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The Legend of Carleton Castle

Dating back to at least the 15th century, Carleton Castle is believed to have been constructed to guard and protect the routes to and from the village of Lendalfoot in South Ayrshire. The site of an earlier fort can be seen nearby, signifying that this was an important area for some time prior to the construction of the castle. The remains of a protective wall, which would have enclosed the courtyard for the castle, can also still be seen.

The castle was built for the Cathcarts of Killochan, a powerful family and major landowner who were based at Killochan Castle around 10 miles away. Information on the history of the castle is not readily available; when it was abandoned is not even clear, although books written in the 1880s refer to the castle as being ruinous, and so it is likely to have been deserted during the 1700s.

Local Legend

There is a local legend relating to Sir John Cathcart. He is portrayed to have been an ambitious man willing to resort to extreme measures to enhance his status and wealth. He married the daughter of another prominent family, yet shortly afterwards, whether by accident or by his hand, tragedy hit the couple. While walking along a cliff-top path, his wife stumbled on the uneven ground and fell to her death on the rocks below.

A Plan Is Hatched

Following her death, Sir John is said to have inherited her fortune and lands. If he had been behind her death, this is said to have fulfilled his intentions; yet if her death was an accident, it is said to have fuelled an idea as to how he could quickly progress his position in society.

According to the legend, he soon remarried, again to a lady of status who came with a considerable dowry from her family, only for tragedy to once again strike when a similar fate befell his second wife. He proceeded to repeat this process several times, somehow avoiding suspicion or at least not raising enough suspicion for anyone to dare challenge him. His final attempt was with Mary (or May) Kennedy of Culzean Castle, whose father had apparently become aware of the fate of his previous wives, and he refused any relationship.

The Fate of Sir John

Seemingly unconcerned that his actions may be drawing attention, Sir John continued to woo Mary and eventually persuaded her to see him behind her father's back. Whether it was because he knew a marriage was unlikely to ever happen, or he simply became greedy, Sir John put his plans into action early and asked Mary to meet him wearing her finest jewellery. She did so, and they went for a walk along the coastal path.

They paused to take in the view when Sir John reputedly asked her to remove her clothes and jewellery. This would be so he could complete the task and keep the clothing and jewellery to resell. Mary initially refused, telling him he would not see her naked body until their wedding night, but eventually, she agreed on the condition that Sir John turned around as she undressed.

He agreed, and as soon as his back was turned, Mary is said to have rushed towards him and pushed him towards and over the cliff edge, uttering words to the effect of 'you have murdered your last 7 wives, I will not be your 8th'.

Paranormal Activity

Ever since his death, it is said that both the screams of Sir John and his wives can all be heard echoing from the cliffs and around the ruins of the castle.

Fact or Fiction

Unfortunately, there is little historical fact to support the legend. There was a Sir John; however, he had one wife, and they had two sons together, so the exact origins are unknown. However, these legends normally have some basis, especially when they have been handed down through generations. A ballad was also written about telling the story, and so it is possible there is some truth in the tale, with the names of those involved becoming distorted over the centuries.

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