The great stone castles that dot the British landscape have been a part of our history for hundreds of years. Kings have called them home, and armies have laid siege to them. Many of these ancient buildings have guests who are not always welcome, though. These uninvited residents have frightened generations of inhabitants and visitors with their groans, bumps, and phantom forms.
Here we go on a terrifying tour of 7 of the most famous haunted castles in Britain.
Windsor Castle (Berkshire, England)
Windsor Castle, the mighty royal residence just west of London, was like the Tower of London built by William the Conqueror. Windsor Castle is a vast medieval castle complex with over a thousand rooms. It continues to be a well-used official royal residence, but not all of its regal inhabitants belong to the world of the living.
Several of the most famous kings and queens from British history are said to haunt its many rooms and passages. Witnesses over the years have claimed to have seen and heard the ghost of Tudor monarch Henry VIII. An eerie thudding would terrify those that heard it – the sound of the spirit of the king limping up and down the castle’s corridors, crying out in pain from his sore leg.
Fyvie Castle (Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
Former royal residence Fyvie Castle, in the northeast of Scotland, looks like something straight from a ghost story, with its standing suits of armour and hanging portraits whose eyes follow you around the room.
In 1920 the famous resident ghost known as the Green Lady was seen floating through a castle passage before disappearing into a wall. This is the ghost of Lilias Drummond, who died in 1601 and may have been murdered. Legend has it that a stain of blood on the floor of one of the rooms, still visible today, came from Lilias. It is claimed that this stain cannot be washed away. It is said that if you are in a room in the castle and it suddenly feels cold and smells of roses, then you are in the presence of the Green Lady.
Dover Castle (Kent, England)
One of the most famous castles in Britain is Dover Castle, a huge fortress which is known as the ‘Key of England’. Its history dates back to the Romans, and the present castle is largely 12th century with later modifications. With this grand heritage, ghost stories are almost inevitable.
Many sightings of various phantoms have occurred at the castle over the years, including as recently as the late 20th century, when a cleaner at the castle claimed to have seen the ghost of a 17th-century soldier. The chilling apparition of a pair of man’s legs has been seen strutting across the king’s bedroom in the keep.
Tower of London (Greater London, England)
One of London’s most famous landmarks is also reputedly its most haunted. The Tower of London has, over its thousand-year history, been a royal palace, prison, armoury, mint, menagerie, torture chamber, and tourist attraction. It is no surprise that it is sometimes said to be the most haunted single site in the world.
The spirits of the two young Princes in the Tower, who were possibly murdered by their uncle Richard III in 1483, has allegedly been seen in the Bloody Tower. Other famous ghosts seen or heard over the years in the Tower of London include Henry VI, Guy Fawkes, Lady Jane Grey, and Anne Boleyn. The phantom of a massive bear has been seen several times in the vicinity of the Martin Tower, the site of the former royal menagerie.
Glamis Castle (Angus, Scotland)
Glamis Castle is the ancient family seat of the Lyon family (since the 14th century) and is where Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, King Charles’ maternal grandmother, grew up. Nestled in the Scottish countryside about ten miles north of Dundee, Glamis is a beautiful castle that attracts masses of tourists every year. But it is also rumoured to be the most haunted site in Scotland.
Some of the many ghosts reputed to call Glamis home are the ghosts of members of the Ogilvy Clan, locked in and left to die in a secret chamber in 1486, the Grey Lady, Earl Beardie (who lost his soul to the Devil in the 15th century) and the Tongueless Woman.
Peel Castle (Isle of Man)
On the tiny St Patrick’s Isle, just off the west coast of the Isle of Man, lies one of the island’s most famous tourist attractions, the imposing Peel Castle. A sea fort battered by the Irish Sea, work began on the castle in the 11th century. Perhaps Peel Castle’s most notorious attraction is a ghost from Manx folklore, the spectral canine known as Moddey Dhoo.
Sightings of the phantom pooch have been reported around the castle for centuries. In the early 18th century, an English poet, George Waldron, related how the ghost dog was once known to haunt every room of the castle. Waldron told the story of how a soldier encountered the ghost one night and returned to the guard room a nervous wreck, babbling incoherently and dying three days later.
Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)
The impressive Stirling Castle, in the centre of Scotland, was for centuries a key fortress and royal palace. William Wallace won a famous victory over the English near the castle in 1297, and Mary Queen of Scots lived for many years within its walls. Stirling Castle, with its rich history, has its fair share of ghosts.
One story says that one day, a maidservant of Mary Queen of Scots found her lady’s chamber at Stirling Castle on fire. The young woman pulled Mary out of the burning bedroom and saved her life. The ghost of the maid is said to haunt the castle as the Green Lady, and seeing her ghost is said by some to be a warning of a fire or other kind of disaster.