The Ghosts of Duntulm Castle

Apr 20, 2014 by

Atop a rocky seaside cliff on the Trotternish peninsula of Skye sits the ruins of Duntulm Castle, former seat of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat.  It is thought that an Iron age broch or dun, known as Dun Dhaibhidh, perhaps used by Viking raiders along the coast, once stood on the site, but there is no conclusive evidence.   The castle was built in the 14th or 15th century, most likely by the MacLeod clan, but by the 17th century the area was in the control of the MacDonalds, led by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat, “Donald Gorm Og”, the 9th chief of the clan.   The MacDonalds maintained Duntulm until 1732, when Sir Alexander MacDonald built a new residence, Monkstadt House, about 5 miles away  and abandoned the castle.   Duntulm has lain in ruins ever since, an empty shell of its former self, and peopled only by the ghosts said to haunt the castle.

Locals say there are several ghosts at Duntulm, including the specter of Hugh MacDonald (a cousin of the laird, Donald Gorm) who was starved to death in the castle’s dungeon, allegedly for coveting the lands of the clan. The gruesome tale contends Hugh went mad from lack of food and water and tried to eat his own hands before he died. His screaming ghost now walks the castle, howling his pain to whoever can hear it.

 

Panoramic view from Duntulm Castle. Photo by John Lees

Panoramic view from Duntulm Castle. Photo by John Lees

 

Another ghost story says the castle is haunted by Donald Gorm, the laird who starved Hugh MacDonald; legend has it that Donald fights with the other ghosts, perhaps just to keep things lively in the spectral realm.

 

 

The saddest ghost story involves the nursemaid to the chieftain’s son, who apparently dropped the poor babe out of a castle window onto the rocks below, killing the child. The chieftain (the story isn’t clear as to which laird was the father) was so enraged, he had the nursemaid put into a small boat and set adrift in the cold Atlantic. This woman, along with another whose husband shunned her after she was disfigured, weep as they walk the former halls of Duntulm.

Local lore says it was the combined activities of all the restless ghosts that drove the MacDonald clan to abandon the castle forever in 1732. The clan laird did scavenge stones from the castle to build the new home, an admirable bit of recycling, but one that might give Duntulm’s lively spirits a free ride to the new place. Personally, if I had to flee my home because it was so haunted, I don’t think I’d take ANY of the stones with me, no matter how much money or time it saved.

Night falls on Duntulm Castle

Night falls on Duntulm Castle Photo by Bruce Stokes

 

Duntulm, perched high atop  basalt cliffs beside the turbulent waves of the Atlantic,  is almost constantly buffeted by strong winds. It could be that all those spooky sounds are merely wind whistling through the stones of the castle. This is Scotland, however, a land filled with myth, mystery and the lasting echoes of its own turbulent and deadly history.   Who can say for sure that the sad, mad and angry spirits of Duntulm aren’t still walking the ruins of their former lives?

 

SOURCES:

Duntulm Site Record, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Duntulm castle, by David Ross, Britain Express

Medieval-Castle.com

Duntulm Castle, Wikipedia

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A Cuillin Rising Over the Sea

Nov 15, 2013 by

Cò seo, cò seo, oidhche chridhe?
Chan eil ach an nì do-ruighinn,
an samhla a chunnaic an t-anam,
Cuilitheann ag èirigh thar mara.

Who is this, who is this in the night of the heart?
It is the thing that is not reached,
the ghost seen by the soul,
a Cuillin rising over the sea.

~from An Cuilitheann/ The Cuillin, by Sorley MacLean(1911-1996)

Across Ashaig to the Cuillin, on the Isle of Skye, Scotland image: http://bit.ly/18BRlWj

Across Ashaig to the Cuillin, on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
image: copyright James Brown

Ashaig (Scottish Gaelic: Aiseag, referring to a ferry) is a small hamlet, adjacent to Upper Breakish and Lower Breakish near Broadford on the beautiful island of Skye, Scotland. As you look across the fields, the mountains you see in the distance are The Cuillin, a rocky group of munros that rise from the Atlantic as jagged peaks of basalt and gabbro, a rough igneous rock that provides a superb grip for mountaineers.

The Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye

The Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye

The Battle of Coire Na Creiche (Battle of Benquhillan) was the last Scottish clan battle fought on the Isle of Skye, in 1601. It was the culmination of a year of feuding between Clan MacLeod of Dunvegan and the Clan MacDonald of Sleat, that ended with a MacDonald victory in Coire Na Creiche on the northern slopes of the Cuillin hills, below Bruach na Frìthe.

Sgurr nan Gillean (left), Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe (right), Coire Na Creiche is round the corner to the right

Sgurr nan Gillean (left), Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe (right), Coire Na Creiche is round the corner to the right

Glen Sligachan enclosed by the Black Cuillin and Marsco from South Bla Bheinn.

Glen Sligachan enclosed by the Black Cuillin and Marsco from South Bla Bheinn.

For more info about climbing the Cuillin Range or any of Scotland’s stunning mountains,
try SummitPost.org: http://bit.ly/17xg8uw

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