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The Haunting of Ballindalloch Castle

Ballindalloch Castle has stood on the banks of the River Avon in Banffshire since 1546. The lands on which this grand residence sits were granted to John Grant of Freuchie in 1498 by King James IV. It was his grandson, also named John Grant, who had the castle built to protect and defend the family and property following the rise of Clan warfare in the region, as well as the raids into the Highlands by the Monarchs of both England and Scotland.

A Mysterious Beginning

The construction of the castle itself is surrounded by mystery. It is positioned close to the junction of the River Avon and the River Spey, which form natural protection. However, this may not have been the original chosen location for the castle.

According to a local legend, construction of the castle initially started on nearby higher ground, but the stonemasons' work was constantly stalled. It is said that when they returned to the site each morning, their work from the day before was found to have been destroyed and the rubble in the river. Finding himself unable to even get the foundations laid, John Grant himself decided to find out who was preventing his building work. He stayed after the masons had left and hid, waiting to see what would happen.

Later that night, a mighty wind suddenly swept through the area, strong enough to both lift the stones from the foundation of the castle and to sweep John Grant off his feet. He ended up on the banks of the river, with the stonework of his castle lying in pieces around him. As the gust of wind subsided, a voice echoed through it instructing Grant to build his castle ‘on the coo haugh’. The land on which he had landed was a cow meadow and so, with the warning delivered, plans to build the castle on the hill were abandoned and it was built on the cow meadow.

The resultant 3-storey Z-shaped building provided living accommodation in the central part, flanked at both ends by protective towers, and a ‘murder hole’ at the entrance, through which stones would be dropped on any attackers who made it that far.

The castle suffered considerable damage during the wars which ravaged the country. The Grant clan sided with the Covenanters and, in 1645, Royalist forces led by James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, attacked and burned out the interior of the castle. After the war, the Grants, however, returned, and the castle was restored.

A Comfortable Home

By the 18th century, the risk of attack was decreasing, and the desire for a comfortable family home rather than defensive structures was growing. As the castle passed through successive generations of the Grant family, each added their own touch to either extend or remodel the building to reflect the changing times and developments in living standards.

Disaster Strikes

In 1829, the rivers flooded, and the former defensive walls collapsed under the pressure of the water. The force of the flood was such that effectively a new river formed, cutting a ravine into the ground, sweeping away the gardens and flowing through the ground floor of the castle.

The resultant restoration went way beyond repairing the damage as it required protection from further water damage and the restoration of the river's flow. During the reconstruction, the castle was again extended and modernised to form the impressive building which still stands today.

Paranormal Activity

The castle is said to be the home of several spirits, which have been witnessed by both the family and visitors to the castle during the few months of the year it is opened to the public.

The Green Lady

The identity of this ghost remains unknown, yet a Green Lady normally signifies sadness, which gives an indication as to why the spirit remains. She is normally seen in the dining room, which was formerly the great hall, and appears to be residual as she does not interact with anyone who witnesses her.

The Pink Tower

Higher up the castle, in one of the bedrooms of the Pink Tower, another female apparition has been witnessed. She is believed to be one of the former senior members of the family, and those who have seen her report feeling calm and unthreatened by her presence.

General James Grant

After passing away in 1806, the spirit of General Grant has reputedly been seen within the property. He is said to have requested that he be buried close to the castle, signifying a great love for the building, which may be why he is still seen walking along the corridors at night.

He is often seen near the wine cellar, which is said to have been one of his favourite parts of the castle. There is, however, another thought regarding this: The wine cellar used to be used as a dungeon with a chamber below, possibly a pit prison. This was all filled with debris and silt during the great flood of 1829 and is said to have never been cleared out afterwards. It has therefore been suggested that there may be something within which General Grant is looking for or protecting.

His spirit is also seen riding through the grounds of the castle on a great white horse, as though keeping guard over his former home. This adds to the speculation that he may be protecting something hidden within the walls of the building.

The Lady of the Bridge

Close to the castle is an old bridge over the River Avon, which also has reports of a phantom. It is believed to be the spirit of one of the female family members who fell in love with a local man. Sadly, these feelings were not reciprocated. It is said that she would walk over the bridge every day to post a letter to him, declaring her love, and it seems she continues to do so in death.

When a new bridge was built nearby, it is said the workmen spotted her making her sad journey on several occasions.

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