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© 1998 Bobette Bryan
Dunnottar Castle in Kincardineshire, one of the most notorious places in Scotland sits high upon a sandstone cliff overlooking the North Sea. The castle is seemingly invincible, impenetrable; however, the castle, covering four acres, has been successfully sieged several times between the ninth and seventeenth century, and it's long and bloody history, goes back even further. Unsurprisingly, it's said that the castle's many ghostly residents still haunt the place. Their cries can often be heard coming from the cliffs at night, and the spectral images can be seen in the dark, lofty halls. Historian Beattie of Caledonia said, "To him who is familiar with history, Dunnottar speaks with an audible voice. Every cave has a record, every turret has a tongue."
One of the earliest accounts of violence was by the ancient Picts who had a prehistoric fort on this rock, and there were many bloody skirmishes during the time they controlled the area. One would have hoped that the violence ended when, in the fifth century, St. Ninian built a church within its grounds. But it wasnít to be. There was reportedly a siege in 681, which is recorded in Annals of Ulster, and in 900, the castle fell was taken from King Donald II by the Vikings. It's also recorded that in 934, the King Aethelstan of Wessex "wasted Scotland with a land army as far as Dunnottar."
Amazingly, the site was again used for religious purposes in 1276, when the Bishop of St. Andrews built yet another church. Soon, the population in the area grew, and the castle became more like a small village, having a barracks, chapel, stables, a priestís house, and even a graveyard.
Still the violence that seemed to shroud the castle and the surrounding hunk of land since prehistoric times, had only just begun.
In 1297, William Wallace's Scottish army sieged and
destroyed the castle and its occupants. Actually Wallace burned the English Plantaganet residents alive when they sought refuge in the church.
Yet the English would take the castle again in 1336, and as a result King Edward the III visited the place that year. But not too long afterward, the Scottish Regent, Sir Andrew Moray, retook the castle and burned it.
The castle was rebuilt in 1531 by Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland. Amazingly his family held the property three centuries. But that didn't end the violence and the bloodshed.
It was also the scene of the infamous witch hysteria that overtook Europe during that time. Several witches who were apprehended in Aberdeen, were taken to Dunnottar and burned at the stake on the castle grounds in 1595. Lord only knows what kind of torture they and others endured within the dark, dungeon walls.
Likely, there were more witches executed at the castle than have been recorded during this time, but it would be the scene of many more bloody battles as well.
When the Royalist Army was close to being completely defeated in 1651, many of the Scottish crown jewels, including the Royal scepter were hidden within the castle, since Dunnottar was thought to be one of the strongest and safest locations in Scotland. When Oliver Cromwell's army advanced and sieged the castle on an eight-month campaign, it became obvious to its Royalist occupants that they had to smuggle the treasure to safety. No one knows for sure how this was accomplished. But it's thought that the treasure was lowered down the side of the cliff late at night and that a servant girl, possibly Anne Linday of Edzell, hid it beneath her skirt. Supposedly, she then buried the jewels in the floor a nearby church. Some believe that some of the jewels are still hidden somewhere near the castle, but where no one knows. Perhaps the ghosts know, but they aren't likely to give up their secrets.
Of the many ghosts in the castle, many of them were doubtlessly innocent civilians, victims who were persecuted solely for political reasons.
For instance, in 1685, anti-Royalist Covenanters and their families were imprisoned in the castle's dark dank bowels. No fewer than one hundred and sixty, men, women, and children were tortured brutally for their religious beliefs and were feed rotten meat, raw fish, and seawater. These poor souls died terrible deaths from the cold and starvation. Yet, some of them actually tried to escape down the sheer cliff, which was one hundred and sixty feet above the sea, late at night only to become the victim of the unyielding landscape around them. The dark cellar, known as the "Whig's Vault," can still be toured today, and it supposedly looks exactly the same as it did then.
The entrance to the castle is through a long path that leads to the gatehouse, however, there's also a secret entrance in the form of a tunnel with steps in the cliff. Near this secret entrance the ghostly image of a man is often seen who appears to be staring out at the sea and watching or waiting for something. He appears to be a soldier from an earlier time, dressed in the military regalia from an early period in Scottish history. Many people have also reported that he's tall, and dark.
After the rebellion of 1715, the castle and surrounding buildings fell into disrepair. In 1925, the first Viscountess Cowdry began a restoration program. The castle is now maintained by the Dunecht Estates and is open for tourism.
Recently, Dunnottar castle was used in the
Hamlet movie starring Mel Gibson.
Ecclescrieg House, in St. Cyrus, Aberdeenshire is another very spooky place. Bram Stoker used to spend his holidays at nearby Cruden Bay, and it's said that he used the old house as inspiration for Count Dracula's castle.
It's supposedly haunted due to a curse that
was placed on the original owners, the Forsyth-Grant family.
It all started when Osbert Clare Forsyth-Grant who lived from 1880 to 1911 joined the Navy against the wishes of his father. Supposedly, he sailed from Montrose to command a whaling ship whose crew was composed of Scots and Eskimos. Something happened between Osbert and the Eskimos...no one seems to know what...but they put a curse on him and his family. Not long afterward his ship, the Seduisante was wrecked in a storm
and missing. Supposedly, there was a mutiny and killing on board, but no one knows what happened for sure, because only a few Eskimos lived to tell about it.
But Grant's body was never recovered. It's said that his father never quite recovered from the incident and continually stood on the terrace, staring into some binoculars at the sea, and hoping his son would return. Supposedly, the old man is still seen walking the grounds today, waiting for a son that will never return.
Roche Castle, in Pembrokeshire, is purported to be
another very haunted castle. It has been associated with supernatural happenings since the thirteenth century. It's said that the owner, Adam de la Roche, was told by a witch that an adder would bite him and kill him. Terrified of the tale, Roche built the castle high upon a rock where there was no moorland or undergrowth to attract the creatures. Nevertheless, even safely hidden in his mighty fortress, Roche remained horrified of the prophecy and became a recluse behind the thick walls.
Yet amazingly, a snake did manage to find it's way into Roche's castle.
On a cold winter night, a servant had carried in a bundle of twigs for the great hall fire, and apparently an adder emerged from the wood late that night, to bite the sleeping nobleman on the leg.
Roche was discovered dead the next morning.
Roch castle is also haunted by the ghost of Lucy Walters, who was the mistress of King Charles the II. Lucy, who was supposedly a beautiful woman, met the King in Holland when she was on vacation with her lover, Colonel Robert Sydney. She and Charles instantly felt some kind of chemistry for each other, and she soon became the mother of Charlesí son, the Duke of Monmouth. Unfortunately, the King, tired of Lucy. He put his favorite bastard son under the care of his wife, but, sadly, he spurred Lucy. As a result, she died from poverty at only twenty-eight years old.
Her ghost, cloaked in white, is said to be seen walking about Roch castle, even floating through shut and locked doors. Itís said that she even awakens sleepers at night.