Located north-west of Aberdeen, Scotland is the five-towered castle of Fyvie. Each of its five towers are named for the powerful families who owned this beautiful example of baronial architecture. Built on in sections over the years, one might think Fyvie would appear slapped together and architecturally awkward, but this three-story castle somehow makes it all look like it should be exactly the way it is.
Already in the records in 1296, Fyvie was at one time held by Robert the Bruce as a hunting lodge and later passed into the hands of the Gordon family (the family of the famous Lord Byron). It has had its share of royal visitors and men of far lesser means, and it has a history that runs in parallel with some of the bloodiest and most tumultuous times in Scottish history, so it is no surprise that it also has its share of ghosts.
Perhaps the most famous ghost in Fyvie is the ghost of Dame Lilias (or Lilies) Drummond. In 1592 Lilias Drummond married Alexander Seton, Lord Fyvie. For nine years it seemed they were relatively content and Lilias bore Alexander five daughters. Yes, perhaps you can already imagine the trouble—five girls, five dowries and no heir. The rumor goes that Alexander began an affair with Lady Grizel Leslie shortly before Lilias’s sudden (and yet unexplained) death. Some claim Lilias died of a broken heart—some suspect foul play. We do know that six months after Lilias’ death, Alexander married Lady Leslie. Retiring to their bedchamber, they were startled by strange noises outside—like the sighs of a disillusioned woman. Though no intruder was seen, with the dawn they noticed a bizarre new addition to one windowsill high in the wall—carved upside down were letters spelling D. LILIAS DRUMMOND. The carving remains as part of the mystery of Fyvie Castle as does Lilias’ ghost. She can supposedly be seen from time to time on the castle’s main staircase and occasionally walks the halls of the home that was once rightfully hers.
A less well known ghost is supposedly that of Andrew Lammie, an 18th century trumpeter who fell in love with the local miller’s daughter, Agnes. But Agnes’ parents didn’t approve of Andrew. When the Lord of Fyvie learned they were meeting in secret he became outraged, wanting the lass as his lover. In a fit of rage he kidnapped Andrew and had him sold and shipped to the West Indies as a slave. Legend claims that Andrew finally managed to escape and return for Agnes several years later, but by then it was too late. Agnes had died shortly after he’d been stolen away, perhaps losing all hope of happiness. Andrew then cursed the Lords of Fyvie, proclaiming that the sound of a trumpet would foretell the death of each Lord as a reminder of the treatment he and his love had suffered. Since Andrew’s death, a trumpet has been heard in the deepest hours of night just before each Lord of Fyvie died. Occasionally people have also reported seeing a man dressed in a fine tartan and standing near the wall—could it be Andrew hoping and still waiting to be reunited with his love?
Fyvie is not only a haunted castle, but also a cursed castle. Thomas the Rhymer, known also as True Thomas, was a well known prophet who had supposedly received his gift of Sight because of time spent “under the hollow hill” with the Fae Queen. Thomas had a habit of traveling the land and requesting hospitality wherever he stopped. In those days hospitality—a meal, entertainment and a place to sleep—was regularly granted to travelers. Those were superstitious times and many believed the gods and devils roamed the Earth freely, checking up on mortals whenever curiosity struck them. Rather than accidentally offend a vengeful god, people tried to grant hospitality whenever possible. So it was simply understood that when Thomas the Rhymer mentioned wanting hospitality he should be given it. But Thomas tended to prophesy tragedy…
Two main versions of the legend surrounding Thomas and Fyvie are popularly known today. The first alludes to the castle’s owners being worried about what Thomas might prophesy in their castle, so they refused him hospitality outright. Not only is this unlikely, it would have been viewed as exceedingly foolhardy. The other version of the tale is that Fyvie kept its doors open for either seven years and a day or seven and a half years waiting for Thomas—then, on a gusty day Thomas approached and the wind slammed the door shut. Either way, the outcome of the stories is the same—Thomas cursed the castle with a rhyme that essentially proclaimed:
Fyvie, Fyvie, thou’ll never thrive
As long as there’s in thee stones three:
There’s one in the oldest tower,
There’s one in the lady’s bower,
There’s one in the water-gate,
And these three stones you’ll never get!
People have interpreted the prophet’s curse as relating to three stones that will weep when the Lord of Fyvie is in danger. One stone seems to have been found and does exude water from time to time—seemingly not in relationship to other rocks throughout the rest of the castle. Others interpret the curse as relating to primogeniture and the castle and a need to return three stones to their original location.
Since the time of Thomas the Rhymer’s curse, Fyvie Castle has had its share of problems. No castle heir has been born on the estate and no father has been able to pass the estate to his firstborn son—the eldest boys never outlast their fathers.
Fyvie Castle has been held by the National Trust of Scotland since 1984 and is open to the public during the summer. Visitors, though not always rewarded with ghostly sightings, do find much to see inside, from the lavish heraldic decorations to original paintings by the likes Raeburn and Romney.