Spooky Stories of the North Highlands

VisitScotland released this week an article on Scotland’s Ghost trail. The article got us thinking about all the spooky stories we have heard over the years from around the North Highlands. Here’s a few of our favourites!

Culloden Battlefield is situated near Inverness, the city often known as the capital of the Highlands. The site saw a ferocious battle take place on 16th April 1746 where the Jacobites were defeated for the last time by the Duke of Cumberland’s Hanoverian troops. The battle, which lasted only an hour, was the final pitched battle to take place on British soil. Folklore tells us there are many ghostly spirits left behind that haunt the battlefield on its anniversary.

Battle cries and the striking of swords have been heard across the moor while visions of soldiers have been spotted near the grave sites of fallen Jacobites. If you chat with the locals of Culloden, they’ll tell you that birds never sing around the exact site of the battle. Something to listen out for if you ever visit – especially if it happens to be the 16th April!

Moving along, North West of Inverness you’ll find yourself at Gairloch where, if you find yourself in the forest after night, you might spot The Ghillie Dhu, a faerie who lives deep in the forests of Scotland! Funnily enough, only adults should be wary of this chap as the Ghillie Dhu (dark haired lad in Gaelic) gets very upset when adults interfere with his home, deep in the forest. Should he stumble across a child, lost in the forest, he is kind and gentle making sure that the young explorers find their way home safely. Scottish folklore says that’s exactly what happened when the faerie, who uses leaves and moss for camouflaged clothing found local lass, Jessie Macrae lost in the woodland near Gairloch.

Further to the East and surrounding some of the coast of Caithness, you’ll find the Pentland Firth which has many spooky tales associated with it. This one relates to Selkies (Orcadian dialect for seal.) The Selkie is a shape shifting creature which resembles a seal when in the water but on dry land is a human. The power of the selkie is that they can leave you forever lovestruck! It’s thought that both male and female selkies can emerge as beautiful humans from the water and can live years on land with a partner and even family before breaking hearts by returning to their natural, watery home.

Some stories include desperate mortals hiding seal skins from their partners to prevent them returning to the ocean while other state that selkies carry a moral conscience, returning to play with their children on the seashore visiting regularly once they’ve gone back to sea. Now you’ll think twice about those cute seals you see bobbing around the shores of the North Highlands!

With a deep and rich history, it’s little wonder the North Highlands have more than a few ghost stories to tell!

  • Culloden Battlefield memorial cairn
    Culloden Battlefield memorial cairn
    The cairn stands in the centre of the battlefield at Culloden
  • Inverness
  • Cute seals or heartbreaking selkies?
    Cute seals or heartbreaking selkies?
  • The Pentland Firth
    The Pentland Firth