Have you ever wondered if Edinburgh Castle is haunted? With over 900 years of history, surely there have been at least one or two ghosts spotted on the grounds, right?
Or weird whispers could have been heard from the stone walls. Or could it just be gusts of wind mistaken for whispers and cold spots throughout the castle?
The Edinburgh Castle ghosts are known to haunt various areas around Edinburgh Castle and have made their mark on the dark history that surrounds the castle.
Edinburgh Castle has been home to hundreds of executions, including those of accused witches being burned at the stake at the castle’s entrance.
The castle stood tall as the Nor Loch was filled with waste. It has endured the plague and countless wars. The castle has been through a lot of history, and throughout time including being home to royals, it was used as a military barracks and was once the location of a prison for prisoners of war.
Is Edinburgh Castle Haunted?
Edinburgh is known for being one of the world’s most haunted cities, which helps make Edinburgh Castle a hotspot for ghostly activity.
There have been tales of ghosts wandering the great hall and stories about spirits of the prisoners held in the dungeons wreaking havoc on anyone who enters their space.
In addition, visitors to the castle have reported witnessing shadowy figures, temperature changes and ghostly sounds.
Where do the Stories of Edinburgh Castle’s Ghosts Come From?
Some of these stories I’ve learned over the years from staff that work at the castle. From friends who grew up surrounded by the haunted stories in Edinburgh. And from the best storytellers on ghost tours in Edinburgh who regale you with the horror stories of Edinburgh’s dark past.
Some stories were created and passed down through the years and get darker and have more twists added to them through each storyteller. While others remain the same as the first day they were told. People feel the spirits as they walk through the castle grounds. Some see the famous spectres, while others have their own personal connections.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts or love the spooky history that comes out of a castle that has survived for nearly 1000 years.
The ghost stories that come out of Edinburgh Castle are creepy and terrifying. And they might be scary enough to keep you up at night! Thinking about which spirit you might come into contact with the next time you visit Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle’s haunted history is full of dark twists and sorrow. This definitely helps boost Edinburgh’s reputation for being one of the most haunted places in Scotland to visit.
Want to know more about the Edinburgh Castle Ghosts that haunt visitors, staff and everyone else? Check out the list of the ghosts that haunt the walls, vaults and prisons at Edinburgh Castle.
The 8 Edinburgh Castle Ghosts
The Ghost of the Piper Boy – Edinburgh Castle’s Most Famous Ghost
If you’ve heard about any ghosts that haunt Edinburgh Castle, chances are you’ve listened to the tale of the ghost of the Piper Boy.
The Piper Boy’s fate is tragic and remains as mysterious today as it was the day it happened. It is said that below the Royal Mile sits a series of underground tunnels.
These are not the tunnels that make up former closes like Mary King’s Close. Nor are they a part of the very haunted vaults that sit below the cobbled street. Instead, these tunnels are an escape route from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
Legend says a young piper boy was sent into the tunnels. He was instructed to play his bagpipes as loud as possible so the sound would be carried through to the ground up to the Royal Mile above.
Once the boy reached the Tron Kirk, the sounds of his bagpipes stopped. Total silence as though he had suddenly disappeared.
How did the Edinburgh Castle Ghost Disappear?
Perhaps he had fallen down a hole in the tunnels and eventually perished. Or he kept following the tunnels, but the sound was too muffled that it could no longer be heard from above. Whatever happened, the boy never returned.
Worried about what happened, a group of people went into the tunnel to find the boy and bring him out of the tunnel to safety. However, the search party could never find the boy, and no one knew what had happened to him.
The tunnels were eventually sealed off, and his fate was never discovered, as he was never seen again. Was he buried alive? Or did he die mysteriously? Either way, his ghost still lingers through the tunnels. Playing his bagpipes for the people above, letting them know he is still in the tunnels.
Some counts claim that the Piper Boy was a soldier sent down. Others say that it was a boy because the tunnels were so small he was the only one who would fit inside.
The story of it being a child is much scarier as he was cast into the shadows of a labyrinth of mysterious tunnels that would wind and turn all over the place, making it very easy to get lost.
If you are ever on the Royal Mile before all of the tourists, locals and the people who play bagpipes near St Giles, be sure to keep quiet and listen for the faint sounds of ghostly bagpipes playing deep beneath the street near the Tron Kirk.
The Headless Drummer Boy
So, is Edinburgh Castle haunted? With so many ghostly sightings throughout the years, including numerous sightings of the same ghost – I would say yes! One ghost that is often seen at Edinburgh castle is known as the Headless Drummer Boy.
This is a ghost you do not want to come across. Not because he is terrifying, but when he was first spotted in 1650, his sighting was immediately followed by a gruesome attack on Edinburgh Castle by Oliver Cromwell.
When the Headless Drummer Boy was spotted, he wandered around the castle walls for all to see. Along with the sight of this ghostly spectre, he was accompanied by the sound of his drums playing an Old Scottish war tune that could be heard all over the castle.
He was first spotted drumming his heart out in the central courtyard of Edinburgh Castle by several servants who noted he was missing his head, and they chose not to interact with him out of fear. He drummed through the night and disappeared the following morning, only to soon be followed by the deadly attack.
What makes his ghost particularly creepy is that he is headless, which is creepily similar to the fate of the former King Charles I, who was executed by beheading just one year before the ghost of the Drummer Boy was first spotted.
The spirit is said to appear as a warning that the castle is about to come under attack. Luckily for everyone in Edinburgh, the ghost of the headless drummer boy hasn’t been spotted in ages.
However, staff at the castle have said they can sometimes hear the faint sounds of a drum at all hours of the night. So they are still lingering in the shadows waiting to warn everyone of the next attacks.
The Ghost Dog of Edinburgh Castle
Deep within Edinburgh Castle sits a tiny cemetery for dogs. The cemetery dates back to 1837, during Queen Victoria’s reign and is the burial ground for regimental ascots and officers’ dogs.
The cemetery has several little tombstones engraved with the dogs’ names buried below. My favourite tombstone is shaped like a little dog house, but unfortunately, the name of the dog buried there has been weathered off of the tomb from the rainy Scottish weather.
The cemetery can be viewed from above from the Argyle Battery, which overlooks the Princes Street Gardens outside the castle walls.
Not only is the cemetery adorable, but such a great honour to all of the dogs that lived alongside the soldiers at Edinburgh Castle. It is also home to a tale of a ghostly dog, two ghostly dogs, actually!
The first dog is thought to be the spirit of one of the dogs buried in the castle. Visitors and staff have heard the distant sounds of barking, howling and scratching.
People have also claimed to see Edinburgh’s ghost dog. Many have described him as a black dog with scruffy fur surrounded by a constant misty outline.
However, he isn’t the only animal spotted roaming around Edinburgh Castle. Another dog has been spotted hanging out with the ghost of Lady Glamis.
People have reported seeing her ghostly figure walking alongside a small white dog. So maybe the two of them are keeping each other company in the afterlife.
If you take an Edinburgh Castle ghost tour, you will hear about all the ghostly dog sightings throughout Edinburgh.
Prisoners of War Exhibition
Deep below Edinburgh Castle’s Crown Square sits a dark dungeon that used to be filled with prisoners of war. With so many prisoners over so many years, often living in squalor, chances are some of the tortured souls are still lingering in the dungeons wandering around, waiting to be released, unaware that they are dead.
Walking through the Prisoners of War exhibition will give you a glimpse of the awful living conditions that the former prisoners had to endure. The dungeons were dark, cramped, full of rats and incredibly uncomfortable for everyone.
Rumour has it that some prisoners were tortured and beaten so severely that they died in the dark prison vaults.
With so many horrific deaths, you would think there would be more ghost sightings. Surprisingly most of the ghost stories didn’t start until 2003, when renovations took place at the castle.
When construction workers started renovating, the ghosts of the Prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars began to wake up. Workers claimed they were harassed by the ghosts and refused to work in the area.
Edinburgh Castle ghosts include several prisoners who spent years locked away in the prisons. While some were released, others were only set free in a ghostly form.
Most of the reported ghost sightings started to occur after some renovations took place in 2003. This is quite a surprise, as the castle has so much history behind it.
It is often reported that ghosts do not appreciate any renovations, which brings them out so they can make it known how unhappy they are with change.
The Prisoner Who Hid in a Dung Barrow
Over the years, at least 49 prisoners successfully escaped the prison, but one man’s escape didn’t last long.
So it feels incredibly creepy if you manage to spend time in the Prisoners of War exhibition alone.
You can hear faint whispers and the sounds of men chatting. The dark dungeon is full of prisoner’s uniforms hanging off the ropes attached to the fabric beds hanging from the rafters.
Bits of bread and soup, tiny cups of water left over on nearby tables, and cold drifts move through the dungeon bars. This leaves you feeling similar experiences as the prisoners who once filled the vaults.
Another of Edinburgh’s former prisoners faced a horrific and disgusting death when he tried to escape the castle’s dark and damp prison. In an attempt to be brought out of the castle by the hands of others, he decided to hide in a dung barrow, believing that the dung would be carried out of the castle along with his freedom.
Unfortunately for the prisoner and the people below the rocky crags of the castle, the dung, complete with the hidden prisoner, was thrown over the rocky mountain and plunged to his death in the most unfortunate way.
Some stories say that he is known for trying to push guests over the edge of the castle walls. Meeting the same fate he did. So, if you notice a foul stench of manure as you walk around Edinburgh Castle, you may want to step away from the castle’s walls, just in case.
The Ghost with the Leather Apron
Imagine getting the eerie feeling of being watched or feeling a burning sensation on your arm. Then, as you turn around, you see a spooky-looking man wearing a leather apron appearing randomly in a doorway. People who have come into contact with the ghost wearing the leather apron have reported experiencing this.
The first sighting occurred in 2001. A group of volunteers headed deep within Edinburgh Castle to do a research project. This wasn’t just any research project.
The whole premise was an attempt to see if Edinburgh Castle was haunted. The research group went in without any idea that they were looking for signs of ghosts.
Most of the volunteers had seen several of the ghosts that Edinburgh Castle is known for and discovered the spooky man in a leather apron walking right through the doorway of Edinburgh Castle’s prison vaults.
The Ghosts of Accused Witches
With so much brutal witch history surrounding Edinburgh Castle, there have been rumours of the spirits of people accused of witchcraft lingering near the Castle’s esplanade.
Throughout the Witch Trials in Scotland, somewhere between 300-400 people were burned at the stake next to the Castle. The history of witchcraft and witches in Scotland is heavy at Edinburgh Castle.
No spirits have been sighted within the castle walls. But there are reports of the ghost of an accused witch who spends her time roaming the nearby restaurant and hotel called the Witchery by the Castle.
I wouldn’t be surprised if spirits lingered outside the Castle’s walls. One confirmed spirit tied to the witch trials is that of Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis.
She has sometimes been known as the “Grey Lady.” She has been seen wandering around the castle by several guests and staff over the years.
When visiting Edinburgh Castle, stop by the Witches Well and pay your respects for all of the lives lost during the Great Scottish Witch hunt.
The Grey Lady – Lady Janet Douglas of Glamis
Edinburgh Castle ghosts wouldn’t be complete without the spirit of The Grey Lady.
The spirit of a Grey Lady has often been spotted wandering around the castle. Her ghost is often accompanied by a small ghostly dog.
It is said to be the ghost of Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis of Glamis Castle. Her story is tragic. Unfortunately, she suffered greatly at the hands and words of others, which resulted in her life being cut short.
The reason? Someone accused Lady Glamis of poisoning her first husband and said she had plans to poison the King. This was reason enough to be charged with treason, and she was thrown in prison in Edinburgh.
Over her time in Edinburgh, Janet Douglas was tormented for a confession. But her family members and servants from Glamis Castle were also targeted. Her servants eventually cracked and provided false evidence that helped prove that she was guilty.
Of course, she wasn’t, but that didn’t matter because they wanted a confession to execute her. And, in 1537, she was hanged and burned at the stake on Castlehill.
Once she perished, sightings of a Grey Lady had been spotted wandering the castle. Her cries of pain are often heard just before her ghostly apparition disappears. Her ghost has also been spotted in Glamis Castle. So be on the lookout for her spirit at whichever castle you visit.
So, do you think that Edinburgh Castle is Haunted?
If you have been to Edinburgh Castle, did you ever feel any of the Edinburgh Castle ghosts watching you? Did you hear the faint voices of former prisoners? Or feel light tugs on your clothing when no one else is around?
Or, are you like me, who has visited the castle several times and never got noticed by any of the ghosts? Maybe someday I will meet the Grey Lady. Or hear the distant cries of a piper boy lost in the winding tunnels beneath the floor of the castle.
More Spooky to do in Edinburgh Scotland
- Spooky Things to do in Edinburgh
- Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh
- The Dark History of Half Hangit Maggie
- The Best Haunted Pubs in Edinburgh
- Halloween in Edinburgh: 27 Spooky Things to do in Edinburgh
- Historic Cemeteries to visit in Edinburgh
Other Scary Things to do in Scotland
- Haunted History at the Tolbooth Tavern in Edinburgh
- Haunted Castles to Stay Overnight in Scotland
- Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland
- Haunted Hotels in Scotland
Save this for later on Pinterest!