Castles and Ghosts

It was a castle-and-ghost kind of weekend last weekend. Our hour-and-a-half journey to the Edinburgh area first took us to Craigmillar Castle. Afterward, we stayed overnight at Dalhousie Castle in Bonnyrigg.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar stands tall in front of few townhouses, facing an open field known as Craigmillar Park with trees and hills in the distance.

Originally built as a tower house in the late 1300s, Craigmillar Castle was used as a safe haven by Mary Queen of Scots in 1566. Ironically, the owner of the tower house and loyal supporter of the queen became her jailer when she was captured in 1567.

Dalhousie Castle

Built in the 13th century, only the vaults and thick walls at foundation level are the remains of the original castle. The present structure was built in 1450, but there were extensions and alterations made over the centuries. Like other castles, 800-year-old Dalhousie has seen much history.

The original owner was Simon of the Ramsay Clan. Many people have passed through here — one worth mentioning is King Edward I (Longshanks); he stayed here while en route to meet William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. At one point the castle was used as a school as well, but now it is a hotel and a popular location for weddings.

Dalhousie Castle at night

We had the pleasure to stay in Dalhousie. There are 29 rooms in the castle, and each room has its own name and theme. We stayed in the Robert-the-Bruce, four-poster double room. It was a spacious and comfortable room facing the river and the field with clusters of trees at its edges.

Robert the Bruce Room

Later in the evening, we got a private tour of the castle, learning about its history and all about its alleged hauntings that have been witnessed by both guests and staff. There are myriad accounts of staff’s ghostly experiences, but I’ll only share a few of them to keep the post more on the short side.

Lady Catherine ‘Gray Lady’

One of the more active ghosts, Lady Catherine, was a sixteen-year-old mistress to the former owner, one of the Ramsay’s. When Ramsay’s wife learned about the affair, she imprisoned Catherine in an upper chamber and starved her to death.

Lady Catherine in her gray dress.

Catherine’s presence has been seen on the stairs, in the dungeon where the hotel restaurant is at, and along the corridor.

The Dungeon

Andrew Sharp, the castle steward and piper at Dalhousie, has seen Catherine on multiple occasions; one time on the inner staircase. He spotted her apparition in the old-style gray dress with her hair in a double bun. He has seen her walk through walls and disappear through locked doors.

The hotel manager and bartender have been working at Dalhousie for about twenty years, and they have had many experiences, though we did not get a chance to speak with them. The older gentleman who gave us the tour has been at the castle for just four months and already had several experiences. “I saw one sitting right there,” he said, pointing to an empty staff’s chair in the reception area.

Other ghostly appearances are of a student boy who jumped from the battlements when the castle was a school, and a butler, but no one knows the history behind him.

All of the ghosts at Dalhousie are harmless. Lady Catherine, in particular, is mischievous. She likes making her presence known and enjoys ‘attending’ the weddings. The staff members showed us and printed out a picture back in 2004 when Catherine appeared in a guest’s photo. Whether this picture is real or not, I know the staff is not lying about Catherine, and I happened to see an anomaly and captured part of it on camera after our tour.

The location of Lady Catherine’s appearance in the previous photo, which is right outside where the wedding reception was held.

I took pictures of the castle at random when we returned to our room. At one point, I snapped a photo of the staircase (something I like to do) when the camera wouldn’t focus on the first two shots. Before the third shot, I noticed a long whitish/grayish mist moving down the staircase.

Awestruck, I was dubious I even saw it; however, I took the picture as it was dissipating, its long mist shape diminishing into something smaller. I immediately took two more of the same shot afterward. That was when I realized the anomaly I saw was real: I captured part of it on camera. If I had been more on point, I could have caught the longer shape, but I didn’t really believe I saw it at first.

I told Nick about anomaly after I was sure about it. He reviewed the pictures with me on the camera, then we analyzed them further on the laptop, and like me, he was able to see the partially captured mist, especially when compared to the following photo in which the anomaly disappeared.

Nick agrees I caught something unexplainable because I had also seen it with my own eyes. Combined that with the photo, it was compelling to us both.

Unfortunately, the mist is small and barely noticeable in the picture, but if you look closely you’ll see the whitish blur circled compared to the clear shot on the right.

Left: whitish anomaly circled, visible on the third and fourth steps, counting up from the bottom of the staircase
Right: picture taken immediately afterward

We definitely enjoyed our time and experience at Dalhousie Castle. If you want to stay and explore the castle, apparently room 4 has had some activities. Booking a ghost tour with Andrew is also a must. Apparently, he’s the best. We did not know you had to book ahead, so we missed out on all of the juicy (ghostly) details, but the accommodated tour we had was definitely better than none.