Balgonie Castle – Scotland’s Most Haunted Castle?

by MJ Wayland

The Sibbald family built Balgonie Castle in Fife in the 14th century, with additions made to the structure over the following three centuries. The castle has been visited by both James the IV and Mary Queen of Scots and was for many years the seat of the Earls of Leven.

In January 1716 the infamous Rob Roy MacGregor paid Balgonie a visit with some two hundred clansmen and twenty Hanoverian prisoners.  Other famous visitors to Balgonie Castle have included Daniel Defoe, Dr Benjamin Rush (signatory of the American Declaration of Independence), James Boswell and Dr Johnson.

The 8th Earl of Leven sold Balgonie in 1824 to Sir James Balfour of Whittinghame (grandfather of A J Balfour, 1st Earl Balfour, Prime Minister 1902-05) who gave the estate to his second son Charles.

By the 1840s letters were appearing in the Edinburgh press concerning the appalling state of Balgonie. The roofs were later taken off to avoid paying Roof Tax.

Following heavy vandalism of the 1960s, the Castle was sold to David Maxwell, from Edinburgh, in 1971. He carried out restoration to the Tower before selling to the present Laird, Raymond Morris of Balgonie & Eddergoll, in 1985.

The Hauntings of Balgonie Castle

The ghost for which Balgonie is most famous has been seen by the Laird and other members of his family, and also by visitors.

Known as “Green Jeannie”, she has wandered the ruinous 1702 wing for over two centuries.  The Laird believes her favourite walk is between two rooms linked by a doorway.  She walks in a left to right direction behind two barred windows, stopping to peer into the walled courtyard from the second window.

During an interview for Norman Adam’s “Haunted Scotland” book, The Laird’s wife described Jeannie; “She is pea green in colour.  Her face appears to be hidden by a hood.”  She saw the ghost when she let out the family’s deer-hounds around 2:00 am.

Another ghost that frequents the castle is that of an old man.  While the Laird’s wife rested in an armchair in the Great Hall, she opened her eyes to find a goatee-bearded apparition “grey like a statue” – in 17th century costume staring at her.

Other ghosts include a grey man who appears to be opening non-existent doors in the courtyard, and a man’s head that floats around the first floor hall!

Norman Adams mentions another sighting: “In 1996 as a waitress set the tables for a banquet…she was touched on the back.  All day and night conversation could be heard, although no actual words were recognisable. Female laughter has been heard coming from the hall when empty.”

Scariest Places On Earth

As a consultant for the ABC Family TV show “Scariest Places on Earth”, I recommended Balgonie as a location to investigate, its mixture of bare stone walls, ruins, and remote location, not to mention five ghosts and counting, it was ideal for the show.

The rest is (TV) history, in 2001 they held an all night ghost hunting vigil at the castle with the obvious terrifying consequences! described the show as “When an American couple seeking a suitable place for their wedding visits Balgonie Castle in Fife, Scotland, they soon learn that what looks like a romantic retreat from the outside is in fact a place of terror.”  As a visitor to the castle I loved how the Laird had opened most of the rooms to the public, it may be haunted but it was one of the most atmospheric and loveliest castles I have ever visited.

Balgonie Castle (Paul McIlroy) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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