MJ STEEL COLLINS uncovers the Ghosts of Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland
Culzean Castle (pronounced Cullane), near Maybole, Ayrshire, is probably familiar to most Scots as the castle on the back of the Scottish Five Pound note, which it has decorated since 1967. The castle is a rebuild of an earlier structure, which David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, ordered architect Robert Adam, to restructure into the current building, which he planned to use as his main home. The rebuild was carried out in stages between 1777 and 1792. The castle looks formidable next to the sea on its cliff top setting, with caves located below the castle.
In 1945, the Kennedy family gifted the castle to the National Trust for Scotland, with the stipulation that part of the castle be gifted to Dwight Eisenhower in recognition for his services during the Second World War. Eisenhower visited Culzean four times, including once during his time as US President from 1953 to 1961. A permanent exhibition to the former President, featuring some of his belongings can be found in the castle.
Continuing the American link, US millionaire William Lindsay left most of his $4 million estate to the National Trust for Scotland specifically for the refurbishment of Culzean, which was finished in 2011. Whilst visitors can drop by for the day, there is also the opportunity to spend the night either in the castle or its grounds, which is good news for keen ghost enthusiasts. Eisenhower’s former apartment, found within the castle itself, now operates as a six bedroom bed and breakfast. Holiday cottages can be rented within the castle park.
Ghostly piper heralds marriages in Kennedy clan
So what ghosts might you meet if you do decide to holiday at Culzean? A ghostly piper heralds a marriage in the Kennedy family, and can also be heard skirling away on stormy nights. His figure has been seen in the grounds, specifically on Piper’s Brae and by the ruined church. The piper followed the predilection of many other Scots pipers of going for a wee wander into cliffs or tunnels, never to be seen again, but occasionally heard piping away somewhere underground.
There are several strange apparitions to be seen within the castle itself. The figure of a woman in a ball gown has been seen, whilst in 1972, a strangely, vague apparition was reported by several witnesses in one of the corridors. Another was seen coming down the main stair case a few years later in 1976. Another ghost, known as The White Lady, is believed to be the spirit of a mistreated servant.
Our final piece of ghostly phenomenon at Culzean involves a wonderfully gruesome tale so typical of Scottish history, which dates to before the castle was rebuilt in its current form. Gilbert Kennedy, the fourth Earl of Cassillis was apparently somewhat keen to obtain new land. He arranged for Allan Stewart, Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey, to be ‘intercepted’ at Culzean. He was taken down to the dungeons, specifically the Black Vault, where he was roasted near to death over a spit until he agreed to sign the Crossraguel Abbey lands to Cassillis. Stewart was removed from the spit and allowed to recover, only to be placed back there a few days later for refusing to sign extra paperwork related to the land transaction.
When the Scottish Privy Council got wind of this, Cassillis was fined £2000 and made to pay Allan Stewart a pension for life. Curiously, Cassillis was allowed to keep the land. It is thought that this event accounts for the sound of a crackling fire, and agonising screams that occasionally can be heard in the depths of the castle vaults…
Spooky Isles Scottish Correspondent M J STEEL COLLINS lives in Glasgow with her husband, a fellow purveyor of the supernatural, and daughter. She has a life long interest in ghosts and hauntings, which were the focus of the dissertation for her Sociology degree. She also runs her blog Ghostly Aspects (http://www.ghostlyaspects.blogspot.co.uk) and occasionally reviews books for the Fortean Times.