Kilmarnok Castle
Kilmarnok, Ayshire Scotland

Like all castles in the British Isles, Dean Castle has its own ghosts. The land was given to the Boyd family by Robert The Bruce as a token of gratitude for the allegiance and support they gave at the Battle of Bannockburn and the great wars of independence. In 1350 work began on the keep, a solid defensive building and in the 1460's the palace was built, given its royal title due to it being the venue of Princess Mary's wedding to Thomas
Boyd. The Boyd family were associated with the Dean Castle Estates for about four hundred years, up until William Boyd the Fourth Earl of Kilmarnock. 

The castle has its own 'obligatory ghost story' concerning the Fourth Earl.  A few years prior to the 45' uprising William Boyd sat one evening alone in his study when he was 'treated' to the grisly sight of a head rolling along the floor which had appeared out of nowhere. The realization that it was his own head chilled him to the bone.  True to the tradition of the Boyds the Earl was present at the battle of Culloden, as a Jacobite fighting for Scotland. After the confusion of the battle  he became lost while looking for his own regiment, he was captured when he mistook the Royal Horse for those of his own.
Surrounding him they yelled for his sword. He was a proud man, tears rolled down his face; a tall Fusilier Officer rode up and offered him a hat to hide his tears. The officer was his own son. Lord Boyd had been helped to his execution by his own kith and kin.
The Earl was a calm man at his execution, he asked for men to catch his head in a large cloth, because he said he could face death but not the thought of his own head rolling in the dirt covered in blood......Since, the Earls head has said to have been seen on many occasions around the floor of the castle by some horrified witness. 

The castle then fell into various hands through the centuries, the last private owner being Howard De Walden who in 1975 gave  the castle and its contents as a gift to the people of Kilmarnock. In 1976 the then Kilmarnock District Council opened the building and its grounds as a museum.   From Dean Castle leading to Craudfurdland Castle there is said to have once been a tunnel linking the two. This was supposedly why the defenders of Dean Castle were able to break a siege by the English in 1296. There is no evidence to
suggest that the tunnel ever existed, but the reason for it remaining so long as a local truth is a mystery. Today, the castle still has its extensive grounds with a nature reserve, walled gardens, (where it is said that witches once met on a moonlit night) nature trails and many other activities laid on by the rangers. It will make a pleasant day out should
you ever find yourself in Kilmarnock. Once again but in these pages I would like to thank Margaret, (pseudonym) for her most lively, enthusiastic and interesting  tour of the castle Margaret had worked as a tour guide for over two years and around the castle she has often seen the figure of an old woman, especially on or near the walkway, she describes
her, "As an evil old biddy" dressed in a long black skirt reaching down to her ankles, a rough gray top, her head always covered in a shabby plaid shawl which reached down to
her shoulders where she wraps it tightly around her. Tatty brown boots on her feet which look a few sizes too big. While taking a guided tour one day Margaret was approached by a female tourist and asked who the old woman was outside on the walkway. The description she gave perfectly matched that of the woman Margaret herself has seen, only this time neither  she or any other of the group had been aware of her presence. The last actual sighting of the woman that I am aware of took  place in February 1995, also seen by a tourist but this time in the kitchen area. 

August 1992 saw a jazz festival held in the courtyard. Margaret along with other members of staff attended, but as a social  event and they were not on duty. The whole courtyard was lit making the castle look quite impressive as it cast its eerie  shadow over the proceedings. During the evening Margaret again saw the old woman watching the festival from the walkway.  She beckoned Margaret to follow and against her better judgment she foolishly did so. Margaret walked up the stairs and found a door to a colleagues room open. Stood next to the desk was the old biddy' smiling at her, she cannot remember much about the evening after that. Margaret was told that she returned to the festival looking deathly white and ill, she had to  be helped into a car and taken to the near-by conservation offices. There she spent most of the time in the bathroom vomiting violently. It came out of her mouth with such speed that it reached the ceiling, everywhere was awash with vomit. Her friends told her that she had been whimpering like some kind of wild animal and all the time shouting, "Get out of me," Get away from me,
" "Leave me alone." Heather who stayed with her the whole time said that at one point the sickness just seemed to ooze out of every pore of Margaret's body, "The bathroom being awash."  They eventually managed to get Margaret home a little later on, Heather
stayed with her all night to keep an eye. In the morning the doctor had to be called as Margaret began to "hyperventilate." The doctor could not explain the bluish black
marks all over her body, "Like water marks on silk," nor could he explain or
figure out what exactly was ailing Margaret. On another occasion just after the completion of another guided tour Margaret headed for the staff kitchen in the palace for
 a well earned cup of coffee and a short rest. After her break she headed towards the door to leave, when she heard voices on the other side deep in conversation. Thinking it may be the janitors who she had seen in the courtyard previously, Margaret slowly opened the door in order to surprise them. Instead it was she herself who got the surprise as there was not  a soul in sight and the voices had ceased the moment she had placed her hand on the door handle. Puzzled she thought nothing more of it until she had occasion to return to the palace later in the day. After putting the key into the lock Margaret found it would not move, struggling for a considerable amount of time the key then all of a sudden turned with ease.  But to her consternation she found that it would only open several inches before stopping against some immovable object, in fact it felt as though the door was being pushed towards her. Again she blamed the janitors and called out, "All right very funny, jokes over." At that instant the door swung open and Margaret
stumbled onto the palace floor. The room was empty and there was nothing behind the door that could have caused an obstruction. There was also no other exit in the room which some person could have left by, namely one of the janitors, as she first thought.
It was then that Margaret felt a cold chill run down her spine and left as quickly as possible.  Tour guide Michael has also experienced some odd moments whilst working in
the castle, often he has heard music drifting down  from the minstrels gallery while alone. He has also experienced the same difficulty with the palace door as Margaret. One
day while taking a tour Michael stopped by a portrait of William Boyd in the study. As he gave a, "Flowery" description of the obligatory ghost story, the portrait suddenly jumped off its mountings and landed face up on the other side of the room  at the feet of two sightseers. Everyone stood in shocked silence, the amazing coincidence being that the two who's feet the  picture had landed at held the surnames of Markinck and Titchfield, the same as the two faithful friends of William Boyds who traveled down to London with him and gave their support at his execution. It was at this point in the narrative that
the painting had decided to leap off the wall.  The castle has a dungeon but the prisoners who died there were sure to have been breakers of the law rather then prisoners of war. The dungeon is bottle necked, built purposefully so that there was no escape. Being fourteen feet from top to bottom  the prisoners were literally thrown in, many suffering from broken bones in the fall. There are no windows down there so it was extremely dark and stuffy. When full, as it often was, the prisoners were barely able to move and were left to die in their own bodily wastes. Dug into the dungeons floor was an Oubliette, a
French word meaning to forget or cast aside. It  was a small compartment roughly the size of an average human being, which afforded no room to stretch. No one survived for
long after the lid was placed into position. The prisoners were neither fed nor watered; what a horrible lingering death it must have been. The last person said to have died in the oubliette was an old woman who allegedly aided the Coventers.  A woman visiting the castle and standing above the dungeon looking down into the murky blackness below was suddenly seized with a great feeling of terror. Her chest tightened and she felt as though
she was going to suffocate right there and then.   The lady is convinced that she took on the condition of some one who had died in the hole.  There are also tales of a big black cat haunting the area.


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