James Leith built the first tower of what was to become known as Leith Hall in 1650. Since then subsequent Lairds have added to it so that now it is one of the finest examples of the ‘chateau’ style castles in Scotland. It also boasts some of the finest gardens in Scotland within the 113 ha estate. The Hall is also one of the few Scottish castles to stay in the same family as it has been passed from father to son.
The family itself had very strong military connections and the hall was a major stronghold in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-1746 with close ties to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
On the eve of the fateful Battle of Cullodon, the Laird, Andrew Hays, was presented with a writing case by the Prince which is still in the museum. The museum also contains the only pardon ever given to a Jacobite by the English after the battle.
In keeping with the Hall’s military background, it was converted into an army hospital during The Great War.
Tragedy struck in 1939 when the last two Lairds were killed within four months of each other. It was left to Henrietta Leith-Hays to look after the property until she gave it to The National Trust of Scotland. It has been converted into a museum and is now also open to the public.
There are reportedly many spirits that roam the rooms and corridors, as well as the grounds. The most famous is that of John Leith who was shot in a tavern brawl in Aberdeen. He was allegedly brought to the hall before he died three days later. A figure has been seen walking the stairwell, its head wrapped in a bloody bandage.
Strange apparitions have also been seen in The Leith Bedroom – people have seen children playing or heard their laughter – and the ghost of Henrietta Leith-Hays has been seen roaming the corridors wringing her hands in a state of great melancholy.
First Broadcast: 28th October 2003