There is not much of a Halloween tradition in the Highlands, but when it comes to spooky stories on these remote, rugged and rough regions of Scotland, nothing quite matches the Isle of Skye.
Here is a little list of four of my favourite places with hunted stories together with two bonus locations to put you in the right mood this year.
Duntulm Castle, Duntulm, Trotternish, IV51 9UF - Map
The ruins of Duntulm, a castle dripping in horror and anguished ghosts, so much so that the MacDonalds, who had captured the castle from the MacLeods, were forced to flee in 1730. Indeed, if the four ghosts were in full cry at the same time, one can imagine it would scare even the most courageous warrior. The dungeons are haunted by Hugh MacDonald, who is alleged to have tried to steal his family’s land and was starved to death in the castle dungeons as a result. He was chained and fed just salt beef and no water, and in the end he went raving mad. One story has it that he tried to eat his own hands before he died. His sworn enemy, and the man who captured and starved him was Donald Gorm Mor, and it is said you can see him brawling with other ghostly figures. Then there is Margaret, who howls in anguish. It is noted that she was rejected by her husband after she lost her eye in an accident, and she never recovered from the distress. And finally, on some nights, you can hear the hysterical screaming of a housemaid who used to hold the son of a clan chief up to the window so he could see the views, but, in a tragic accident, dropped him out of the window and on to the rocks below. She was punished by being set adrift in a boat, and her restless spirit remains in ruins to this day.
A87 Road - Between Sligachan and Portree - Map
Skyes's A87 road and especially the part that connects Sligachan and Portree at the centre of the island does offer breathtaking views, but event this location is accompanied by extraordinary legend; many claim that the main road by Sligachan, on the East of the island, has been the setting for the spectral appearance of a 1934 Austin. The first documented appearance was reported by Dr Allan MacDonald in 1941, and it's again mentioned by Elizabeth Byrd who mentions the car in her book A Strange and Seeing Time.
People who have reported seeing the Austin, claim they have had to pull over to let the car overtake them, however after passing the car vanishes. Sightings of the car date back as far as the 1940's and it is claimed the ghost car is a result of a tragic accident that caused the driver, a church minister, to lose his mind with guilt.
Dunvegan Castle, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, IV55 8WF - Map
Many stories are surrounding Dunvegan Castle on the Isle’s Eastern coast. This is the ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod and makes a claim to be Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle, having remained in the hands of the Clan for some 800 years. Parts of the castle are thought to date back 1000 years, and unlike many other castles in the country, it has remained in private hands, though it is open to the public for visits and tours.
As you might expect, the castle is haunted, but by relatively soft and gentle ghosts when compared to other old castles in Scotland.
It is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland and one of the most visited, in part at least because of the presence there of the Fairy Flag, the silk remains of a flag possibly dating back to the Crusades and made in either Rhodes or Syria. The room where the flag is kept mounted behind glass sometimes emits ethereal and beautiful music even though it contains no means of making music. And although no-one has ever seen him, a piper sometimes plays the pipes in the castle’s south tower.
Old Diatomite Factory at Lealt, Lealt, G742BX - Map
Skye's history of the diatomite, lay-like floury grey substance, found in certain freshwater lochs, dates back to 1899. The area of the Lealt was adjusted towards the production, and it included a light railway and drying factory.
The old diatomite drying factory was located on the shore of the Lealt Bay, with a strategic position anchoring puffer boats where the local skiffs were used to transport the finished Diatomite from beach to boat, ready for shipping to the mainland. There were around 40 to 50 people steadily employed at Lealt, yet on days that the ship came in this total rose to as many as 80 workers.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the mine's history comes from the ownership of the drying factory at Invertote by Germans.
Although closed during the period of the Great War, surprisingly the now enemy foreign residents were allowed to stay on. Shortly afterwards a rumour began to circulate that the area was haunted and that the ghost of a recent tragic death at the Lealt falls had appeared at the factory. As the local story goes, the rumour was actually started by the Germans with the intent of keeping locals away. It turned out that the resident Germans were spies and that, almost unbelievable to the community, the area was being used as a German base with submarines surfacing in the sea bay!
Halloween Bonus - Two locations to set the mood
My two bonus locations have no ghost stories attached to them, but I guarantee you that a little walk around, just before the dusk, will set you in the spooky Halloween mood.
Struan Inn, Struan, IV568FA - Map
The former Struan Inn is located on the shore of the Loch Harport, and it's been very popular amongst the locals back in the days of its glory. The house was one of the first to have running water in the area and was once associated with a grandiose dream. A dream that never comes true.'... the Islands will be opened up ...The railway will send an electric shock through the entire island; the turf-hut will disappear'. It was proposed that the Skye railway would arrive here from Isle Ornsay, transforming it into 'the Milford Haven of the north' - the house and its adjacent stable would have then become the railway company's offices.
Unfortunately, it had one major flaw. Every spring tide the sea flooded the ground floor and as the sea level over the last century has increased; the problem became more persistent. Being a listed building made the needed modifications impossible, and the Inn was closed and deserted by its owners.
Gesto House, Gesto, IV56 8FX - Map
Gesto House near Bracadale was a former tacksman's house from the Isle of Skye. The central core of which may date from circa 1760 was extended to the rear in the mid-late 19th century. The locals explained that the house was the home of Martin Donald Macleod and his wife Jane (Fry) and their family before they immigrated to Canada in 1845. They have departed on 24th July 1845. The house at Gesto was then known as Drynoch House.
Happy Halloween everyone,