Haunted Highlands and Celtic Ghosts



Fairies!  Phantoms!  Ghosts! And Bloody Nights!

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Author : Elizabeth Donnelle Mckaskle


Colla Ciotach was a leader of the MacDonald clan in the early 1600's. He was called Coll or Colkitto (which means Left-handed Coll).

It wont be a surprise to those who have been reading my posts that by 1615 a feud had erupted between the McDonalds and the Campbells. A group headed by Colla Ciotach was ordered by the chief of the McDonalds to attack Duntrune Castle, a Campbell stronghold.

To gain some inside info on the castle and the number of Campbells occupying it, Coll sent in the MacDonald piper as a spy. Pipers during this time were considered to be priviledged and honored by all. The Campbell's welcomed the piper even though they were very suspicious.

Finally, the Campbell's could not help but fear that the piper had been sent as a spy against them, and they locked the piper up in their turret. Coll waited and waited for the return of the piper. Time passed without a sign , so Coll decided that he must carry out the attack.

From the turret the piper had been looking out anxiously across the sea for his master's galleys. The piper fretted over the idea that the McDonalds would be walking into a battle with the Campbells well aware of their arrival.

From his prison cell high in the turret he spied the McDonald's galleys sailing toward Duntrune Castle. Quickly the piper ran to the top of the turret and began to play the tune known as "The Piper's Warning to his Master."

"Coll, my beloved, avoid the tower, avoid the dun,

Coll, my beloved, avoid the soud, avoid the sound,

I am in their hands, I am in their hands"

The McDonalds heard the tune and new immediately they were in danger. They turned back, fleeing the area. The Campbell's heard the tune and hastened to the imprisoned piper. He was beaten and dragged down into the kitchen. It took several Campbells to hold him down, but they were finally able to force his hands onto the table whilst they chopped off his fingers. He would never play the pipes again.

Mercifully, the McDonald piper did not survive the shock or the blood loss and died shortly after.

Centuries later the turret room in Duntrune Castle has been haunted by the loyal musician. The Campbells sold the Castle to the Malcolms in 1792 in whose hands it belongs still today. They report strange knocking on doors and the sound of footsteps running from the Turret Room to the Kitchen.

Scariest of all , is the soft sounds of bagpipes being played in the tower late at night.

The story got an added boost of authencity when, the Malcolms during the refurbishing of the castle found a skeleton buried beneath a slab in the kitchen floor.

-------The Skeleton was missing its fingers.


The Ghost of Dunphail Castle

About six or seven miles south of Forres in Moray can be seen the remains of Dunphail Castle the ancient seat of the Comyn (Cumming) Family. Near which runs the River Findhorn.

Near the Castle remains is the Darnaway Forest which was granted to Thomas Randolph (First Earl of Moray) from his uncle Robert the Bruce during the fourteenth century. Basically, the Cummings owned the right bank of the River Findhorn and the Morays the left. Near which laid the Darnaway forest. At the time, the Morays and the Cummings were feuding over who had the right to hunt in Darnaway Forest. The Cummings argued that it was their hereditary right to hunt in the forest since they had lived their long before the Morays. Plus the Cummings did not honor the exchange of the land between the King and the Morays.

Alastair Cumming gathered a force of over 1000 men and prepared to march on the forest. However, news of the approaching army was leaked to the Morays who established an ambush about a mile south of Darnaway. The Morays managed to push the Cummings back toward Dunphail Castle were they had originated. During the retreat, the leader of the Cummings, Alastair Cumming was forced to jump across the River Findhorn (a place now called Randolph's leap).

The Moray's forced the Cummings back into Dunphail where they surrounded them and trapped them and proceeded to starve them for several days. Tiring of that the Morays surrounded the castle with fires, the smoke of which killed the occupants inside. Afterward, the Moray's took the heads of those murdered and placed them on spikes atop the castle's battlements.

Ever since the horror of the attack, ghosts of headless soldiers have been seen wandering around the castle. Others have reported hearing the clash of swords while others have ran away in terror at the groans of what seem to be dying soldiers from inside the castle walls. The worst of the unsuspecting have been the poor souls who have seen the visions of disembodied heads , screaming and flying towards them on the castle grounds!

The Tale of Greyfrair's Bobby

Outside the Greyfriars Bobby Inn, on Candlemakers row in Edinburgh,  stands a statue of a little skye terrier shepherd dog.

During the 1850's, the Inn was the Traills Coffee- House in an open air  market in the Scottish capital. Everyday at one o' clock, a kindly shepherd named Jock Gray made his way in from the meadows with his dog, Bobby. Jock would eat lunch as Bobby laid at his feet chewing a bone tucked under paw.

The daily tradition went on for many years, but ended one day when Jock collapsed and died. He was buried in the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

A few days after the funeral, the proprietor of Traills was surprised  when the little terrier showed up at one o' clock asking for a bone. The same thing happened the following day, and the next, and the next. On  the fourth day, when Bobby finish his afternoon bone, the owner followed  the little shepherd dog. Bobby lead him through town to Greyfriars  Kirkyard. There, Bobby laid down at the tombstone where old Jock was buried, and there he kept his vigil for the next 14 years until he died in 1872.

The Traills Coffee-House still stands in the Scottish capital city of  Edinburgh and is known as the Greyfriar's Bobby's Inn.

Ghosts in the Tower of London

Of all the haunted buildings none can compete with the ghosts that roam around in the Tower of London. A place that would be eerie in itself without so much as a rattling chain based on its bloody history.

The most popular and frequently seen ghost is that of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, who was beheaded at the Tower of London in 1536.

During the 1800's a guard saw a light in the chapel of  St Peter ad Vincula where the remains of Anne were buried.

Climbing up a ladder to look through the window, he saw a procession of people clad in Elizabethan costume walking slowly up the aisle in procession.

At the head of the group was Anne Boleyn very saddened as if this was the day of execution. Suddenly, the light went dark and all the men and women disolved into thin air.

In 1864 a sentry at the Tower was about to be fired for being blind drunk  on duty. He argued that he had been the victim of a ghost visitation.

Rounding a corner he spotted a figure all in white that was moving slowly towards him. The figure appeared to be headless. When the figure refused to stop he ran a bayonet through it - and fainted when his bayonet seemed to slice nothing but thin air. He was guarding the King's House where Anne Boleyn

had been jailed the night before her execution. Other soldiers testified that they too had seen the scary spector and the soldier was given a reprieve.

Anne is thought to appear on the eve of an execution. At 2 am one February night in 1915 Sergeant William Nicholls and his watch all saw a woman dressed in brown with a distinctive ruff around her neck walk  straight into a 9ft thick stone wall. At dawn a spy was shot in the Tower moat, one of 11 executed there during World War I.

Two little children seen on numerous occasions wandering the grounds hand in hand are thought to be the little princes, Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York. After the pair disappeared from the Tower in June 1483 they were thought to have been murdered at the behest of their uncle who went on to become Richard III. Although bones of two small children were discovered in 1674 they were never conclusively proved to be the little princes so their fate remains a mystery. After the children vanished their quarters were known as The Bloody Tower.

From time to time ghostly moans have been heard issuing from the Bloody Tower, reputedly the tortured cries of Guy Fawkes who was so cruelly punished for his part in the attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605.

One of the strangest incidents to occur at the Tower was related by Edward Lental Swifte, former keeper of the Crown Jewels, in the magazine  Notes and Queries, published in 1860. He told how, when he held the post, he sat with his wife, son and his wife's sister in the Jewel House having supper by candlelight.

Mr Swifte described the scene after a cry from his wife. 'I looked up and saw a cylindrical figure, like a glass tube - something about the thickness of my arm - hovering between the ceiling and the table. It appeared to contain a dense fluid, white and pale azure, incessantly rolling and mingling within the cylinder. This lasted about two minutes.

'Then the cylinder began to move before my sister-in-law and, following the oblong shape of the table, before my son and myself. Passing behind my wife it paused for a moment over her right shoulder.

'Instantly she crouched down and, with both hands covering her shoulder, shrieked out, 'Oh Christ! It has seized me!. '

'Even now, as I write, I feel the horror of that moment. I caught up my chair, striking at the 'appearance' with a blow that hit the wainscot behind her. It then crossed the upper end of the table and disappeared in the recess of the opposite window.'

At the turn of the century another unfortunate guard beheld a spectacle of spectres, this time at the Tower's West Gate. A uniformed procession passed him carrying a stretcher with a corpse and its severed head. Before he could recover his senses, the macabre scene vanished before his eyes.

In 1975, on the anniversary of the death of the Countess of Salisbury, ghastly screams rang around the Tower and its grounds. The Countess was sentenced to death as a traitor in 1541. In fact, she was the mother of an outspoken cardinal and it was for this that she was punished by the vengeful King Henry VIII. When she refused to kneel before the executioner in the manner of a traitor, he pursued her with his axe around the ground before hacking her to death.

Main sources -- This Haunted Isle by Dane Love and the London Haunting Website and Mystical Realm webpages.



To ming is to smell strongly and unpleasantly.

"The was minging of roses just before the ghost appeared."

Mingin can also mean to be very unpleasant or of very poor quality.

"It was a dark and minging night."


A name used for a Scarecrow used thoughout Scotland with the exception of the Northeast in which it is called TATTIE-BOODIE


----All night the witch sang,

and the castle grew

Up from the rock,

with tower and turrets crowned;

All night she sang.

When fell the morning dew

Twas finished roon and roon----

The castle in the ballad is the fortress Dunscaith (Doon SKAA). According to a 12th century manuscript, Dunscaith (the fort of gloom) was built by a witch in a single night.

The Isle of Skye, in which the fort was built, was ruled by a champion warrior- woman named Sgathach (SKY-ah). It is this Queen of the Isle that the Ossianic super-hero Cuchulainn came to in order to be trained in the arts of battle. But, before he could be worthy of her instruction, he had to prove himself by conquering the gates of Dunscaith. According to legend, the castle was surrounded by seven ramparts crowned by iron palisades, spiked by nine human heads. A hidden trap in the castle was a pit full of snakes in which Cuchulainn soon found himself. After killing the snakes, Cuchulainn was set upon by hundreds of vicious beasts described as "malevolent toads with sharp beaks" (insert your own Minnesota, mutated frogs joke). He fought them off at the same time that he was attacked by dragons until he finally became victorious and reaped the treasures of the castle.

The story of Cuchulainn's adventure is fiction, but Dunscaith was real indeed. Its ruins are still observable. It is the oldest known ruin in the Hebrides. The ruins on the Isle of Skye however, are mere rubble and getting regrettably smaller every year.

Dunscaith is located in an area called Sleat, which is the southern portion of the Isle of Skye.

Originally, the fortress was in the possession of the Norse Kings of Man, and securing Dunscaith were a race of savage Norse warriors known as the McAskills. The hereditary keeper of Dunscaith was Black Donald, the head of the McAskills, who along with his family kept watch on the seas from the tower.

It came to pass, that the McAskill's loyalty was given to the Clan MacLeod, a prominent family in the Hebrides. In exchange for their military service, the MacLeods granted the McAskill lands, especially in the area of Glen Brittle, where much of the family still resides.

----Tradition holds that the McAskills have lived in Skye for over 700 years.-----

Along with the honor of being associated with the MacLeods, the McAskills had to also take on the burden of the many MacLeod enemies. The most menacing of which were the MacDonalds. The MacDonalds owned much of the land in Sleat and it was only a matter of time before they set their sites on the noble fortress of Dunscaith.

In much of the literature of the Isles, the McAskills are always referred to as "great or savage warriors" , "notable for their strength and prominent stature." The MacDonald's knowing of the legends surrounding the family, planned very carefully their raid. Not daring to confront the Black Donald in an open battle, they descended upon the castle under the cloak of night and fell upon the McAskills as they slept.

When the sun rose the next morning, Dunscaith was in the hands of the MacDonalds and the Black Donald was dead. The skirmish had been a bloody and terrifying affair, with the McAskill children running from the castle into the dark Woods of Torkavaig (the grove of the Druids) their screams echoing in the cold night air as they were ridden down by MacDonald clansmen.

One of the few survivors, was Black Donald's youngest daughter, Mary McAskill, only thirteen at the time of the attack. But, old enough to know of the horror of clan rivalry----- and of revenge.

Mary hid in a rotted out log in the woods for three days and nights before gaining the courage to join the rest of the surviving family in Glen Brittle. It is speculated that it was during those three days cramped and freezing in the wet stink of the dead tree that she planned her revenge on the MacDonalds. Some say that she was protected by the Sidhe (the fairies) and it was they that whispered the plot in her young ear.

Mary, a very patient girl, waited for three years until she turned fifteen, before setting the plan in motion. She had blossomed into a fine beauty with flaxen hair that swung to her hips while her eyes stayed the dark brown of her youth. In order to be successful she needed to change her appearance. So not to be recognized. She sheared her locks to above her ears and dyed it the color of her eyes---

the color of rotting wood.

Ready, she journeyed back to Dunscaith, back thru the woods of Torkavaig, back to the place where her father had been stabbed repeatedly in his sleep, three years earlier. Knocking at the door of the castle, Mary advised she was there to apply for the position of housekeeper which the MacDonalds had advertised.

----Mary dazzled the MacDonalds with her sweet smile and beauty and she was quickly employed.-----

Patient again, Mary worked tirelessly for the MacDonalds, going above and beyond her duties and soon endeared herself to them.

Before long, Mary had so gained their trust that she was promoted to work in the nursery, as nanny to the MacDonald children.

Years passed. Mary nursed and entertained the young MacDonald children day in and day out. With no one the least bit suspicious of the kind girl.

One day, the MacDonalds being in the thralls of yet another land dispute, gathered all the Clan (women and men) to fight in a nearby battle with the MacLeods.

------Mary was left alone in the castle with only a few guards and the seven MacDonald children.------

As an encroaching storm gathered over the Isle and the sea began to churn under a cold wind, Mary awoke the children and escorted them to the tower, advising the guard that she was uneasy and felt they would be safer there---- under lock and key.

Lightening and thunder erupted with the rain and the youngest of the children began to cry. Mary calmed them with stories and sung soft lullabies until they were all steadfast asleep, a newborn cradled in her arms.

Softly, as not to wake them she walked to the east window, opened it and tossed the baby out of the window onto the rocks below.

Slowly, she picked up the sleeping children one by one and threw them from the tower into the storm to their inevitable demise. Not one of them so much as let out a sound, completely trusting the arms of their beloved nanny.

When the deed was done, Mary, walked out of the tower, passed the guards and out of the castle. One guard, curious that she should go out in such a storm followed her and watch as she walked barefoot into the woods and disappeared.

------Mary, was never seen or heard of again.------

When word spread through Skye of the horrible crime, the countryside were mortified. The McAskills, who were never known for being squeamish, were the most shocked. How could any woman care and love children as her own for YEARS, feed them and dress them only to murder them!? This was an evil even they could not comprehend.

For decades afterward, the McAskills and MacLeods were careful not to name any of their girls Mary, lest she grow up with the same inclinations. . .

Elizabeth Mckaskle

PS-- My sister's name is Mary Mckaskle, and it is interesting and a little eerie to note that she spent 10 dedicated years working with the Louisiana Dept of Human Services as a Child Case Worker for Abused and Neglected children.

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