Scottish Field - - AREA FOCUS -

Morag Boot­land ex­plores the dark and eerie his­tory be­hind one of East Loth­ian’s haunted his­tor­i­cal gems to un­cover tales of de­monic be­ings and a fam­ily curse, soon real­is­ing it’s not a place for the faint­hearted

Scot­land’s rich and often bloody his­tory has en­sured that our cul­ture is en­riched by more than its fair share of ghost sto­ries. Gen­er­a­tions of our bairns have cow­ered from tales of ghosts, ghouls and the seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of mon­sters that call Scot­land home. With Hal­loween fast ap­proach­ing a re­cent camp­ing trip to the wild woods of East Loth­ian was prob­a­bly not the best time to dis­cover the truly ter­ri­fy­ing tale of the Goblin Ha’. Seek­ing sus­te­nance in the pub of the same name is much more up my street, but my cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of me and I needed to know more about the hall of the goblins. The ru­ins of Yester Cas­tle lie in Thicket Wood near the pretty East Loth­ian vil­lage of Gif­ford, and can be reached on foot by those brave or de­ter­mined enough to find them. Con­sid­er­ing that the cas­tle dates back to some­time be­fore 1267, there is still a fair bit of stonework in­tact, mak­ing it easy to lo­cate. But it is what lies be­neath the tum­bled-down walls that we are con­cerned with, be­cause this is the lo­ca­tion of the goblin hall. The un­der­ground cham­ber with its im­pres­sive vaulted ceil­ing is re­mark­ably well pre­served and can be ac­cessed via a stone stair­case on the north side of the cas­tle. The founder of Yester Cas­tle was lo­cal baron Sir Hugo de Gif­fard, who had been charged with guard­ing Alexan­der III, the in­fant king of Scot­land. But Gif­fard’s in­ter­est in sci­ence and ex­per­i­ments earned him a dark rep­u­ta­tion. Ru­mours of necro­mancy, wiz­ardry and the dark arts spread far and wide. These ru­mours be­came a mat­ter of record when 14th cen­tury chron­i­cler John de For­dun wrote of the sub­ter­ranean cave and its de­monic in­hab­i­tants. Leg­end has it that Sir Hugo made a pact with the devil in or­der to gather an army of hob­gob­lins to help him build the cas­tle and its vaulted cham­ber in which he prac­tised sor­cery. An ex­am­ple of this sor­cery is said to live on in one of the old­est houses in Scot­land. Col­stoun House sits on an es­tate just out­side the town of Hadding­ton and has al­ways be­longed to the Brouns of Col­stoun. Hugo de Gif­fard’s daugh­ter, Mar­ion, mar­ried the laird of Col­stoun and Sir Hugo gifted the cou­ple an en­chanted pear that would bring them luck as long as it re­mained safe and in­tact. If any harm be­fell the mys­ti­cal fruit then de Gif­fard claimed it would spell dis­as­ter for the Broun fam­ily. Un­der­stand­ably, the pear was placed un­der lock and key in a sil­ver box where it re­mained and the fam­ily pros­pered. Fast for­ward 400 years and an­other mar­riage blessed the Broun fam­ily. The year was 1692 and on her wed­ding night, Sir Ge­orge Broun’s fi­ancé, Lady El­iz­a­beth Macken­zie, de­cided to open the cask and, see­ing the pear look­ing as fresh as the day it was picked, she took a bite. Dis­as­ter quickly be­fell the Brouns and Ge­orge was forced to sell Coul­ston Es­tate to his brother Robert in or­der to pay off huge gam­bling debts, but it didn’t end there. Soon af­ter, Robert and his two sons were killed in a flash flood when the River Tyne burst its banks. Sir Ge­orge died in 1718 with­out a male heir. It is said that the pear turned as hard as rock as soon as it was bit­ten but that it is still in res­i­dence at Col­stoun House, where thank­fully it re­mains safely un­der lock and key.

“Ru­mours of necro­mancy, wiz­ardry and the dark arts spread far and wide

Left: The Goblin Ha’ Ho­tel in Gif­ford. Right (clock­wise from top left): The ru­ins of Yester Cas­tle; dare to de­scend; the vaulted in­te­rior of the Goblin Ha’; path to Yester Cas­tle; life in the woods around Yester Cas­tle; more ru­ins in the woods around Yester Cas­tle; her­ald moths make their home in the Goblin Ha.

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