Shrouded in the mystery of time long past, the records sadly destroyed by the final battles it was engaged in. Dundee Castle was a legendary place in ancient Scotland’s history where King’s and Queen’s visited, and many battles were fought.

The ancient settlement of Dundee, which in its earliest days consisted of two main streets, the Seagate and the Cowgate, was dominated by a huge 90ft tall cliff faced hill atop which sat the Castle of Dundee. The castle was simply known as the Castle of Dundee, but the hill upon which it sat was locally called the Black Rock, due to the black colour of the rock. It must have been quite the intimidating sight for intruders to see a black 90ft tall rocky cliff with a castle standing on top.

The memory of the castle lives on in the name Castle Street, which is located on the site of the castle after the last parts of the rocky hill were blasted away with dynamite to make way for the street. Before this there was still a considerable hill of 20 – 40ft at this location. No one can be sure when the castle itself was erected, and sadly no painting or sketches of the castle remain.

The oldest records of Scotland’s history say that Dundee was a place of considerable importance shortly after the spreading of Christianity. Some historians say that the castle of Dundee was a refuge to Carinthius, king of the Picts, after his army had suffered a defeat in Fife, by the legions of Agricola of Rome. They go on to say that under the cover of its impregnable walls, he not only defended himself from the the enemy, but had time also to deliberate with his chiefs after which he entered into a league with Galgacus, king of the Scots. This was to oppose the onslaught of the armies of Rome.

It’s also been suggested that Donald I, accompanied by his queen and courtiers, visited Dundee about 860 and remained there for a considerable time where they are said to have been baptized into the Christian faith. It is also noted in several sources that King Edgar Atheling died here in 1106 after a reign of 9 years. So Dundee was certainly a town of great importance, and possibly the seat of royalty at a very earlier period.

The Castle was one of the main fortresses of Scotland and played a prominent part in Scotland’s War of Independence. After the death of Alexander III, the country was thrown into chaos. While Edward I plotted to take control of Scotland, after being asked to help decided who the new king should be, the Castle was handed over to Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus.

Once Edward I began his campaign to take control of Scotland, he decided the main strongholds of the country should be handed over to someone who would hold them on his behalf. Dundee Castle was handed over to Brian, son of Alan, against the Earls wishes. After John Baliol was declared King of Scots, with some interference from Edward I, Brian was ordered to hand the Castle over to him. After Baliol capitulated to Edward’s rule in July of 1292, Dundee Castle was again in the possession of the English, although it had been under their control in all but name.

William Wallace was at this time rising against Edward I, and it was while besieging Dundee to reclaim the town and the and Castle, that Wallace received word of the advance of the English army. He left Alexander Scrymgeour to continue the siege which after a long and bloody battle, was a success. Dundee Castle was now back in control of the Scots.

When Wallace returned to Dundee he named Alexander the “Skirmischur” and appointed him the hereditary Constable of the Castle of Dundee and bestowed him the right to carry the royal standard in war. Unfortunately Alexander Scrymgeour did not hold the castle for long, as although Edward I retreated after his victory at Falkirk he left behind a garrison in Dundee, and wrote to them in 1300, telling the garrisons to “keep themselves by truce as best they can till Pentecost next” (May 1301) when the truce was to end.

Alexander Scrymgeour continued as Constable of Dundee and remained at the Castle even after Edward I’s complete subjugation of Scotland in 1303, but events must have unfolded at the Castle as shortly after this English garrisons were in command and the castle stayed under their control for several years.

After his coronation at Scone on 27th March 1306, Robert the Bruce took to the field against Edward. He was at once joined by Alexander Scrymgeour, and Dundee Castle was back in the hands of the Scots. However soon after Scrymgeour was taken prisoner after being defeated at Methven. Six weeks later, along with other prisoners taken at that battle, he was hanged in Newcastle. After his defeat, Bruce fled to the west and Dundee Castle was in the hands of the English.

The English garrison managed to hold out for another year, after which it was taken back by Bruce in 1313. After this he gave the order to destroy the Castle, to prevent it being used against him. It had changed hands between the Scots and the English eight times in the last 22 years. It was likely seen as much of a curse as a blessing, allowing whoever occupied it to remain in place in the region due to its position above the rock for defence, and right beside the shore for a speedy escape when needed.

After the destruction of all local records the details of such battles and other stories of the Castle have been lost to time, only a few mentions of the Castle in the records of Edwards army remain along with tales and legends, such as that of Carinthius. But as the memory of the castle lives on in the name Castle Street, and a plaque reminds us of its location, we can only imagine how different the city centre would look were the castle still standing today.

wallace-plaque

Back before Castle Huntly became a prison, it had a history all of its own – and a couple of its own ghosts, to boot. There are two ghosts alleged to still haunt Castle Huntly; the White Lady and that of a young boy. When researching the ghosts of Castle Huntly, it became apparent that there is some confusion between Castle Huntly and Huntly Castle (which is in Aberdeenshire), and, as such, the ghost stories of which White Lady belonged to which castle seems to get a little skewed.

We’re going to stick with the story of the young woman being a daughter of the Lyon family, the Earls of Kinghorne (which was later changed to Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne). The title Earl of Kinghorne was actually created in 1606 for Patrick Lyon, and when Castle Huntly was acquired by the Earl in 1614, he had the name changed to Castle Lyon. It was not until the castle was sold in 1777 that the name was reverted back to Castle Huntly.

Whether the woman in the story was the first Earl of Kinghorne’s daughter or granddaughter, we do not know, but, from what we have read, it appears as though she may have had an inappropriate relationship with one of the castle’s manservants. It wasn’t all too uncommon for sexual relationships to form between social classes, as privacy was hard to come by, and servants were often put in sexually vulnerable positions by their masters or mistresses, as well as by lodgers, guests and each other. Remember there wasn’t a lot to do back then!

When they were found out, the pair were separated. Whether the manservant was imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or all three, we cannot say for sure, but it’s pretty clear that, in those times, he wasn’t just going to be sent on his way with his wages and his P45 in hand. Whoever he was, he very likely met a grisly end. The nameless Lyon daughter was locked in a chamber on the upper levels of the castle, and it was from the window of this room that she is said to have met her doom. Her body was found, broken and bleeding on the grounds directly under her bedroom window, with nothing that could be done to save her.

 

To add a twist to an already murky story, whilst some may say that she killed herself as a result of a broken heart or at being imprisoned in her own family home, others have whispered that she may not have taken her own life and may, in fact, have been pushed. There are a lot of facets to this story that don’t quite add up (which we tend to find with a lot of the older ghost stories), hence their origins as legends and not actual fact. What did happen to the manservant? And why can’t we name the Lyon daughter on who the tale is supposedly based? And the big question – did she fall, or was she pushed? We’ll just never know.

Moving away from the mysterious White Lady, the second ghost alleged to haunt Castle Huntly is that of a young boy, named the Paterson Ghost. He is believed to be the descendant of George Paterson – the man who purchased the castle from the Lyons in 1777 for £40,000, and also the man who gave Castle Huntly back its original name. Fast-forward 150 years or so, to when Colonel Adrian Paterson and his family occupied Castle Huntly.

Their only son, Richard, tragically died in a boating accident aboard the river Tay in 1939, and it is his ghost that is said to haunt the castle. He is said to be seen in the same room as the White Lady wearing a double-breasted sailing jacket. Interestingly, no-one seems to know what colour it is, which, given the “sightings”, you would think that someone would be able tell us at least if it was light or dark. Whilst the White Lady is alleged to haunt the grounds of the castle as well as the room, young Richard is said to appear only in the room once occupied by the fated daughter of Lyon.

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One of the most famous legends associated with Glamis Castle is that of the ‘Monster of Glamis’; a child born to the family and so hideously disfigured he was isolated in secret chambers within the castle walls, which were sealed upon his death. Legend has its beginnings in 1821 when the first son of the eleventh Earl is said to have been born horribly malformed. To hide this anomaly, news of the child’s death was fabricated to ensure that no-one sought after him. Only those with the hereditary right to be informed are told of the secret upon reaching their 21st birthday. It has been said that some young heirs have laughed and joked in the past about revealing the family secret as soon as they turn 21. For each one who has said it, legend tells nobody has ever divulged the contents of their “coming of age” legacy. Could the Monster of Glamis be real, after all..?

The apparent failure to cover the window of this chamber lends itself to the story of the “empty window” which is associated with the secret room. The story goes, that, upon hearing of the legend of the Monster of Glamis, guests hung towels from every available window in the castle in a bid to find the location of the secret room. Once every window had been covered, they stepped outside to look at the castle…and found one window was still “empty”. A subsequent search of the castle to find the elusive window failed, hinting at the fact that the room may indeed exist. The ‘Mad Earls Walk’ on the castle ramparts is said to have been the place where the malformed Earl was exercised away from the prying eyes of anyone who should not see him.

The legend of the secret chamber of the Monster of Glamis is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation. It was apparently found, quite accidentally, by a builder, who was given money and was sent abroad in an attempt to buy his silence over what he encountered. Another spin on it is that, to each generation of the family, a vampire child (or a child of monstrously superior abilities) is born and must be walled up in the secret chamber. Whilst most of these stories are based in legend, the story of the Ogilvies is, disturbingly, based in fact.

Dudhope Castle, one of Dundee’s oldest buildings, sits overlooking the city, near the foot of the Law. The castle was originally built in the late 13th century by the Scrimgeour family, appointed Hereditary Constables of Dundee by William Wallace in 1298. John Scrimgeour entertained King James VI at Dudhope in 1617, and was granted a charter of the lands and barony of Dundee on 11 December that year. He refused to sign the Covenant in 1639. Later, King Charles I created him Viscount Dudhope and Baron Scrimgeour of Inverkeithing in November 1641. He died in 1643 and was succeeded by his eldest son James. On the death in 1668 of John Scrimgeour, Constable, and first Earl of Dundee, King Charles II ignored the existence of the rightful heir, and made a grant of Dudhope Castle and the office of Constable to Charles Maitland, a younger brother of the Earl of Lauderdale.

Later, whilst experiencing financial difficulties, Maitland sold Dudhope Castle in 1684 to John Graham of Claverhouse. It was from Dudhope Castle that he departed for Killiecrankie in 1689; the victory which resulted in his death. In 1694, the King therefore made a grant of Dudhope Castle to Archibald Douglas. The Douglas family were the last family of occupants of the castle, continuing until about 1790. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, James the 2nd Viscount Dudhope, sided with the Covenanters and fought the Royalist army at the Battle of Marston Moor in July 1644 where he was mortally wounded.

The castle was converted to be used as a woollen mill in 1792 but the scheme never really took off. In 1795 the castle and park were leased to the Ordinance Office for 95 years. The castle was used as a barracks between 1796 and 1881 but in 1881 the stores moved to Perth and the Castle was abandoned. Town Council of Dundee took the decision to create a public recreation ground of the Park and obtained a sub-lease from the Ordnance Office in 1854 for 35 ½ years. The Earl of Home wanted to develop the grounds as terraced housing. This was prevented when Dudhope Park was acquired for the people by Dundee Town Council and opened as a public park in 1895.

Dudhope Castle image courtesy of Lost Dundee

 

Mains Castle, in Caird Park, Dundee, was built on land which at one time belonged to the Stewarts, then passed to the Douglas Earls of Angus in the 14th century. Later, in the 16th century, it became the property of the Grahams and a castle was built by a David Graham; there is a date of 1562 over a doorway. At one time the castle was known as Mains of Fintry after the Grahams castle of that name in Stirlingshire. It originally had a courtyard, surrounded by buildings but most of these have been demolished. The unusually high stair turret is a 17th century addition – and may have been built to give views over hills to the south. The castle is located in Dundee’s Caird Park to the north of the city overlooking the Dichty valley. On the opposite side of the burn is located the mausoleum of the Graham family and the Mains’ cemetery, which was formerly the site of the district’s kirk.

The fate of Sir David Graham, the builder of Mains Castle, was a strange one. Throughout the alternations of the religious professions of the Scottish nobility during the reign of Mary, the Grahams of Fintry remained steadfastly attached to the Romish Church. They thus retained the friendship of many of the northern nobles who still adhered to the old religion, and were frequently engaged in the conspiracies which foreign ecclesiastics encouraged for its establishment in Scotland. But after the Reformation faith had gained a footing in Scotland—largely because of bribes of the confiscated Church lands—this tampering with superior forces brought retribution upon them. The story of the conspiracy known to history as “The Spanish Blanks” also lends a little interest to Mains Castle. If you are interested in whether or not there are any ghosts at Mains Castle, check out this link to read a paranormal investigation into the castle by Ghost Finders Scotland.

Photo by Mark Andrew Turner, courtesy of Lost Dundee