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Say Halò* to Phantoms and Witches in Scotland this Halloween


The term Halloween or Hallowe’en was first used in 1745. Forty years later, the great Scottish poet Robert Burns explained Halloween ‘to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands.’**

Witches, devil and mischief-making beings can thank Scotland for these enjoyable annual activities because of origins tracing back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, marking the end of harvest period and the beginning of colder weather. Celtic and Scottish children today still  dress up as evil spirits and go ‘guising’, similar to what others recognise as trick or treating. 

What some might know as pumpkin carving began as neep (turnip) carving, and apple bobbing is a fun game that’s been enjoyed since Celtic times! Halloween is still recognised today and visitors in Edinburgh can visit the Samhuinn Fire Festival on 31 October to witness the exciting stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings. 

Visitors and ghouls alike can enjoy a range of unBOOlievable sights and activities… 


Ancient Celts believed ghosts of the dead would walk amongst them on 31 October and this Halloween, chill-seekers can walk amongst them at one of the many events happening across Scotland. 

Kelburn Castle has two spooky events happening in their Haunted Forest to celebrate the ghoulish holiday. Families will enjoy the magical adventure with witches and wizards at the Freaky Forest Magic event taking place from 12 – 20 October. There will be Broomstick Training and a Potion Workshop, Kelburn’s Secret Forest woodland trails and more! For the grownups, Kelburn’s Quarantine event is for all zombie apocalypse enthusiasts. Zombie participants will have to fight for their own life and battle to save the world. 

This year’s award-winning Paisley Halloween Festival will be bigger and better than ever with the whole town centre being transformed into a sinister outdoor circus on 25 and 26 October. There will be a Dark Circus parade with more than 300 performers including giant puppets, voodoo acrobats, ferocious fire performers and more. 

For a chilling experience at only £1.50 a ticket visit Scotland’s scariest attraction - the Spirits of Scone Halloween at Scone Palace in Perth. The palace gardens transforms into a haunted paradise with ghouls lurking behind every corner and will be a night visitors will <strong>want</strong> to forget..  

The Halloween Pumpkin Trail is a family friendly event at Castle Kennedy Gardens, where for only £2.50 per trail, visitors can join in on the popular Pumpkin Trail to receive delicious treats around the Gardens. Follow the treats from 12 October to 3 November.  


One of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches is also reputably haunted! Sandwood Bay in Kinlochbervie is a 1.5 mile beach filled with beautiful pink sands and impressive cliffs. Visitors to this stunning bay may think they have the beach all to themselves, however they could be sharing the surroundings with ghostly apparitions better known as the Dead Sailors of Sandwood Bay. 

Before 1828, when the lighthouse at Cape Wrath was built, the dangerous waters off the coast of Sandwood Bay resulted in many lives lost giving the area the nickname ‘shipwreck graveyard’. There have been many stories of people seeing strange figures and ghostly appearances down the unspoilt beach. Ghost hunters will love this bay because with no road access to the beach, those (un)lucky enough to meet one of the Dead Sailors will be four miles away from the nearest car park. 

Fans of the harp should come to one of the finest homes in Scotland, Inveraray Castle in Argyll where there have been stories of a harpist who has been playing beautiful notes for nearly 400 years! The castle is home to the Phantom Harpist who is believed to have been the harpist of a former Duke of Argyll. Visitors could hear him playing elegant songs in the library and the MacArthur Room. There are debates about how he died and some believe it’s because he was hanged for being a “Peeping Tom” to the lady of the castle. This may be why more women have reported seeing the ghost than men.  Other hauntings around the castle include a female ghost who is thought to have been killed by Jacobites and a ghost ship moving up Loch Fyne and disappears onto the land. 

The Phantom Harpist of Inveraray Castle isn’t the only ghoulish musician in Scotland. The Phantom Piper Clanyard Bay can be heard playing the bagpipes on the coastline near Stranraer on summer evenings. The story is told that the piper and his loyal dog entered a now long-gone fairy cave, the piper never returned and his dog wildly escaped – furless. Another piper is said to haunt Duntrune Castle near Crinan, the oldest continuously occupied castle on mainland Scotland. The Campbell clan who were residents at the time grew suspicious of the piper who was sent by his master to study the building’s defenses. The powerful Campbell clan chopped off his fingers and left him to die. These ghosts should start a band!


Scotland is notorious for being Europe’s biggest prosecutor of witches. During the five nationwide witch hunts in Scotland estimates of up to 4,000 people were tried (Scotland had a quarter of the population that England had, yet three times the amount of prosecutions).

In the 16th century, accused witches in Edinburgh were sent to the stake more than anywhere else in Scotland and arguably the world. Visitors can pay their respects to the accused at the Witches Well located on the Royal Mile where more than 300 were burned at the stake. Explore Princes Street Gardens which used to bare a loch known as Nor’ Loch where many others were drowned by being ‘douked.’ For courageous travellers, brave the famously accused Agnes Sampson’s spirit at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. For those who want to delve deep into the dark history of the witch trials, the Real Mary King’s Close are taking witchcraft enthusiasts on a tour where they’ll tell stories of Scotland’s haunting past. Travel to nearby North Berwick Harbour, a seafood town with beautiful coastal scenery where allegedly Agnes Sampson and 200 witches held their covens. 


People of Aberdeen weren’t safe from prosecution either. In the 1500s, St. Mary’s Chapel at Kirk of Saint Nicholas was a witches’ prison where the accused were chained before being executed and burned. As a form of punishment, some unlucky accused were rolled down a hill in a spiked barrel and if still alive were set alight. Visitors can pay their respects at the Forres Witch Stone where one of the barrels stopped near Cluny Hill. Another stone to see is The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, which was a place for witch executions. While in Aberdeen, art fans should try and spot the two murals inspired by the Scottish witch trials created by Argentinian street artist Milu Correch who created the pieces for the city festival Nuart Aberdeen in 2018. 

For those wanting a spook, visit Pollok House in Glasgow. In the 1670s, five locals known as the ‘witches’ of Pollok were accused of consorting with the devil and sent to burn at the stake. The accuser was Janet Douglas, a mute servant who became ill and later regained the power of speech. Rumour has it that the accuser moved to America and was involved with the Salem witch trials. 

Another place where accused phantom witches like to freak-out guests is at the beautiful Castle Menziesin Perthshire. Tour groups have reported hearing mysterious voices and glowing orbs from three grumpy women who are thought to be from a coven of witches in the castle’s meat cellar. 

Getting here

New Caledonian Sleeper trains launched in 2019: New carriages made their debut on the Lowlander route between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. Highlander route is to follow shortly between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. Book here:

New direct Loganair flights launched May 2019 – London Southend to Stornoway and also Aberdeen. Book here:

For more spooky Halloween fun, go to 

Check out the<strong> Ghosts, Myths &amp; Legends E-book: </strong><a href=”“><strong></strong></a><strong> </strong>

Or check out <strong>Scotland’s Ghost Trail: </strong><a href=””><strong></strong></a>

ENDS  NOTESFor further information, potential press trips and image requests contact:Summer MartinAssistant PR Manager, VisitScotland0131 472 2115<strong></strong> Notes to editors 
  • Halò is the Scottish Gaelic word for Hello

** Robert Burns first footnote in the poem ‘Halloween’, describing Halloween

 About VisitScotland 
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  • To ensure everyone can safely enjoy Scotland’s amazing countryside and landscapes, VisitScotland encourages all visitors to fully respect their surroundings by behaving in a responsible and appropriate way.
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This copy was correct at the time of going to press. VisitScotland cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information and accepts no responsibility for any error or misrepresentation.  All liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or other damage caused by the reliance on the information contained herewith, or in the event of any company, individual or firm ceasing to trade, is hereby excluded


Say Halò* to Phantoms and Witches in Scotland this Halloween

Visit ‘haunted’ castles and get a spook at frightening events across Scotland

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