Skaill House: Orkney’s Classic Haunted House

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Skaill House in the Orkney Islands is every bit the classic haunted house, writes RICK HALE

Skaill House in the Orkney Islands is every bit the classic haunted house, writes RICK HALE

The island of Skaill in the Orkney island archipelago,  is one of the most significant islands in the whole of the United Kingdom. 

In 1850, a powerful storm hit the Bay Of Skaill with such ferocity that it stripped away large portions of land.

When the storm passed and the local villagers dared to leave their homes they made a curious discovery.

The land the storm had ripped away revealed the outline of a  village that had gone completely unnoticed. Probably for countless centuries.

William Watt, an amateur geologist was the first to begin excavations at the site. And after uncovering only four houses, Watt just up and left. Abandoning the site to the ill intent of treasure seekers who robbed the site of several artifacts.

Thankfully, the University of Edinburgh took control of the unknown Neolithic village and called it Skara Brae.

While Skara Brae is no doubt of great historical interest and worthy of exploration.

There is one other location that has attracted the attention of ghost enthusiasts for years now. Skaill House with its countless ghosts will certainly grab your imagination. And never let go.

History Of Skaill House

Overlooking Skara Brae and other Neolithic sites,  Skaill House was built sometime in the late 16th century.

In 1615, it was the property of Patrick Stewart. No, not that Patrick “Captain Picard” Stewart but rather the 2nd Earl Of Orkney.

Earl Stewart lost his lands, his title, not to mention his head at Mercat Cross for orchestrating an ill conceived rebellion.

Later, the house was gifted to the Bishop of Orkney in 1620. After his ownership, the house was expanded and a succession of Lairds occupied the house.

Today, Skaill House is open to the public and can be rented for special occasions such as weddings and special events.

Before we explore the ghosts that haunt this beautiful house, it’s important to take a look at a creepy episode in the long history of Skaill House 

Major Macrae’s Grim Discovery 

Not long after Major Malcolm Macrae, 12th Earl of Breckness took ownership of Skaill, a troubling discovery was made. 

While completing renovations, workmen lifted some floorboards and found human remains where there shouldn’t have been any.

Major Macrae quickly went about having the ground investigated and found 15 skeletons silently  staring up from the ground.

It was determined the house was built over a Pictish burial ground.

For those who don’t know, the Picts were an ancient tribe of Celtic speaking people who thrived during Britain’s Iron Age.

Not wanting to disturb this ancient burial ground, the remains were carefully placed where they were found and reburied. 

A Ghost Named Ubby

Now, you might think disturbing this ancient burial ground caused it to be haunted by prehistoric ghosts.

I hate to disappoint you, but the ghosts who walk the halls of Skaill House aren’t quite that old.

When Major Macrae was Laird of Skaill he had a faithful dog that clearly did not like being in the house.

One day, while Macrae and his dog were in the house, the Major heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps in the hall.

Before he could call out, his dog went mad. The dog began scratching and whining at the door, as if he was trying to get at whomever this mysterious person was.

Suddenly the dog seemed to lose its nerve and darted under the bed. Macrae threw the door open fully expecting to find an intruder.

What he found was nothing. No intruder or even anyone he knew. The hall outside the door was empty and silent as a tomb.

When the incident played out again, a relative of the Major said, the unseen person could only be Ubby, a ghost who haunts the house.

When asked, the relative explained that Ubby was a man who, for whatever reason, wanted to build an island in a nearby Loch.

While lugging stones into the Loch Ubby dropped dead from exhaustion. And chose Skaill House as the place he wanted to spend his eternity.

And the Major’s pooch wasn’t the only dog to be terrified of Ubby. Every canine to pass through Skaill House reacted in a similar fashion as Major Macrae’s dog.

The Tall Man

Ubby isn’t the only phantom to walk the halls of Skaill House. 

The apparition of a tall man with a very friendly disposition is regularly seen in the main house.

He appears to be so real, visitors have claimed to have full conversations with him about the house.

They soon learn their friendly chat was not with any living member of the house. No one really knows who this man was in life, but a few staff have their ideas who he might be.

Other Ghosts of Skaill House

The ghostly form of a woman in a shawl has been glimpsed staring down from the stairs as visitors wander the house.

And what haunting of a grand old house would be complete without a bedroom intruder?

A number of people who spent the night reported being awakened by the feeling of a large person sitting on their bed.

And as you might expect, when the peer into the darkened confines of their room, no one is there. Well, not anyone seen anyway.

Skaill House in the Orkney Islands is every bit the classic haunted house. 

Thankfully, none of them appear to be malicious in any way. Like many ghost stories, the ghosts of Skaill House are just trying to say hello.

Have you been to Skaill House? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below!

Watch Skaill House Video

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


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