Creaking doors, drafty windows and loose floorboards all have the potential to raise a fright when we hear something go bump in the night.
But as Halloween approaches, and the ghosts, ghouls and goblins come out to play, there’s never been a better time to embrace our spooky side, letting ourselves in for a scare.
With a rich cultural history and plenty of stately homes, castles and palaces, Scotland’s gruesome, bloody and spine-chilling past provides the perfect backdrop to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve.
Here, we take a peek inside some of the country’s most haunted homes, discovering what trips and tours will leave you lying awake when the sun goes down…
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
Sitting high on a clifftop overlooking the Firth of Clyde, this imposing estate was once home to the 10th Earl of Cassillis, who used his wealth to create a home of opulent architecture.
As many as seven different ghosts have been spotted within the castle walls, but the most infamous is the lone piper.
Sent into the caves below the estate to prove to locals they weren’t haunted, the piper marched with his dog, playing a tune.
The pipes could be heard from the castle above the cliffs, but then it stopped.
The piper was never seen again, but people still say they hear his pipes and see him on Piper’s Brae.
Falkland Palace, Fife
As the country residence of the royal Stuarts, the Renaissance palace has beautiful gardens to explore on a crisp autumn day – as well as the opportunity to spot a ghost or two.
The Tapestry Gallery is said to be haunted by the ghost of the Grey Lady, who paces up and down, awaiting the return of her lover, a soldier who rode off to battle and never returned.
Sinister faces have also been caught standing at the window of the Queen’s Room.
Fyvie Castle, Turriff
Ghosts, legends and folklore fill Fyvie’s 800-year history, but there is one macabre exhibit that stands out above the rest.
In the atmospheric library, decorated with blood red wallpaper, gaze at the hundreds of books lining the shelves, as well as a bust made from the death mask of a hanged murderer.
The mark left by the noose is still visible on the neck.
And if that wasn’t chilling enough, the ghost of Lady Meldrum might pay a visit.
When the castle was renovated in the 1920s, her remains were found inside a secret room and taken to a churchyard for burial, but her spirit remains.
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire
With its pink-hued ramparts, Craigievar is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s trademark castle.
But as the site of many clan feuds and murders, the building has a more gruesome side. The Blue Room – also known as “the ghost room” – has hosted ghostly cocktail parties, and visitors report seeing apparitions of children at play.
The castle is also home to “The Fiddler” ghost, who is said to have fallen into the castle well and drowned.
People still report the sound of his playing, ringing around the castle walls.
Moirlanich Longhouse, Killin
Although not a castle or stately home, this beautifully conserved 19th Century cottage is home to some otherworldly activities.
Unchanged since the last family moved out in 1968, the longhouse is a snapshot from another age, with modern visitors reporting sightings of Lizzie Robertson.
Lizzie died in 1940 but it’s said she visits her old home, wearing a white apron, sitting on her favourite stool by the fire or in the kitchen busily mixing something in a bowl.
House of Dun, Montrose
Scotland’s very own Sleepy Hollow can be found in an elegant Georgian country house.
Set within expansive gardens and woodland, the House of Dun is apparently home to a Headless Horseman, who roams the lanes late at night, “seeking retribution on unwary travellers”.
Within the baroque walls, there have also been reports of a crying baby, an invisible harpist, a floating dress, and spooky voices around the property.
Take a guided tour to experience 250 years of horrible history.
Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran
With beautifully manicured gardens, woodland walks and even a waterfall, the grand baronial castle has something for everyone.
While walking from room to room, where you’ll see collections of valuable artefacts, keep an eye out for another Grey Lady, a local woman who is believed to have had an affair with the Captain of the Guard before becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
Disowned by her family, the young woman drowned herself at the Wine Port Quay by the entrance to Brodick Castle, and now haunts the estate.
The fortified tower is the largest surviving keep in Scotland, and once home of John Erskine the 6th Earl of Mar, leader of the 1715 Jacobite Rising – and unlucky victim of the Abbot’s Curse.
Angry with Erskine for using stones from the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey to build a new mansion, the Abbot set eight curses on the family, which are said to explain their many misfortunes.
Climb to the top of the tower to enjoy views stretching across nine counties.
Crathes Castle, Banchory
Built with an intricate maze of turrets, towers, oak panelling and painted ceilings, the 16th-Century castle has to be seen to be believed.
Take a guided tour of the tower house, stopping to admire the Green Lady’s room, where the spirit of a young woman has been seen standing by the fireplace wearing a green dress and cradling an infant.
When the castle was renovated in the 1800s, the bones of a child were discovered under the hearthstone of the fireplace, and Queen Victoria is said to be one of the visitors to see ghostly apparitions.
Kellie Castle, Fife
Saved from ruin in the late 19th Century by a family of architects and artists, Kellie Caste is surrounded by tales of hauntings and ghosts.
The oldest tower is thought to be haunted by the spirit of Anne Erskine, who died when she fell from an upstairs window.
Although her ghost is rarely seen, footsteps are heard on the castle’s spiral staircase.
Previous owners once tried to have the rooms exorcised… without success.
Properties are open to visitors under the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Entry is free to NTS members. For more info, visit nts.org.uk
Celebrating the changing of the seasons, the Samhuinn Fire Festival takes place on top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, on October 31. The event offers a modern interpretation of original Celtic festivals with a vivid display of fire, drumming, and acrobatics. For tickets, visit beltane.org