Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted locations in Scotland, and Edinburgh itself has been called the most haunted city in all of Europe. Edinburgh Castle sits on top of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano and has been a fortification for over 2,000 years. The castle is protected to the north, south and west by sheer cliffs rising 400 feet above sea level. Access to the castle is by a steep road on the eastern side. The castle from its high position dominates views of the city of Edinburgh.
A rich mix of architectural styles reflects the castle's complex history and role as both stronghold and the seat of Kings. St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh Castle dates from the early 12th Century. Crown square, the main courtyard, was developed in the 15th century; the Great Hall with its impressive hammer beam roof was built by James IV in 1511. The Half Moon Battery was created in the late 16th century. The Vaults were where foreign prisoners-of-war were held, particularly those captured in the wars with France in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Scottish National War memorial was added after the First World War.
Edinburgh has a hidden underworld to which the castle is strongly connected, a series of secret tunnels leading from Edinburgh castle down the Royal Mile. One of these is rumoured to lead to Holyrood House. Holyrood house itself is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and queens have made the Palace of Holyrood house the premier royal residence in Scotland; even today it's still a royal residence.
When the tunnels were first discovered several hundred years ago, a piper was sent to explore. As he navigated the tunnels he played his bagpipes so that his progress could be tracked by those above. About half way down the Royal Mile the piping suddenly stopped. When a rescue party was sent, there was no trace of the piper. He had simply vanished. Several search parties went into the tunnel system but no trace of the piper was ever found.
The piper's ghost still haunts Edinburgh today, walking endlessly along the underground tunnel beneath the Royal Mile. His music can sometimes be heard from within the castle and on the streets above the tunnels.
Many people have heard the sound of ghostly drums within Edinburgh castle; however few have seen the drummer. The reason for this is the drummer ghost only appears when the castle is about to be attacked something that hasn't happened for some time.
The ghost drummer was first witnessed before Cromwell's attack on the castle in 1650 and is reported to take the form of a headless boy. Who the boy was and why he now haunts Edinburgh castle is not known.
Edinburgh like most castles has dungeons where prisoners were often tortured and often perished. These dungeons are haunted by the ghosts of their victims; coloured orbs are constantly photographed by visitors. One desperate prisoner hid in a dung barrow, hoping to be carried out of the castle down the Royal Mile and escape to freedom. The unfortunate man died when the barrow was emptied down the rocky slopes of the castle, sending him to his death. Visitors say his ghost tries to shove them from the battlements and is accompanied by a strong and unpleasant smell of dung.
What makes the Edinburgh castle dungeons unique is that the presence of ghosts or at least the presence of something has been scientifically proven. In 2001 Dr Richard Wiseman ran a research project studying the reactions of people to various parts of the dungeons and surrounding areas. These visitors who had no previous knowledge of the castle felt something far more often in the areas with a reputation for being haunted than anywhere else in the castle.
In the 16th century Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder King James V. Evidence was obtained against her by the torturing of her servants. She was burned at the stake on July 17, 1537, and her young son Gillespie was brought out and forced to watch from the battlements. Lady Janet's restless spirit is said to still haunt parts of the castle. Hollow knocking sounds are sometimes heard at night these are attributed to the workmen building the platform on which she was burned.