It’ll Be Dark Soon..

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 felt nervous about coming back. It had seemed such a great 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.”

“To ourselves?”

“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 Great Hall eerily silent but for the spitting and crackling of the fire 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”

“Off… Where?”

“Oh, 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 sinister 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 very brave you can be after a half bottle of wine and an Ardbeg.

We finished up in the Red Room. The most ghostly room 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 she was killed by the sword to conceal it. Her remains allegedly 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.

There wasn’t a wink of sleep. Not for me anyway.  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 just 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, surely that would be it. The first glimmer of light through the windows couldn’t come soon enough.


If you would like to read about that first visit to Borthwick, the story starts here.

And have a peaceful night  x


2018-02-08T19:05:25+00:00October 31st, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Amy at love made my home October 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Oh gleeps Jessica, I’m afraid that your great write up has scared me off for life!! Too terrifying for me just reading it. Hope you have a good Halloween, don’t suppose you get many trick or treaters coming all the way down your steps and going back up again? xx

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      We’re so far off the road, I’d like to think the trick or treaters wouldn’t bother us, they didn’t last year anyway. I hope I am not now proved wrong!
      Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Brought back a few wobbles myself, remembering it!

  2. elaine October 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Wooooooo – scarey.

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      It was that!

  3. countrysidetales October 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    A suitably eerie Halloween Tale. M and I stayed at Thornbury Castle when we got married, upgraded to the honeymoon suit, which was fabulous, and in the ancient part of the castle. I woke in the night to feel someone who wasn’t there flicking my elbow. I do not generally scare easily about spiritual things, but I slept the remainder of the night with the light on 🙂

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      Oh-er. Been there. Not the castle (which does sound fabulous), sleeping with the light on!

  4. Simone October 31, 2013 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    You’re a glutton for punishment Jessica! I think when the Manager told me he was off I would be out of the door before him! Mike seems very brave. A knight in shining armour perhaps?

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      I think even Mike had his moments…
      You’re right. I am done with haunted places now!

  5. Crafty Gardener October 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    WOO-o-o-o a very ‘spook’tacular place to visit.

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Very, very spooky!

  6. Sue@GLAllotments October 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    That could make a great beginning for the start of a novel. How spooky. We once stayed in a cottage in Cumbria that we were convinced was haunted. Even Martyn the sceptic was convinced something strange had happened.

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Sometimes things happen you just can’t explain. Our last old cottage was a bit like that, it was a ‘friendly’ place though, thankfully!

  7. Wendy October 31, 2013 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful ghost story for Halloween, Jessica. And you are in it! I must admit I think Borthwick looks a fantastic place – I love castles. Perhaps I wouldn’t sense anything anyway – I did live in a house with a supposed ghost (after a famous/infamous Victorian murder) and didn’t sense anything then. But then again, an old Scottish castle is something different altogether!

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      It is a genuine old castle all right. The scale of some of the rooms was incredible, but especially the Great Hall. Don’t think I’d have wanted to be inside when Cromwell turned up and started firing cannonballs at it!

  8. Rabbitquilter October 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Ooooo! S P O O K Y!!!!! Nothing like that here! I am sat with my bucket full of ‘treats’ – and no callers!!! I feel like Billy-no-Mates!!!! My son said he’ll be round later then!!!! Not quite what I’d thought, a 26yr old playing trick or treat to make his Mum happy!!!!!

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:33 pm - Reply

      I’d be eating all the treats then! Mike used to do that.. buy packets of mini Mars bars and the like and then scoff the lot!

  9. BadPenny October 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    All on your own ??? Not even a creepy butler / doorkeeper ? God I’d hate it !!!

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:38 pm - Reply

      All on our own…

  10. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA October 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Happy birthday to Mike.
    What an adventure! Are the gardens nice there? My son would love a stay like that. I’d be like you Jessica, not a wink!

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:46 pm - Reply

      It was mostly grass and trees, from what I remember. The location is very pleasant though, gently rolling hills. And most certainly an adventure!

  11. snowbird October 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Brrrrrrrrr……wow, what a place and how BRAVE you two are wine or not! A truly fab post!xxxx

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks snowbird. Things just tend to roll along and you get caught up in them, if I’d known we were going to be alone in the castle wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me in!

  12. Rosie October 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I think the manager’s throw away comment of ‘all the staff stay in the village’ would have finished me off = you were very brave to stay on your own. Great tale for halloween:)

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:51 pm - Reply

      Perhaps I should have asked if anyone in the village had a spare room! Thanks Rosie.

  13. CJ October 31, 2013 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Yikes! Sounds like you had a good adventure though. I’m a complete chicken, I would have been a nervous wreck.

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      That was me… I have to say it was a lot better the first time when the castle was full!

  14. Janet/Plantaliscious October 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Wow, a whole castle to yourselves? Amazing! Though I think I would have found it spooky too. I’m rather fond of Ardbeg mind…

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 12:00 am - Reply

      If I ever go back I’ll take the bottle with me when I go to bed!

  15. Vera October 31, 2013 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Crikey Jessica, how bold of you. I have done ‘rescue’ work, but I never would have gone into a haunted castle at night. Perhaps during the day, but not when dark has fallen!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 12:15 am - Reply

      There was certainly a completely different feel to the place at night. Difficult to know how much was in my imagination though.

  16. wherefivevalleysmeet November 1, 2013 at 12:30 am - Reply

    To be alone at night – well I know that Mike was with you – but in a castle with so much blood and gore in its history would be really scary, and then to be abandoned by the staff – the mind boggles. Glad you lived to tell such a good tale Jessica.

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 10:13 am - Reply

      It was certainly spooky! Thanks Rosemary.

  17. nataliescarberry November 1, 2013 at 1:06 am - Reply

    Oooooooooooh pretty scary stuff so much so, Jessica, that there was no way I was going to read about that first visit. Happy Halloween. Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

      The first visit had a more ‘fun’ element to it, which is why I took Mike back. But it was also a set of bizarre circumstances coming together that you could never hope to repeat.

  18. Pats. November 1, 2013 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Always remember that any building is just a lot of bricks round a lot of air…..warm air…creaky creaky cooling! ….. and insurers don’t allow hotels etc., to have overnight guests alone without night staff!

    There, that’s done it, ruined the advertising and intrigue, but isn’t history farceinating, heeeee!

    You should be in our ancient buildings and farmyards when the yard alarm goes off in the pitch black of night at 3am and one has to tramp round checking everywhere only to find an owl has flown through the invisible black beam alarms and set it off, and is sitting staring at you on the ridge stones stifling chuckles under it’s wing….they do it on purpose you know! And then there’s the bats, and the foxes, and and ooo..errr!!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 10:24 am - Reply

      It was a few years ago now, so I would hope that regulations have been tightened up since. I was pretty surprised that we were left on our own though, even then.
      We had a crow get down the chimney in a previous house and set off the alarm. Chasing that around was a lot of fun too… not!

  19. Em November 1, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I wouldn’t have slept a wink either! Actually, I didn’t get much anyway thanks to a certain person’s nightmare last night – sigh. Matchsticks in the eyes.

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Oh no! I hope he’s over it now. Things are much scarier when you’re a kid. At least, I’m assuming it was OB..

  20. Jo November 1, 2013 at 10:17 am - Reply

    You’re braver than I am!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

      I doubt that very much!

  21. Cathy November 1, 2013 at 11:36 am - Reply

    I had a good giggle at this and the earlier story, Jessica – thanks for your seasonal sharing!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      I had fun writing it.. now from the security of even more miles away!

  22. Anna B November 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    How amazing to have this place to yourselves!!! Spooky but exciting! What a cool adventure!!! 🙂

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Very cool… chilling!!

  23. steph@woolythyme November 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    you are without a doubt the bravest (perhaps craziest) person I know!! It’s one thing to do this….say, midsummer, but another entirely to stay so close to Halloween!!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      We went in November, but close enough!!
      Brave, no. Crazy, possibly.

  24. Sue. November 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    I live next door to a castle where Mary Queen of Scots was held under house arrest for 6 months.
    They do reenactments from time to time and one young lad had to sleep in an attic with only a candle for light. I dont think he was not looking forward to the experience.

    I see Borthwick is closed for renovation. goodbye all spooks.

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      It’s supposed to re-open next year I think. I’d like to go back and see what they’ve done. Unless all the hammering has just made the spooks more restless..

  25. frayed at the edge November 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    You were very brave – I can’t get into bed until I have checked that the wardobe door is shut (to stop the wardrobe monster getting me in the night) and looking under the bed, to make sure that the ankle grabbers aren’t waiting to nab me if I get up to go to the loo!!!!

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      The ankle grabbers are the pits Anne 🙂

  26. Sarah November 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    That a great tale about your 2 visits- are you planning another trip there one day or is 2 visits enough?
    Sarah x

    • Jessica November 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Two would have been enough, but Borthwick is currently being done up. I would be interested to go back and see what changes they have made. Perhaps in summer, when it’s not quite so bleak…!

  27. Helene November 2, 2013 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Ooooh, that must have been a jaw-dropping moment, when the manager said you two would be alone for the night! I would have loved to stay in a castle like that, not sure I would have liked to have the whole thing to myself though….
    And as for all the noises you heard through the night, they are quite similar to what I have in my Victorian terraced house every night, and I sleep alone, no husband, just my cat for company 🙂

    • Jessica November 2, 2013 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Those little noises seem much more significant at night don’t they, when everything else is quiet!

  28. CherryPie November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    This reminds me of Chillington Castle which also boasts a lot of ghosts. It gave me the creeps during the day! So I would never be as brave as you staying overnight.

    • Jessica November 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      It sounds like Chillington Castle is very well named!

  29. islandthreads November 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply


    that poor servant girl, Frances

    • Jessica November 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm - Reply


  30. wherethejourneytakesme November 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    We stay in a friends desserted Hotel that was an old Georgian Rectory each year while it is closed to the public at Xmas when visiting my mum in law and even though the proprietors dad stays there with us overnight it is still creepy…I’m not sure I could do a castle!

    • Jessica November 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      I think I remember reading about that on your blog last year. Places that are empty always seem more creepy to me. More echoey somehow, and the noises less explainable!

  31. Vintage Jane November 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Noooo! I started reading and thought “what a great place to stay”, but once you had been ‘abandoned’ it was a no, no for me!

    • Jessica November 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      At that point, I must admit, the Edinburgh Hilton was sounding like a very good idea!

  32. Sol November 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    wow wow wow

    • Jessica November 5, 2013 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Sol, welcome to rusty duck!
      The real ‘wow’ is that I ever dared to do it in the first place..

  33. Laura November 8, 2013 at 3:11 am - Reply

    I have very bad eyesight, so I tend to “see” things in the dark that aren’t there. You had better believe I would have slept with my glasses on my face, and the light on!

    • Jessica November 8, 2013 at 11:35 am - Reply

      I believe it. I was the same!

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