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The Haunting of Carbisdale Castle

Situated in the picturesque Scottish Highlands, Carbisdale Castle is, by all accounts, a fine example of the many grand historic residences that can be found across the country. Appearances can, however, be deceptive; the castle is a little over 100 years old and perhaps a classic example of a situation where reputed hauntings are as much connected to the land as the building that stands on it.

The Hill of Lamentation

On 27th April 1650, the Battle of Carbisdale was fought between the Royalist forces and the Covenanters on the hill behind where the castle now stands.

The larger Royalist army, led by General James Graham, the Great Montrose, was lured to a narrow glen by the Covenanters. Having spotted a small number of Covenanter soldiers running for cover, Montrose sent his cavalry into the Glen to track them down. Unknown to him the Covenanter infantry were hidden in the surrounding woodlands and as soon as the Royalist forces were divided and separated, they launched a surprise attack.

Seeing the Cavalry cut down, the Royalist troops began to retreat. Some opted to surrender and switch sides in an attempt to save their own life, boosting the Covenanter numbers.

For over 2 hours, the remaining Royalists fought on in vain. By the time the battle was over, it was estimated around 200 had drowned while trying to swim across the Kyle of Sutherland to safety, and over 450 were captured.

Many of those who managed to survive the battle were hunted and slaughtered over the following days by groups from the locals. The site of the battle became known as the Hill of Lamentation to symbolize the grief and tragedy that occurred there.

The Castle of Spite

The story of the castle starts at the end of the 19th century when the 3rd Duke of Sutherland, George Sutherland Leveson Gower, died in 1892. His 2nd wife, Mary Caroline, whom he had married just 3 years earlier, was his sole heir. The will was, however, contested by his children who had opposed the marriage that had taken place just months after the death of his first wife, their mother. A legal dispute followed with claims that the Duke had disinherited his children shortly before his death and that Mary Caroline was found to have destroyed documents, leading to her being imprisoned for 6 weeks.

A settlement was eventually agreed upon, which provided her with sufficient funds to have Carbisdale Castle built as a Highland home. It was perhaps seen as an off location, although local rumours suggested that the prominent hilltop location was chosen specifically as it overlooked lands owned by her estranged family. This belief is further fuelled when it was suggested she had instructed that a clock was to be placed on 3 sides of the castle tower only, with the side facing her family's land to be left bare. This was seen, quite literally, to symbolise that she would not give them the time of day.

The stories about the construction resulted in the property becoming known as the Castle of Spite.

In the 1930s, the castle was purchased by a Colonel in the Scottish Army with Norwegian ancestry. During the Second World War, he provided safe residence there for King Haakon VII of Norway and the Crown Prince Olav following their exile from Norway and it was during their time at the castle that plans were prepared for the Russian forces to enter Norway and drive Hitler's army out, freeing Norway.

In the 1940s, the castle was gifted to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, which ran it as a Youth Hostel until 2011 when the maintenance of the property became too high for the association. The decision was made to close the property and it was sold in 2015. It is now a private residence which also offers luxurious guest accommodation and recreational activities within the estate.

Paranormal Activity

Since the castle was built, it is said to have been plagued with supernatural forces. An angry-looking highland soldier carrying a sword is seen in one of the main corridors. From the descriptions, the clothing is consistent with the time of the Battle of Carbisdale. Even when he is not seen it is said he makes his presence known with many visitors report feeling uncomfortable in the corridor.

Why he roams the corridor of a building that was not constructed until long after his death is not clear, although it is possible his spirit was disturbed during the construction.

A former gardener of the castle has also been seen walking the grounds of the property, said to be still looking for his 15-year-old daughter who was tragically swept out into the waters of the Kyle of Sutherland when paddling. He tends to be witnessed by teenage girls around the same age as his daughter and is said to wear a hood, only partly revealing his face.

A ghostly white lady is also said to walk the main staircase of the building. As no one knows her story, she has affectionately become known as Betty, although some speculate that she is, in fact, Mary Caroline, who did not live to see her castle completed.

Rooms on the top floor were often referred to by the Youth Hostel staff as the Spook Rooms due to the number of people who stayed there reporting disturbed nights and an uneasy feeling in the rooms. Some staff felt so uncomfortable there that they refused to work in the area alone.

The land around the castle also still holds the energy from the 17th-century battle, with phantom soldiers being seen, along with the ghostly sounds of bagpipes being played seemingly from beneath the castle.

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