Borthwick Castle in Midlothian is allegedly haunted by a number of ghosts, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who must rank as one of the most omnipresent specters in Britain. The castle is also supposedly still frequented by the tragic spirit of a murdered servant girl, as well as an embezzling chancellor who met a horrible death.
The ancestral home of the Borthwick family, the castle is sited on the edge of the Scottish Borders, around 12 miles south of Edinburgh. It was built in 1430 for William de Borthwick, 1st Lord Borthwick, after he was issued a charter to erect a castle from King James I of Scotland. The Scottish peer had assisted in securing the release of King James while the monarch had been held captive in England. The castle remained in the Borthwick family until 1650, when the owners were ultimately driven out by Oliver Cromwell's forces.
The well-preserved 15th century stronghold features two huge towers of imposing height. The walls around the base are 20 feet thick and the lofty Great Hall has a barrel-vaulted ceiling. In former times the castle also sported a moat, drawbridge and portcullis. Borthwick Castle was converted into a hotel in 1973, however since February of 2013 it has since returned to being a private residence.
With a history spanning far back into Scotland's turbulent past, it seems only natural that Borthwick Castle would boast a grisly legend or two. One tradition at the castle was known as the "Prisoner's Leap". Inmates at Borthwick were allegedly granted their freedom if they were able to jump from the roof of one tower to the other. They would have their hands tied behind their backs and if they cleared the 12 foot gap, they were free to go. Apparently no one accomplished this seemingly impossible goal, instead falling to their death some 90 feet below.
Mary, Queen of Scots, took refuge at Borthwick Castle in 1567 with her third husband James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. James was a principal suspect in the suspicious death of Mary's previous husband Lord Darnley. The newly-married couple were being pursued by enraged nobles who wanted to see Bothwell brought to trial. When the castle was suddenly surrounded by an army of 1000 men, the couple were forced to make a dramatic escape. To evade her pursuers, the Queen of Scots famously disguised herself as a pageboy and exited the castle through a window in the Great Hall. Rumor has it that her ghost has been seen in the vicinity of the castle, reliving the events of that action-packed night.
A gory story relates how the Red Room at Borthwick was once the scene of a terrible crime. It is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a servant girl called Ann Grant. She was impregnated by a Borthwick lord who subsequently had her murdered. The story relates how she was seized by two women and a guard. The women held her up while the guard sliced her across the abdomen with his sword, killing her and her unborn child. People who've slept in the Red Room have reported abrupt drops in temperature and the sinister sound of approaching footsteps on the nearby spiral staircase late at night. An unseen force has tried to pull sleepers from the majestic four-poster bed while visitors and staff alike have supposedly witnessed a ghostly re-enactment of the horrific murder.
Another murder at Borthwick was of a chancellor who had been misappropriating funds from the family coffers. When the Borthwicks found out they reacted with utmost brutality and burned the man to death. The ghost of the unfortunate chancellor is said to haunt the castle and the niches where he kept his safes are still visible in the walls of the Red Room. A priest was once brought in to exorcise Borthwick Castle although the hauntings apparently still persist.