We’re often invited to review hotels and resorts during the course of our colourful and adventure-packed travels and are invariably bowled over by the venues’ passion and commitment to customer service.
On Halloween, we wanted to share an insight into our unforgettable experience at the haunted Tulloch Castle which Bespoke Hotels Group commissioned us to review for the Yorkshire Times and the Lancashire Times.
Ghostly Visitations 😱
Arguably the castle with the most colourful history in Scotland, the goings-on and comings-off at Tulloch Castle over the centuries reveal riveting revelations for the modern-day visitor.
And that’s before you start to unravel the ghostly visitations which have attracted the attention of scientists, psychologists and a 16-strong group of American clairvoyants who unanimously agreed the castle was officially haunted.
Warm Welcome 😡
An evocative smell of wood-burning logs preceded our warm welcome in the reception area which was formerly used as a room for the lairds and guests to de-robe after arriving in their coaches.
A jewel in the Bespoke Hotels group, the castle which overlooks the Cromarty Firth and Black Isle has undergone many extensions over the years - all highly sympathetic to its rich Scottish heritage. Meticulous care and attention to detail has gone into retaining many period features including original fireplaces and ceilings.
Sinking into the comfortable chairs in front of the fire before exploring the castle sets the tone for an enjoyable and relaxing stay for humans and canines - the latter who savoured the embers as much as their owners. Dogs are understandably not allowed in the restaurant or bar areas.
Covide-19 social distancing protocols are meticulously adhered to throughout the hotel and we felt safe from the outset.
Rich Royal Heritage
Believed to have been built around 1166, the castle is located in the town of Dingwall which has a glorious history - becoming a burgh in 1226 when it was granted a Royal charter.
The father of legendary Scottish King Macbeth resided in Tulloch Castle which is rumoured to be the birthplace of Macbeth. Tales of Clan feuds and incursions over the castle and surrounding land abound - a far cry from the serenity that pervades today.
Home to prominent families over the centuries, in 1940 Tulloch Castle was used as a hospital after the evacuation of Dunkirk. From 1957-1958 it became a hostel for the education of young girls who lived too far away to travel daily to the nearest school. Known as ‘the hostel girls’, many of who have since returned to recount their experiences to castle staff.
Famous Ghosts: The Green Lady of Tulloch 🙌
Guests at Tulloch Castle are treated to a ‘ghost tour’ conducted by David who enthusiastically recounts the spine-tingling aspects - of which there are many.
The tour includes a visit to the 250-year-old panelled Great Hall where a painting prominently displays one of the wives of Duncan Davidson, the 4th laird of Tulloch who become MP of Cromarty in 1826.
In his capacity as Lord Lieutenant of Ross, he was Queen Victoria’s representative in the area and relished dressing in full Highland attire. Also nicknamed the “The Stag”, the laird had five wives who jointly gave birth to eighteen children and he is reported to have had over thirty illegitimate children.
Tragic Death 😨
Due to his indiscretions, the laird’s wife is said to have deliberately blacked him out of the painting where she features with her daughter Elizabeth on her left and two of her sons, who David explained was dressed in girls’ clothes due to the prevalence of young boys being kidnapped and exploited for child labour.
David also shared how Elizabeth’s eyes had the uncanny knack of appearing to be following you around the Great Hall. I put this theory to the test and felt goosebumps from her haunted look.
Elizabeth met an untimely and tragic death when, finding her father with a serving girl, she fell headlong down the stone stairs, breaking every bone in her body and is since known as The Green Lady of Tulloch. We also learnt that name is given to a traditional ghost found in many Scottish homes and castles.
The Green Lady has reportedly appeared to guests on many occasions. A former night manager is also said to have revealed he felt a presence behind him while on duty.
Dungeon’s Grisly Tales 😱
Our tour also included the former dungeon - now a private dining room with a round table underneath which was a 30ft pit - now covered up - where a man and a boy who had committed crimes are said to have been incarcerated and left to die.
We were also shown the former jail - now a storage facility - where the ceilings were 4ft high and where up to 100 people were packed in like proverbial sardines.
Not wishing to Iinger any longer, we thanked David for his fascinating insights and escaped to the comfort of our room with its four-poster bed, lovely tartan carpet and beautiful stone fireplace.
We enjoyed a drink at the comfortable Green Lady Bar before dining in the appropriately named Turrets Restaurant - both of which ensured guests were more than adequately social distanced - and which didn’t disappoint.
Offering three courses for £30, the menu provides great value and choice, drawing on traditional Scottish cuisine. We both savoured the dill blinis with Scottish smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for starters.
Main courses span beef, seabass, pheasant, venison and a vegetarian option and I opted for the tasty seabass while Steve our photographer enjoyed the duo of beef which was superbly cooked.
For dessert we shared a scrumptious brandy snap basket with strawberries, chocolate shards and Glen Wyvis gin jelly from Scotland’s first ever community-owned distillery in Dingwall. It opened in 2016 - 90 years after the town’s last distillery closed in 1926.
The comprehensive Green Lady Bar Menu includes haggis bonbons, haggis stuffed chicken and Scottish salmon fillet.
The wide choice of breakfast fayre spans a continental selection with main courses including a full breakfast with award-winning black pudding sourced locally, a vegetarian option and eggs Benedict which were cooked to perfection.
The castle’s committed team, led by general manager Arlene, exude a genuine enthusiasm to make their guest’s stay as memorable as possible. All hail from Dingwall and the longest-serving staff member has worked here for two decades
A wealth of sightseeing and outdoor activities can be enjoyed which include walking, golfing and dolphin spotting. We also saw magnificent Red Kites in Dingwall.
The more adventurous walkers can tackle Ben Wyvis and nearby golf courses include Fortrose Golf Club which we loved with its stunning views of the North Sea on both sides.
Also at Fortrose is Chanonry Point, a perfect spot to see the bottlenose dolphins - which we did at a distance. We also ventured on a dolphin-spotting trip from Inverness Marina.
Getting Away From It All
Visitors to Tulloch Castle include American tourists who come in search of their heritage. The castle is an all year round venue for accommodation, weddings and conferences and just 20 miles from Inverness Airport.
A perfect haven for visitors looking for rest and relaxation in these extraordinary times, the castle is also a draw for those seeking adrenalin-fuelled ghostly encounters. Guests book rooms 8 and 15 where previous unexplained occurrences include fluctuating room temperatures, lights fusing, chairs moving - and a TV set coming on by itself at 4am on two consecutive days.
Whatever the reason for your visit, Tulloch Castle will bewitch and enchant you.
Tulloch Castle http://www.bespokehotels.com/tullochcastlehotel
Tel: 01349 861 325
Fax: 01349 863 99
Tulloch Castle Drive