Duntrune Castle: Domain Of The Phantom Piper


Ghostly sounds of a phantom piper of the ancient past can still be heard at Argyll’s Duntrune Castle, writes RICK HALE

Duntrune Castle

Despite its natural beauty, Scotland is a land that has known nothing but conflict over its long history. 

As far back as its ancient history goes, fierce warriors desperately fought to keep their land free from the Roman legions as well as the English Crown. 

Scotland and its proud people have seen more bloodshed than most. Perhaps this is why they are such a cheerful and hardy people. 

And it is from this ancient and troubled land that we find the tale of the phantom piper of Duntrune Castle.

History of Duntrune Castle

Originally built by the MacDougall clan in the 12th century, Duntrune in Argyll was a castle highly coveted by all the warring Scottish clans. 

Eventually, the castle was taken by the mighty Campbell clan. In 1644, the castle was besieged by Campbell’s bitter enemy, Clan MacDonald led by the famous chieftain, Alasdair Mac Colla. It is from this time period that Duntrune gained its famous spectre, the phantom Piper.

According to legend, there are two stories of how the castle came to be haunted by the Piper. 

Both stories resulting in the same ending. The first story states that Mac Colla sent his most trusted man, the MacDonald Clan Piper, into the castle as a spy. 

When the Piper was found out, rather than killing him, the Campbell’s imprisoned the Piper. 

According to clan politics, pipers were privileged members of a clan as they were educated and widely traveled. Pipers were protected from harm even on the battlefield.

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On the day the MacDonald Clan were to launch a sneak attack to regain their stronghold, the Piper stood at the window of his room and began to play his pipes. 

As Mac Colla and his men neared, he could tell the tune the Piper played was all wrong and told his men to flee as the Piper’s tune was a warning to stay away.

When the Piper was found out, rather than killing him, the Campbell’s punished the Piper with a fate worse than death. They cut off the Piper’s hands so he could never play his beloved pipes again. Eventually, the Piper bled to death from his wounds.

The second story is much different, but with the same outcome. After capturing Duntrune, Mac Colla needed to return home and left a small garrison at the castle along with the MacDonald Piper. 

Shortly after Mac Colla’s departure, the Campbell Clan attacked the castle and slaughtered the MacDonald garrison, but left the Piper alive, once again his status sparing him from the edge of the sword.

For many days and nights, the Piper stood on the highest tower vigilantly keeping watch for the return of his master. 

One day, as the Piper desperately scanned the ocean the faint outline of a vessel appeared on the horizon. 

When the Piper saw the MacDonald colors he took a risk and began playing his pipes. When Mac Colla heard the strange tune of the Piper’s bagpipes he knew all was not well.

Mac Colla, sailed away leaving his trusted Piper to his fate. And like the first story, the Piper received the same punishment, his hands were cut off and he bled to death.

Duntrune Castle
Duntrune Castle

For centuries, the tale of the brave MacDonald Piper was considered just a story of heroic clan patriotism, until that legend became historical fact. 

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Skeleton discovered under footpath

When the castle was being renovated, the skeleton of a man was discovered under the stones of a footpath. 

Upon inspection it was discovered that the hands of the skeleton were missing, cleaved off cleanly by a sword or an ax. 

The story of the Piper became all to real.

After finding the remains, the skeleton was given a good Christian burial, unfortunately the wrong Christian burial was given.

Most Highlanders were Protestant, but the Catholic liturgy was used to bury the Piper’s remains. It is believed that this mistake may have resulted in the haunting of Duntrune Castle.

Today, the castle is in possession of the Malcolm family, and they know all to well, that the castle is haunted by the spirit of the Piper. 

Hauntings of Duntrune Castle

Strange phantom footsteps are heard in the corridors of the castle, as well as the apparition of a somber handless man has been seen on more than one occasion. 

Stranger still is the mournful sound of bagpipe music being heard throughout the castle and carried on the breeze when no pipers are present. 

The Piper of Duntrune Castle, once considered nothing more than a legend, makes his presence known to all who live, work and visit the Castle forever awaiting the return of his master.

Have you seen anything ghostly at Duntrune Castle? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Discover more about Scotland’s Phantom Pipers


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