Perhaps nowhere in the world has as many tales of hauntings as Scotland’s Haunted Highlands.
The Landscape and Scotland’s Haunted Highlands
There is a haunting quality to the Highlands of Scotland which conjure up images of kilted clansmen appearing out of the mist. The ruins of abandoned cottages are remnants of a way of life which has long gone and has been romanticised both in films and in novels. The reality is that life in the past was harsh and often brutal. Small wonder, that as the dark winter nights descended, the clans folk would settle around the fire, perhaps with some whisky on hand, and entertain each other with tales of mysterious creatures, of legendary heroes and dark hauntings.
The untamed nature of the land lends itself to this surreal atmosphere with rugged mountains, deep blue lochs, the achingly desolate but beautiful moorland and empty glens where the majestic red deer rule the hills and the lone eagle reigns over the skies. Due to the ever and fast-changing weather, the Highlands have a mystical touch. One moment you see the hills, the next they are gone, engulfed in a ghostly mist. Sunny spells and dark shadows move over the ever-changing mountains, peaks that turn purple with heather at the summer’s end and then become shrouded in white as the long, dark winter takes hold.
Early Beginnings to the Legends and Haunted Tales of the Highlands
The early inhabitants left behind stone circles and cairns, brochs and duns, each an enigma that would stir the imagination of those who would follow in their wake. The Gaelic-speaking Dalriadic Scots brought tales with them from Ireland: stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaile and the sÌth or the fairy people. There were tales of the Cailleach who ruled the winter months and was used to explain the appearance of the whirlpool Corryvreakan or the snow on the mountain peaks. The Norsemen of Shetland, Orkney and the northern reaches of Caithness told sagas of selkies and strange dragon-like creatures like the Stoorworm. In time, tales would be told which were unique to the area: tales of strange creatures in the depths of Loch Ness or Loch-na-Beiste, magical fairy flags with miraculous powers and haunted castles.
The people of the Highlands were steeped in superstition, using myth to explain the inexplicable. Then, there were those who were possessed of the ‘sight’ who could foretell the future, people like the Brahan Seer. They had a strong oral tradition both in the spoken word and in song. Their history was often dark with betrayals and battles between warring clans. Then there was the Jacobite Rebellion, the Battle of Culloden and finally the treachery of the Highland Clearances. With such a bloody past, is it any wonder that recounts are told of real people who died in tragic and often gruesome circumstances? What of apparitions that appear at certain times of the night, or on certain days of the year – perhaps when they were murdered? Or of innocent women who were executed as witches? And of strange, eerie sounds that pierce the chilled Highland air?
Some of the best places to visit to experience the Haunted Highlands
Hauntings seem to have no set boundaries. Ghosts have been reported in castles and on battlefields, on lonely roads, and in glens, in theatres and in distilleries, in lochs and on the tops of mountain peaks.
Spooky Scotland has made up a list of some of the most haunted places in the Haunted Highlands. Follow the Links to find out more:
- Culloden Battlefield: where the last battle was fought on British soil and where the Jacobites clashed with government troops. On the anniversary of the battle, the spirits of the fallen are said to return.
- Rait Castle: haunted by a young woman with no hands. It is a tale of forbidden love, treachery and a father’s wrath!
- Dornoch: haunted by the last person to be executed as a witch in Scotland. But why did her neighbours accuse her of witchcraft?
- Duntulm Castle: so crowded by ghosts that the owners were forced to leave!
- Sligachan: a ghost car is seen racing along this stretch of road but why is the driver so distraught?
- Auldearn: the village is haunted by the ghost of Isobel Gowdie but how did her life end that leaves her spirit so restless today?
- Cawdor Castle: Today the ghost of Muriel Calder haunts the Halls of Cawdor Castle. Why did her uncles and grandfather want to kill her? Why did her grandmother brand her? Why did one of the most important families in Scotland kidnap her?
- Eilean Donan Castle: why is this scenic stronghold haunted by a Spanish ghost and who are the Seal Maidens?
- Glencoe: why is it called ‘The Glen of the Weeping’ and what happened to cause one of the biggest atrocities in Scottish history?
- Clava Cairns: why are they said to be cursed?
- Ardvreck Castle: what deal did the Laird make with the Devil? Who is the ghostly woman who weeps through the ruins? Why does a piper haunt the nearby Calda House?
- Cuillins: What did MacRaing do which left his reckless spirit roaming over Skye’s famous mountain range?
There is one thing for sure, in the Scottish Highlands, expect the unexpected.
Have you visited one of these sites and had a spooky experience or perhaps you have visited another spooky site in Scotland’s haunted Highlands? Please share your experiences in the comments box below or share the spooky by using the link on one of the icons below.