Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle in Stirling, Scotland, is one of the largest and most important Scottish castles. Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling castle sits on Castle Hill which is formed by volcanic rock. It’s surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, giving it a strong defensive position. The castle has been the centre of many sieges and wars. Perhaps that’s the reason why it’s so haunted. 

The history of Stirling Castle

I must say that researching Stirling Castle took me quite some time. Like the Tower of London, this castle is linked to so many important historic events, that I even made a timeline to get my story straight. Stirling Castle was first mentioned in documents in 1110. This was when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel on top of the hill. From then on, the hill and the wooden fortress that was built on it, became the primary Royal centre. During the reign of David I (12th century), Stirling became a Royal burgh and an important administrative center. When his successor King William I was captured by the English in 1174, he was forced to surrender several castles. This included Stirling castle as well as Edinburgh Castle. In 1189, the castle was returned to William I again.

Stirling Castle - Julien.scavini via commons.wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0
Stirling Castle – Julien.scavini via commons.wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The Wars of Scottish Independence

The English invaded Scotland several times in history, but Edward I of England was probably the most determined one. He demanded Stirling Castle, along with the other royal castles in 1291. He invaded Scotland in 1296. This was the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would last over 60 years. Stirling Castle was found abandoned by the English, and they took it as their key site. They had to surrender a year later, when the English were defeated at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (September 9, 1297). The victory was claimed by Andrew Morray and William Wallace, aka Braveheart. The next Summer, Stirling Castle changed hands once more. William Wallace (Andrew Morray had died from his injuries sustained during the Battle of Stirling Bridge) was defeated by the English at the Battle of Falkirk. From this period on, Stirling Castle also served as a prison.

Wallace Munument from Stirling Castle - Dun-deagh via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle – Dun-deagh via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Robert de Bruce

Edward I couldn’t enjoy staying at the castle for very long. Robert the Bruce, the future king of Scotland, invaded Stirling Castle in 1299. Edward was forced to surrender. But, he returned to the castle once again in 1304, this time with 17 (!) heavy siege engines. The Scots under William Oliphant, leader during the Wars of Scottish Independence, were forced to surrender. Edward I died in 1307, but Stirling Castle remained in English hands until 1314.

The promise of Philip Mowbray

Sorry for the many historic details, but they are so important for this story, I couldn’t leave them out. Edward de Bruce, brother of the now King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce (since 1306),  laid siege in Stirling in 1313. By then, Stirling Castle was held by Sir Philip Mowbray. He was a Scottish noble, but an opponent of Robert de Bruce. When Edward de Bruce stood on his doorstep, he wanted to negotiate. He said that if Stirling Castle wasn’t relieved by June 24, 1314, he would surrender the castle. The Bruce agreed.

Tim Regan via flickr CC BY-2.0
Tim Regan via flickr CC BY-2.0

The following Summer, the English headed north, now under Edward II. On 23/24 June, they met Robert the Bruce’s forces at the Battle of Bannockburn, which is close to the castle. The English were defeated and Edward II tried to find refuge in Stirling Castle. But, Mowbray refused to let the King enter. He was determined to keep his word. The English were forced to flee and the castle was back in Scottish hands.

A little jump in history

It wasn’t over yet. The castle changed hands several times between 1314 and 1342. But, after that the castle remained in Scottish hands. The wooden structure was gradually changed into a structure of stone. Almost all the present buildings were constructed between 1490 and 1600. During this time, Stirling Castle had become the primary royal residence of the Kings (and Queens) of the House Stuart. On September 9, 1543, Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned in the Chapel Royal. She went to France where she married the French King, Francis II. When he died of illness at the age of 16 in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland. She moved into Stirling Castle and she later married Lord Darnley. Well, that wasn’t a happy marriage. You can read more about that in the story about Holyrood Palace.

The Jacobite Risings

When Queen Anne died in 1714, the House of Stuart died out. She was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover. But, many (especially Scottish and Irish people) continued to support Anne’s exiled half-brother James. He was excluded from succession under the Act of Settlement due to his Roman Catholic Religion. To make a long story short: this was the start of the Jacobite Risings: first in 1715 and later in 1745, under Bonnie Charles Stuart, James’ son.

In 1746, Stirling Castle was targeted by the Jacobite army. Stirling Castle controlled access between the Highlands and the Lowlands, so the castle was an important strategic point for them. But, the siege was unsuccessful. Later, on April 16, 1746, the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Culloden. The battle only lasted one hour, but 1,500 to 2,000 Jacobites were killed or injured. The Government army “only” suffered the loss of 300 soldiers.

Stirling Castle (and Robert de Bruce) - DeFacto via commons.wikimedia CC BY-SA-4.0
Robert de Bruce’s statue at Stirling Castle – DeFacto via commons.wikimedia CC BY-SA-4.0

Stirling Castle after 1800

After 1800, Stirling Castle became a military office. It was run as a barracks. A number of new buildings were constructed including a new prison and a powder magazine. It was visited by Queen Victoria in 1842 and the Prince of Wales in 1859. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders still use it as their headquarters. In the 20th century, Stirling Castle was renovated and restored into its former Royal Glory. It was also opened to the public and is a popular tourist attraction today. But, beware of the ghosts!

The ghosts of Stirling Castle

With a history like this, it’s not hard to believe that this castle is haunted. And it is! People have claimed to see ghosts here for centuries. So let’s take a closer look at the most important ones.

Stirling Castle - Graham Drew via flickr CC BY-2.0
Stirling Castle – Graham Drew via flickr CC BY-2.0

Phantom footsteps

In the 1820’s a sentry guard had the scare of his life when he stumbled upon the body of the sentry he was to relieve on the battlements. The dead sentry was lying on his back, mouth open and face completely twisted in fear. His cause of death was unclear, but it was certain this man was scared to death. Today, the battlements are haunted by phantom footsteps. They have been heard at least three times since the death of the sentry. Once in 1946 and twice a decade later. The footsteps were heard on three different occasions by three different soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The Green Lady

The ghost of the Green Lady is always associated with doom. Once seen, something terrible will occur. And not without reason. The Green Lady is believed to be the spirit of a young maid. There are two different versions of this story. One version tells the tale of a young, beautiful daughter of a commander. She fell in love with a common soldier, something her father didn’t approve of. He ended the relationship by shooting the poor boy. His poor daughter was heartbroken and she threw herself off the Elphinstone Tower.

Michel Curi via flickr CC BY-2.0
Michel Curi via flickr CC BY-2.0

The second tale about the Green Lady is that she was one of Mary, Queen of Scots’ maids. The young girl was highly superstitious and was convinced that something awful was to happen to the Queen. To make sure the Queen would remain safe on a particular night, she forced herself to stay awake. She sat beside the Queen’s bed all night and at some point, she drifted off. She accidentally knocked over a candle which started a fire in the Queen’s bed. Both were rescued from the room by a soldier, who was guarding the Queen’s door. The Queen was fine, but the poor girl was badly injured by the fire and died not too long after.

Fires and other mishaps

The translucent Green Lady has been seen on several occasions. Once she was seen by a young soldier. He bumped into her at the stairs of the castle. The young soldier was mesmerized by her beauty. He was lucky: the Green Lady only slid right through him. On another occasion, she was spotted by a chef who was preparing food for the soldiers. He felt as if someone was watching him from behind. When he turned around, he saw the ghost of the Green Lady. The poor chef fainted. Each time she is seen, small fires break out in the castle and other unfortunate events take place. So, beware when you see her.

Stirling Castle - Dave Young via flickr CC BY-2.0
Dave Young via flickr CC BY-2.0

The Pink Lady

Stirling Castle is also haunted by a Pink Lady ghost. She is a more mysterious figure. Some even claim that she is the spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots, but there are other theories as well. The Pink Lady is always seen leaving the castle. She walks towards the neighboring Church of the Holy Rude at Ladies’ Rock. This is the place where the jousting tournaments took place and the women were to see their husbands in action. The Pink Lady is believed to be a survivor of the 1304 siege by Edward I.

She is said to return to the castle over and over again to find her slain husband. But, that doesn’t really explain why she is always seen leaving the castle. Her identity is still a mystery today. The name Mary Witherspoon is mentioned several times. That poor woman was murdered by grave robbers. Yes, sometimes people were murdered by these criminals, because fresh corpses simply made better sales. When she is spotted, a faint scent of rose-blossom is smelled.

Viewbug via Canva
Viewbug via Canva

The ghost of the Highlander

Stirling Castle also has a male ghostly resident. It is the ghost of a Highlander. This man is dressed in full regalia, wearing a Highland kilt. His spirit is as solid as a living person and therefore he is often mistaken for a tour guide. When people ask him something, he simply vanishes. He is also known to walk through solid stone walls, especially in the dungeon area. He is also often seen just before turning a corner. This place is certainly on top of my paranormal bucket list! Would you dare to go here?

Cover photo: Shilmar — 73994 via Pixabay
Sources: wikipedia,,,, and
Address: Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ, United Kingdom

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