Also found in Stirling Castle is the infamous Green Lady, who is believed to have been a servant to Mary, Queen of Scots. According to some sources, she met her end while trying to save her master from a fire that broke out in her bedroom.
The ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots herself, has also been said to haunt the grounds, but she and her servant have not been seen together.
Perhaps The Green Lady is unaware that the woman she died for is also still within the castle walls, or maybe she is simply enjoying the relative freedom of the afterlife.
4. Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, Scottish Borders
According to the hotel’s website, the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel offers peace and tranquillity in the Scottish borders.
What it isn’t so eager to dispose of, however, is the fact that Dryburgh Abbey Hotel is one of the most haunted hotels in Scotland, with much-unexplained activity and countless paranormal sightings.
The original Dryburgh Abbey served as home to a Roman Catholic order of monks and was founded in 1150 by the Lord of Lauderdale.
In the near thousand years which have passed since the monastery was built, it has become nothing more than some fallen rubble, now located within the grounds of the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel.
The four-star hotel is said to have been built on the site of an older house that stood during Dryburgh Abbey’s years as a religious property.
According to some sources, the original Dryburgh Abbey House was home to a young woman who entered into a tempestuous love affair with a monk. When the monk’s peers discovered the relationship, they demanded he is executed for his failure to stay faithful to his vocation.
When the woman learned of her lover’s death, she was so distraught that she threw herself into the River Tweed, where she subsequently drowned.
Visitors of Dryburgh Abbey Hotel have reported witnessing the woman journeying through the hotel and its grounds, and she has come to be known as “The Grey Lady”.
Guests have also encountered the terrifying apparition of a group of monks engrossed in some sort of religious chant. It should be noted that at least some of the monks in this ghostly order could be responsible for killing The Grey Lady’s partner.
Fans of paranormal television may recall the Edinburgh Vaults from “Most Haunted”, and the BBC special “Joe Swash Believes in Ghosts” ( which was horrifying for all the wrong reasons). There’s also a visit from the American TV show Ghost Adventures.
Towards the end of the 18th Century, the vaults became home to numerous taverns, merchants, and anybody who wanted to fly under the radar of law enforcement.
It is said that serial killers Burke and Hare used the vaults to stash bodies during the height of their dastardly deeds.
Written records of the vaults are few and far between, so it is unknown when they were shut down, but it is believed to have been sometime in the mid-19th Century.
The vaults were rediscovered in the 1980s, and excavation was held a couple of years later, during which numerous artefacts from its time as a literal black market were discovered.
A modern witches coven set up shop in the vaults after their excavation, which may account for some of the heightened paranormal activity in the location.
It is said that shortly after claiming the vaults, members of the coven set about searching for a room in which to stage their various rituals. After settling into a room and doing whatever witches do (possibly cursing Shakespeare), the group left for the night.
Upon their return the following day, they found the room in a state of disrepair and some reported seeing a “shadow man” in the mirror which hung in the room.
Another room in the vault is home to a vicious poltergeist who has attacked numerous visitors over the years. During the vaults’ early years as a tourist attraction, light bulbs installed in the room would explode for seemingly no reason at all.
Any replacement bulb would meet a similar fate, and caretakers eventually stopped trying to light the room altogether. It now lies in a state of perpetual darkness, save for the torches and lanterns carried by those determined to visit.
6. Edinburgh Castle
Stood shadowing over the ancient city of Edinburgh lies the impressive Edinburgh Castle. Regarded by many as the most haunted place in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has been the scene of ghost stories and legends for centuries.
One of the oldest paranormal reports came in 1650 when the castle was about to be attacked by Oliver Cromwell and his men. The Governor of the Castle witnessed a headless drummer boy on the castle’s battlements, playing an old Scottish War tune.
This exact ghost was again spotted during the Jacobite uprising in 1745, giving credence to the belief he only appears when the castle is under threat.
Another haunted castle and another colourful history full of tragedy. Our next stop on the most haunted locations in Scotland lands us at Glamis Castle in Angus.
The home of the Bowes-Lyons family since 1372, when the land was awarded by Robert the Bruce, the castle was the home and birthplace of the late Queen Mother, and the birthplace of the late Princess Margaret.
The most famous ghost that haunts Glamis Castle is Lady Janet Douglas, the Grey Lady. Sentenced to death for the bogus claims of conspiring to poison King James V, Janet was burned at the stake outside Edinburgh Castle in 1537.
Culloden is where the final battle took place that ended the Jacobite rebellion in April 1746. The Jacobite’s along with Bonnie Prince Charlie was heavily outnumbered and outgunned by the British, and within just forty minutes, the entire Jacobite army was dead.
The battle cries and gunfire can still be heard to this day, and the apparitions of beaten and forlorn Highlander’s haunt the battleground and surrounding areas.
Another haunted location in Edinburgh! Mary King’s Close is an underground neighbourhood where the city’s poorest and nefarious inhabitants used to reside.
Suffering terribly during the plague in the mid-1600s, the close was partially abandoned, but those already infected were forced to stay behind. Many of whom tragically died from the horrific disease.
The spirits of these poor souls still haunt the dwellings and dark corners of the underground labyrinth to this day.
The most famous ghost is that of the little girl. First picked up by a Japanese medium in the 1990s, this little girl was seen crying in the corner. Asking why she was upset, the little girl wanted to know where her doll was and that she was lonely without it.
Moved by this little girl, the medium left her a doll, and ever since, visitors to Mary King’s Close have been leaving gifts for the little girl in the room where she was first seen.
One of the most beautiful and recognisable locations in Scotland. Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie is a 13th-century castle built on an island by Clan Mackenzie and Clan Macrae. It’s perhaps most well known for its appearance in the Highlander (with Sean Connery), but it’s also pretty famous for the ghosts that haunt it.
The most common ghost sighting at Eilean Donan is that of Spanish Soldiers. During the Jacobite rebellion in 1719, 40-50 Spanish soldiers were garrisoned here when the Royal Navy attacked, killing a number of them. One common sighting is of an apparition of a Spanish soldier holding his head under his arm.
Fyvie Castle, an impressive fortress located in the northeast of Scotland, boasts a rich history spanning over 800 years. Built in the 13th century, it has been home to many powerful Scottish families, including the Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon, and Forbes families.
Ranking high on the list of the most haunted locations in Scotland, the castle is reportedly home to at least nine ghosts. The most well-known being the Green Lady. Reportedly the ghost of Lilias Drummond, she has the title of ‘head ghost’, due to her keeping all the other spirits in check.
Lilias is said to have starved to death in the “Murder Room” after failing to provide her husband, Alexander Seton, with an heir.
Her ghost is said to roam the corridors of the castle, bemoaning the betrayal of her husband and leaving behind a scent of Rose petals in her wake.
12. Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire
Balmoral Castle, the Scottish residence of the Royal Family, is a well-known structure that requires no introduction.
It has been reported that the castle has a resident ghost, namely John Brown, who was Queen Victoria’s confidante and companion and subsequently became a close friend of the Queen after the demise of Prince Albert.
Witnesses have reportedly observed Brown, dressed in his kilt, wandering the castle’s hallways and grounds after his death.
The apparition has also been reported by Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, who have claimed to have seen him and felt his presence.