Wednesday 10 April 2019

The Ghosts of Braemar

Lario Tus/

You’ll need a steely resolve and a backbone to match when you encounter the many ghosts of Braemar…

Braemar Castle in Aberdeen has been in the possession of the Clan Farquharson for centuries so it is perhaps unsurprising that it has attracted its fair share of ghost legends. The present building was constructed in 1628 by John Erskine, the 18th Earl of Mar who built it as a hunting lodge. Ironically one of the reasons he constructed it was as a means of countering the rising power of the Farquharson Clan – into whose possession it came in the following century.

Over the years there have been many reports of people hearing a baby crying and there is a legend associated with this. It is said that, many years ago, one of the serving girls had a newborn baby with her but the child spent night after night wailing and crying. Whatever the girl did she couldn’t get the child to settle. One of the soldiers guarding the castle, sick of being sleep-deprived, took matters into his own hands. He grabbed the screaming infant from its cradle and bashed its head repeatedly against the wall. 

Another frequent supernatural occurrence centres around the tragedy of a young honeymooning couple in the 19th century. They were staying at the castle on their wedding night when the castle used to be let out as a holiday home. When the bride awoke the next morning, she found herself alone in her bed. She could not find her husband and immediately believed she had done something to displease him. Distraught and evidently suffering from – what could have been – temporary insanity, she threw herself off the main turret plunging to her death below. To this day, a ghostly woman wearing a long white nightgown appears to visitors – but only to newlyweds.

John Farquharson, who earned the title the ‘Black Colonel of Inverey’ as a result of his swarthy complexion, tried to burn down the castle in 1689, while it was still in possession of the Earls of Mar. He has been seen in a number of rooms – his silhouette has been witnessed on a four poster bed on many occasions. Visitors have also reported a lingering smell of tobacco in many rooms – even though no one there smokes.

The Colonel was a colourful character with a reputation for excessive violence – but he was living in violent times. In 1666, he was outlawed for the murder of a Laird of Ballater and became a fugitive, although he still managed to live most of the time in his castle at Inverey. He fought at Bothwell Bridge and Killiecrankie and was pursued by government redcoats. At one time they cornered him in the notorious Pass of Ballater but he somehow managed to evade them by galloping up the dangerous north side. The redcoats didn’t give up and ambushed him at Inverey where he was forced to watch his own castle burn. 

Once again, he escaped and he took refuge in a place that became known as the ‘Colonel’s Bed’ – a massive overhanging rock in a gorge on the River Ey. His mistress and the love of his life – Annie Ban – brought him food and drink and he eventually died of old age in 1698. Before he passed away, he instructed that he should be buried at Inverey but for reasons long forgotten now, his wishes were ignored and he was interred at Braemar but the Colonel was never one to be thwarted – even in death. The next morning, his coffin lay on the ground beside his grave. It was re-interred. The following morning, yet again, his coffin lay on the ground. The third day this happened, his coffin was removed and reburied at Inverey where it has stayed below ground ever since.

The ghosts of Braemar attracted the attention of artist Gustave Doré who, in 1873, painted Braemar Castle – complete with its ghosts. The painting used to hang in the Drawing Room.

Today the castle is still owned by Clan Farquharson but is leased to the local community. It is managed and run by Braemar Community Ltd – a local charity – and staffed by volunteers. It’s popular with visitors from all over the world