Borthwick. The most haunted castle in Scotland?
I’d made a point of arriving before nightfall.
It was a good move.
This time, no ‘bats’ escorted my progress up the drive. No Tudor clad figure materialised from the depths of the fog.
A couple of years had gone by since that first visit and yet, even with a companion now, I was nervous about coming back. It had seemed such a good idea for Mike’s birthday from the security of the sofa some 350 miles to the south.
But with that impregnable stone edifice looming above me once more, I wasn’t even slightly sure.
As we entered the castle little appeared to have changed. The Great Hall just as impressive with its cavernous vaulted roof.
Mary, Queen of Scots had once slept in our room, the best in the house. How fortunate we were able to book it with such relative ease. Low season I suppose. Mike was suitably impressed.
After a walk around the grounds we sat in the Drawing Room on the first floor. Darkness had indeed now started to fall. Mike called up coffee and leafed through a magazine. I watched the window at the far end, where Mary’s ghost has been known to stand.
We were the first down to dinner it seemed and took a sofa beside the huge fireplace.
The affable hotel Manager was not far behind. “Aye, you’ll have the Great Hall all to yourselves this evening.”
“Aye, you are our only guests.”
No impromptu wedding banquet like last time then, but a romantic dinner à deux.
And the whole castle.. to ourselves.
The food was as good as I’d remembered it.
The wine, nicely chilled. It would be, of course, for I knew just where they kept it.
Did something flicker behind the masks of those ponderous armoured suits? After the second goblet of Pinot, I wasn’t really sure.
A tendril of late autumn chill briefly grazed the top of my foot. My eyes flew straight to the Gallery.. but there was nothing there.
The only sound came from the fire, spitting and crackling in the oversize grate.
The Manager joined us after dinner for stories about the castle over a last wee dram. And then..
“Can I get you anything else this evening? If you get hungry in the night you can come down and help yourselves”
I didn’t think there’d be much likelihood of that.
“We’ll be off then. If you need us the phone numbers are on the table in your room”
“The staff don’t stay in the castle anymore, but we’ll only be down in the village..”
I contemplated the possibility of spending the night in the car.
Mike was undeterred. “Right, let’s explore.”
He wanted to go everywhere there was an unlocked door. Up and down the stone spiral staircases, where clanking chains are reputedly heard. Back up to the Drawing Room, the lights now dimmed, up again to the eerie brick walled Garrison on the top floor, down to the Minstrels Gallery overlooking the Great Hall. A perfect vantage point for the dark clothed man who, apparently, likes to stand here and stare.
And then into each of the rooms.
How brave you can be after a half bottle of wine and an Ardbeg.
We finished up in the Red Room. The most ghostly of all.
For it was here that a young servant girl met an untimely end. Left with child courtesy of one of the Lords Borthwick and killed by the sword to conceal it. Her remains then buried deep in the wall. Scratching noises have been heard by those staying in the room. And reports of a feeling of being pulled out of the bed.
Did I imagine the presence that I felt in that room? It was certainly not a place I wanted to dwell.
I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
Were those really scratching noises that I heard, almost as soon as we’d settled for the night? A mouse? Let’s say it was.
And a repeated hollow clunking sound, from the direction of the stairs.. that would be the central heating pipes cooling down?
Then, just before dawn, something heavy being dragged across the floor many feet below. An early morning kitchen delivery perhaps.
The first glimmer of light through the windows just didn’t come soon enough.
If you would like to read about that first visit to Borthwick, it starts here.
And have a peaceful night x