Ghosts of the Battle of Killiecrankie

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MJ STEEL COLLINS marks St Andrew’s Day today by looking back on the Battle of Killiecrankie, one of Scotland’s bloodiest (and most supernatural) battles.

Battle of Killiecrankie
Battle of Killiecrankie

The Battle of Killiecrankie took place during the first Jacobite uprising on the 27th of July 1689, when the Highland clans, supporting King James III of Scotland, took on the army supporting King William of Orange.

It was a resounding victory for the Jacobites, but it was a bitter-sweet win as a third of their force was slaughtered and it also resulted in the death of their leader, John Graham of Claverhouse, also known as Bonnie Dundee.

In an interesting aside, Bonnie Dundee is also known as ‘Bluidy Clavers’ for his role in the persecution of Covenanters, not many years before.

Those who have encountered the tale of the Mackenzie Poltergeist will more than likely have heard of his exploits during the Covenanting Wars.

The Battle itself did not take long – the Jacobites attacked, firing their muskets, and were so quick that William of Orange’s forces didn’t know what hit them.

They didn’t have time to fix their bayonets and were overcome by the charge when both sides met a mile above the road at the Pass of Killiecrankie.

Bonnie Dundee died towards the end of the battle after being shot in the side, just as William’s army began to retreat.
Supernatural events occurred before the battle had even begun.

On the eve of the skirmish, Bonnie Dundee was asleep in his tent when he was disturbed by the appearance at his bedside of a man with blood pouring from his head.

Dundee awoke properly, but the strange figure was no longer there, so Dundee went back to sleep.
The bizarre man appeared again, pointing to his head and urging Dundee to go with him.

Again Dundee awoke, and this time got up to check with the sentry at the tent door to see if anyone had come in while he slept. The sentry said there were no visitors, so back to bed and to sleep went Dundee.

But he didn’t get any sweet dreams.

On the contrary – the bloody man was back, urging Dundee to get up.

The ghost pointed in the direction of Killiecrankie, telling Dundee he would meet him there.

After this, Dundee decided to get up and spoke about the bizarre visitation with a Highland Chief. Some have posited that this might have been a premonition of Dundee’s impending death.

Other spooky phenomenon is said to occur on the anniversary of the battle, the 27th of July.

A red glow has been seen hovering above the Pass where the battle took place. Ghostly troops of soldiers marching off to fight have been reported, as well as ghostly re-enactments of the battle itself.

One woman encountered phantasmal dead English officers lying on the ground whilst having a picnic.

Listen to The Battle of Killiecrankie – The Corrie Folk Trio (1965)


  1. The ghostly experience of the picnicking woman was related by Elliot O’Donnell in his characteristic purple prose in his Scottish Ghost Stories.


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