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The Tragedy of Castlecary Castle

A short distance from the site of the Castlecary Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall, not far from the town of Falkirk, stands Castlecary Castle. While information on the castle remains limited, the Falkirk Local History Society compiled detailed accounts of the castle, which have proved a valuable resource in researching the history.

The main tower house is believed to have been completed around 1491 to provide a defensive residence, with ditches and marshland areas all around to hinder any attack. It is thought that a removable wooden bridge was used to allow access for horses and carts over the marshes.

Mons Meg

There is a local legend that has arisen from an incident in 1489 when King James IV brought his forces to suppress uprisings in the west of the country. Castlecary Castle was used as an assembly point, and it is widely rumoured that the infamous cannon Mons Meg was brought to the castle. Mons Meg was considered one of the most fearsome and advanced weapons of the time, able to fire a 150kg stone ball to a distance of 2 miles. Although the gun had been retired from action for around a century before the time of Oliver Cromwell, he is said to have referred to it as 'the great iron murderer,' indicating that even then the power of the weapon was still recognised. Whether it would have been feasible to bring the 6-tonne cannon to Castlecary, given the surrounding ground conditions, remains open to question. However, 2 of the stone balls that match the type used as ammunition for it were found in the garden.

Destruction and restoration of the Castle

Although much disputed, it is also claimed that in 1646, after the defeat at Kilsyth of the Covenanter Army he was leading, General William Baillie stayed overnight at Castlecary while making his escape. The following day he left at first light before making his way to Torwood Castle. Royalist troops arrived shortly after he had made his escape and set the castle on fire as a punishment for giving shelter to Baillie.

The castle was repaired and extended, but in 1715, it was reputedly held by Jacobite forces who again set it alight when they departed. The castle was rebuilt and over the following centuries had various owners and tenants. The landscape was considerably altered with the arrival of the railway line and road network, vastly reducing the grounds. Today, only the tower and eastern range remain in use, which has been restored as a private house, and there is no public access to the property.

Paranormal Activity

The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lizzie Baillie, believed to be the daughter of Patrick Baillie who resided at the castle during the 17th century. Lizzie is said to have been a beautiful young woman, and the family had great hopes that she would marry into a prominent family. However, Lizzie spurned all the potential suitors who were presented to her.

Forbidden Love

Her father eventually discovered the reason: she had already fallen in love with a man named Donald Graham, who had little standing. Her father remained determined that she would marry a man of status, and so he ordered her to end the relationship and forbade her from seeing Donald again.

Lizzie, however, was not prepared to give up her love and continued to see Donald in secret. Inevitably, her father found out and ordered that she be locked in a room on the 3rd floor of the tower until she agreed to obey him.

Staff members at the castle who were supportive of Lizzie got word to Donald about what had happened and in which room she was being held and, a short while later, he sneaked up to the castle accompanied by three other men. They spread out Donald's plaid and each took a corner, holding it above the ground. At their encouragement, Lizzie jumped from the window of her room and landed safely on the blanket, after which they all made off before the castle guard could stop them.

Tragedy Strikes

Her father realized the true extent of the love between his daughter and Donald and that he had lost her forever due to his actions. Heartbroken, he is said to have died soon after. Upon hearing the news, Lizzie was full of remorse and never got over the loss of her father. She, too, passed away at a young age, and her ghost is said to be seen both at the castle and at her father's grave.

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