Ghost Hunting in Loch Lomond
Our resident ghost hunter, Colin Sykes, ain’t afraid of no ghost. But a haunted inn on the banks of Loch Lomond puts even his starchy white Y-fronts to the test
Greetings dear reader, and welcome to another grim tale of mystery, madness and trouser-filling terror. This being our Halloween issue, I thought I would go all out and investigate a genuine haunted castle or an authentic creepy mouldering ruin, so I made some phone calls, sent some emails and let off a few carrier pigeons.
Scotland’s ancient castles were, however, less than keen; some excuse about ‘health and safety’. Perhaps they were just worried about what I would uncover. Questions such as: ‘Why would you visit a castle if it wasn’t haunted?’ and ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ remained unanswered and I was forced to broaden my search. Another fruitless afternoon of calls to stately homes, hostels, hotels and museums followed.
It was a relief then when I eventually found a place that actively marketed itself as a haunted hotel: The Drovers Inn. Following an eager phone call, I packed my ghost hunting kit and my girlfriend (whom regular readers will remember is something of an amateur psychic) and set off for Ardlui, north of Loch Lomond.
We arrive at the inn late in the afternoon, and in the sunlight it is clear that the inn is indeed ancient. Over 300 years old, its crumbling visage appears to be held together by legends and cobwebs.
Upon entering the foyer, the haunted house theme is further enhanced by the silent snarls of a giant stuffed bear and wolf that greet you as you enter. The whole place is adorned with the remains of fluffy and feathered things long since dead and weird old pictures and photographs. I approach the reception desk and solemnly announce: ‘Greetings, I am the ghost hunter. I believe I have a room booked.’ I am given the key to room 18. ‘Is it haunted,’ I ask. ‘No. Not that one,’ replies the receptionist, ‘the haunted ones are all booked up. Sorry.’
Confounded by the logic of putting a ghost hunter in a non-haunted room, my girlfriend and I grumpily retire to the bar, whereby I order a pint and begin to interview the bar staff about the alleged spooky goings on. The inn is staffed by a very friendly, kilted crew, whom I politely interrogate in turn. It appears that some of them do indeed believe that the inn is haunted; the ghost of an old man reputedly haunts the bar, a family of ghosts haunt an upstairs room, whilst the cold wet ghost of a drowned girl climbs into bed with guests and the ghost of a hanged man plays poltergeist in the breakfast area.
Hard evidence is thin on the ground, though, with the first hand ‘creepy’ tales involving a light switching on by itself and a CD player playing on its own, allegedly while it was unplugged. They are not exactly the pant-wettingly scary tales I was hoping for. Feeling decidedly un-anxious about a ghost that turns lights on when no one’s looking, my girlfriend and I step outside for an evening stroll.
Outside we get chatting to a couple from London. Apparently unaware of the journalistic need for subtlety, my girlfriend immediately blurts out: ‘We’re hunting ghosts!’, to which the reply is ‘Oh, our room is haunted. We just swapped for another room.’
My ears prick up. I immediately dash to the front desk, but the haunted room, room six, has already been taken. I return outside. ‘What happened in the room to make you think it was haunted?’ I ask the couple. ‘Well, we left the room and when we came back, the bathroom light was on!’ I sigh and go and get another pint and some dinner.
Back in the crowded bar I am tucking into a rather expensive (but quite delicious) plate of liver and bacon and saying (very) loudly to my girlfriend ‘It’s a shame we couldn’t get that HAUNTED room, ROOM SIX’. Immediately another couple next to us ask ‘What did you say? Room six? I knew it! I knew it! See I told you! Didn’t I tell you?’ The couple explain that they got the room at the last minute, and the female half of the couple is not happy: ‘It’s a horrible room; you can feel it when you go in.’
‘Well,’ I suggest, ‘If you feel uncomfortable staying there, we could always … swap?’ And thus our tiny un-haunted twin room is suddenly upgraded to a large, haunted double en-suite room, complete with four poster bed. As the girls go to move our bags, the male half of the couple leans over and says, ‘I’ve got to be honest, don’t tell her, but I was cacking my pants at having to stay there tonight too.’
After a couple more drinks and some surprisingly good live entertainment at the bar, my girlfriend and I retire for the evening to our haunted room (a sign on the outside imaginatively proclaims ‘The Haunted Room’). We sit on the floor and light a candle stolen from the bar and hold hands, beginning our séance.
Room six is purportedly haunted by the ghost of a little girl named Rebecca who drowned in a nearby stream and whose body was brought to the room as she died. Some guests have reported feeling a tiny, cold and wet body slide into bed with them as they sleep. We begin the séance by asking Rebecca to join us and to try and communicate with us, we ask her to move the candle flame. It flickers. We ask her to move the flame again. It flickers again. Then my girlfriend, in full clairvoyant mode, says ominously, ‘It’s not Rebecca.’
‘Who is it?’, I urgently whisper. She tells me that it is three old women. ‘They’re not letting any other spirits through,’ she says. ‘They’re here to protect me from you. They’re suspicious and don’t trust you,’ she tells me. Eh? What did I do?
I explain to the three ghostly ladies that my intentions to my girlfriend are totally honourable, that I’m a gentleman and they have no need to mistrust me. The candle flickers again once and then everything goes quiet. We wait another half hour, but nothing else happens. We retire to bed with our three spectral chaperones presumably having departed and have a comfortable and uneventful night. I wake in the morning still slightly spooked, and vaguely concerned that whenever I try it on with my girlfriend there will be three ghostly ladies looking on disapprovingly from the ether.
So, if you travel to the Drovers Inn looking for ghosts, I have two pieces of advice: firstly, make sure the room you book is actually haunted and secondly: make sure your girlfriend isn’t! Until next time dear reader…
Drovers Inn, Ardlui, North Loch Lomond. If you would like to book a stay at Drovers Inn call 01301 704 234 or visit www.droversinn.co.uk
Top Halloween Events
Hosted by master storyteller, and ‘Mistress of Samhain’, Linda Williamson, this is set to be a wild night of festivity. Expect spooky oral tales and lots of dancing and singing. There will even be an extra special ‘ghost of honour’.
Sat 31 Oct, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, see www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk, £10 (£8 concession).
Spooks and Sacrifice Festival
Come and celebrate the ancient Celtic traditions of Halloween at the Crannog Centre, with bonfires, fire shows and torchlit processions. It’s the Halloween party you dreamed of as a child – with apple dooking, lantern carving and face-painting (for the big kids too, obviously).
Sat 31 Oct, Scottish Crannog Centre, Kenmore, Loch Tay, Perthshire, www.crannog.co.uk, £6.50.
Club Noir Halloween Burlesque
Club Noir takes over all three floors of the O2 Academy for a night of mayhem. Voodoo, striptease, fetish acts, magic shows and plenty live dancing and singing. Dress up in your finery, this ain’t the kind of club night for tacky witch costumes.
Sat 31 Oct, O2 Academy, 121 Eglinton Street, Glasgow, www.clubnoir.co.uk, £14.50.
This is only for the really brave amongst you: an overnight ghost hunt in Edinburgh’s underground vaults. The vaults recently featured in television show Most Haunted and they claim it’s the scariest place they’ve ever filmed. The vigil will be from 1–6am, the dead hours of night. Eeek.
Fri 30 & Sat 31 Oct, Edinburgh’s underground vaults, www.auldreekietours.com, £60.