top of page

The Spooktacular Ghosts of Inveraray

According to folklore, the veil between the spirit and physical worlds is most thin during Samhain, the Gaelic predecessor to Halloween, allowing spirits to pass through more easily. The rest of the world celebrates all things spooky during October, but Inveraray in Argyll, Scotland, is well known all year round for its thrilling ghost scene.

Inveraray Castle
Inveraray Castle

The infamous Inveraray Jail has been featured on the television programme Most Haunted and is a favourite spot for phantom hunters, including renowned paranormal investigator Ryan O’Neill of Haunted Scotland.

‘Inveraray Jail has a long history of paranormal activity, including dark shadow figures seen in various prison cells- also moving around the corridors and yard- in addition to feelings of dread when approaching cell ten,’ Ryan said. ‘The apparition of a prison guard- not particularly nice, either- is said to be active in the new prison block. Footsteps, smells, knocks and bangs when no one is there can often manifest too.’

A snapshot taken by a visitor to Inveraray Jail has fuelled debate over whether the almost 200-year-old court house and prison actually is haunted.

The jail, which is recognised as one of the spookiest places in Scotland, is a popular destination for paranormal investigators, including the team from tv’s Most Haunted who recently spent a night at the jail.

Over the years many visitors to the former prison by the side of Loch Fyne in Argyll have complained of uneasy feelings, strange noises and, in some cases, taken photographs which later show unexplained images.

As the County Court anyone from the surrounding area sentenced to prison or transportation would have spent time in the jail where children as young as seven could be detained for minor crimes and subjected to whippings or pointless manual labour.

Inveraray Jail
Inveraray Jail

“The place in the prison that most people react to is cell 10. It doesn’t tend to be something people see so much as a feeling they get there. During the height of the X Files days we used to call it Cell X for obvious reasons,” said Gavin Dick, manager of Inveraray Jail.

“In the kitchen, which is in many ways the most unremarkable room we have had people sense that there’s someone cowering behind the door. There are various areas that cause reactions, and not just on ghost hunts.”

One woman, who visited the jail with her husband and young daughter, complained of having sensed an ‘unsettling presence’ in the prison and was surprised to discover a blurred image in one of her photographs which she didn’t notice when the picture was taken.

”We found the jail very interesting but for myself very scary,” she wrote to prison staff after the event. ”I felt really ill in the old jail. As soon as I walked in my chest tightened and I felt very sick and dizzy. I felt as if someone was with us all the way round and was watching us. I couldn’t wait to get out. When we got back to our guest house we looked at our photos and to our amazement there is a misty figure standing between the airing cells [in the court yard]. ”We cannot explain things but we felt very strange. There is definitely something there. If we were uneasy in the daytime what must it be like at night in the pitch black?”

”We cannot explain things but we felt very strange. There is definitely something there."

A recent event at Inveraray Jail, organised by paranormal research team Ghost Finders Scotland, uncovered what they believe to be good examples of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP).

EVP, made famous in the film White Noise starring Michael Keaton, are electronic recordings that reveal sounds resembling words which many paranormal investigators interpret as the voices of ghosts.

George Allison, 61, a works manager from Glasgow, who took part in a recent ghost hunt at Inveraray jail is convinced he caught a voice on tape.

“People were talking about a ghost which had been running about in the corridor poking people in the back. When I asked if there was anyone there, and if they had hit someone, we could clearly hear a voice say ‘yes, I have’ when the tape was played back.”

‘From ghoulies and ghosties, and long leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us!’ – traditional Scottish prayer

A number of spectres are associated with Inveraray Castle. Haunting music has been said to float throughout the castle, the source of which, according to legend, is the spirit of a young Irish boy, once harpist to the Duke in the 17th century. It is said the boy plays whenever a member of the family is about to die in the castle.

A ghostly boy harpist is said to haunt the castle
A ghostly boy harpist is said to haunt the castle

Another legend surrounding portents of death is of a ghostly galleon that appears when a chieftain of Clan Campbell dies. A young woman known as The Grey Lady is one of the castle’s most famous apparitions. Another is believed to be the spirit of a gruff kitchen maid.

There have been reports of phantom armies in the streets and skies of Inveraray. One incident occurred in the mid 1700’s when a father and son were travelling through the burgh. According to an account written later, the two were ‘very much surprised to behold a great number of men under arms, marching on foot towards them.’ They took cover behind a dyke, lest the soldiers ‘force them to go along with them, or use them otherwise ill.’ However, when they turned back around ‘Not a soul of them was to be seen.’

On July 10, 1758, three men were walking the castle grounds when they looked up to see what they claimed to be ‘a battle taking place in the sky, between Highland and French soldiers.’ Two ladies who were in another part of Inveraray maintained that they saw the same apparition. A few weeks later, the terrible news arrived from America- on July 10 the Highland Black Watch had lost 300 soldiers during the British defeat at the Battle of Carillon near New York.

According to Ryan, Scotland as a whole, and the west coast, in particular, is a hotbed of paranormal activity. ‘The reason, I would hypothesise, is due to the historical nature of the land, and what has transpired upon it,’ he shared. ‘Wherever significant events have taken place, such as clan wars, battles or deeds of deep emotion, we will find reported activity in many forms. Inveraray is no stranger to such, whether it be the deep emotion within the jail, or historical significance at the castle.’


Halloween is the perfect time to book an Oban Graveyard Tour with Michelle! Or, choose an Oban walking tour. If you are looking for things to do in Oban, a walking tour or haunted tour is a great idea, so get in touch today!


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page