A second figure now lurks in the shadows at the back of the Great Hall. A young man. But the lady in white is still moving towards us, her long gown flowing out across the stone floor. She reaches the edge of the assembled gathering.. and holds out a hand.
“Howdy, I’m Ellen.” Another American. Of course.
They had arrived that afternoon from their marriage ceremony in Edinburgh. Did they elope? I didn’t ask. But they had come over to Scotland alone. If the evening had started oddly, it was now just surreal. As we all sat down to dinner at the long refectory table, a wedding celebration began.
Me, in my jeans, sat next to the bride.
Iain, our business discussion over dinner indefinitely postponed.
A group of American historians in eclectic dress.
And of course, the happy couple. Whose wedding guest list had been entirely pot luck.
Stories were exchanged, toasts made and returned. The wine kept flowing and the food was superb. Remember, it’s a true story. You could never make it up. I just hope the newly weds enjoyed it as much as I.
At 10.00p.m., as promised, it was time for the Ghost Tour. It started pleasantly enough.
The castle was built in 1430 by the first Lord Borthwick: a virtually impregnable baronial keep, with walls 20 feet thick at the base. In 1567 Mary Queen of Scots, and her husband the Earl of Bothwell, sought refuge from marauding hordes with the sixth Lord Borthwick. Nearly a century later it was besieged again, this time by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. The castle walls still bear the cannonball scars.
And then the story gets weird.
A framed picture rests on a table in the Great Hall. The subject of the photograph is seated in a chair. Behind him, a woman in a white dress and a small child. But when the photo was taken, neither of the latter were actually present in the room. Then there’s the gentleman on the minstrel’s gallery who likes to just stand and stare… I try to make out any movement in the gloom.
We make our way up the stone spiral staircase, wedding dress and all, to the Drawing Room on the first floor. Where, it is said, the temperature drops to near zero when the spirit of Mary stands to look from the window. On up the stone staircase to the sinister Garrison on the very top floor, its domed ceiling completely clad in stone. And finally, down to the dungeons deep below the castle. A series of dark and interconnecting rooms where prisoners were once held, tortured and killed. The wine now kept here can be served ready chilled.
The bedrooms, of course, are haunted too. One in particular, but they aren’t saying which. Why? Because it has a guest staying in it tonight. For goodness sake, how much more. Weren’t the clanking chains enough??!
A last wee dram with the bride and groom before going up to bed.
I think I’m going to need it..