Wednesday 28 August 2019

The Grey Lady and the White Hart

Fer Gregory/

Scotland is justifiably famous for its castles and countryside. It is also fabulously haunted with a wealth of apparitions – both friends and decidedly unfriendly.

Situated off the coast, in the Western Isles of Scotland lies the Isle of Arran where Brodick Castle has stood since Viking times. The present structure is newer, dating from the fourteenth century. Oliver Cromwell garrisoned his New Model Army here in 1648 during the Civil War. He killed the first Duke and the second Duke died in battle three years later.

The castle takes its name from the village of Brodick nearby and from Brodick Bay, (situated below Goat Fell) on which the castle sits. The castle was a former residence of the Dukes of Hamilton. They earned the title Duke of Arran when it was bestowed in them by James IV of Scotland who also gave them the castle in 1503. It probably did not hurt that the then Duke of Hamilton was James IV’s cousin.

In 1844, the castle was doubled in size by major alterations ordered by the 10th Duke and his wife, Princess Marie of Baden. Finally, in 1957 its then owner, Mary Duchess of Montrose bequeathed it to the National Trust for Scotland following her death.

As for the ghosts - they are varied, but a Grey Lady, said to date from Cromwellian times, wanders the corridors. She is believed to have been a servant who fell in love with the captain of the Guard and became pregnant. As a result she was instantly dismissed from service. She turned to her family for help, but found no solace there. They disowned her. Abandoned by her lover, shunned by her family, penniless, homeless and alone, she drowned herself in the Wine Port Quay, by the entrance to the castle.

Now she walks the servants’ areas – kitchen, lower corridor and also the turnpike stairs which lead to the East Tower and the battlements, no doubt still hoping to reconcile with her faithless lover. Visitors have reported seeing her apparently shadowing staff working at the castle. She seems to be trying to talk to them but the staff affected are completely unaware of her presence.

There is another version of the Grey Lady story that states she was locked in the dungeons with two other women and left to die of starvation because all three were plague victims.

A male ghost of unknown identity appears to haunt the library. He wears a green jacket and sits quietly reading. Another man is sometimes seen in the long corridor. He is evidently shy as he disappears as soon as he is spotted.

There are conflicting legends surrounding the White Hart. One states that it only appears in the grounds of the castle when the Clan Chef of the Hamiltons is about to die. In total contrast, there is another tradition that states great good fortune will come to those who see it. Whichever is correct (and let's hope it is the latter), you can see a beautiful sculpture commemorating the mythical creature as this has been added to the extensive gardens. Created by artist Sally Matthews, it is lifesize and crafted out of local whitebeam and bracken.

Today, the castle has been extensively restored and you can visit it. Click here for details. With so many ghosts in residence, it looks like you are never really alone at Brodick Castle.