Take a walk with us through the history of Blackness Castle, aka Fort William, in this installment of Outlandish Locations.
Scotland essentially serves as its own *character* in the Outlander saga. Accordingly, the television series has showcased many of the country’s finest historical locations prompting thousands of visitors to flock in record numbers to visit. It’s called the “Outlander Effect” by those in the tourist and hospitality industry in Scotland. We like what we see on screen, but what do we really know or understand about the importance of these locations or the role they played in the history of Scotland? We at the Outlander Cast Blog thought we would help out by bringing you a new blog series highlighting the history and the lore of Outlander filming locations around Scotland. We start with Blackness Castle, used as the gloomy and foreboding “Fort William” and also known in modern times for its unexplained paranormal activity. Catch the history bug and get ready for a few ghost stories as we explore this Outlandish Location.
The courtyard of Blackness Castle is a grim one. Mounds of natural rocks protrude unevenly, making navigation awkward as you walk between the North and South Towers of this imposing structure. The exterior of the castle itself juts precariously into the Firth of Forth. It’s not hard to imagine the castle’s checkered past used alternatively over the centuries as both a prison and a military fortress. It therefore is the perfect stand-in for Diana Gabaldon’s famous garrison, where Jamie Fraser and his nemesis, Black Jack Randall, had several epic clashes during the first season of the Outlander television series. Blackness was seen again in Season 2 when Jamie and Claire Fraser’s adult daughter, Brianna, visits the castle with her Scottish suitor, Roger Wakefield (Mackenzie). Roger was right when he stated that a lot of blood had been spilled in that courtyard as for most of its history Blackness Castle served as a ruthless prison for religious rebels known as “Covenanters.”
A true work-horse of a structure, Blackness multi-tasked throughout its history as it served many roles, most of which involved death, destruction and other of life’s less joyous occasions. Not surprising, then, that the Castle has been dubbed one of Scotland’s most haunted castles. The most famous occurrence of paranormal activity stemmed from the account of a visitor in the late 1990s who was startled to see a knight dressed in full armour in the Central Tower. Over the years, accounts have emerged from visitors to the castle who have heard objects moving about on floors above or below with no logical explanation. Most recently Outlander visitors have experienced some unexplained activity. In the summer of 2015, Catriona Stevenson of Sláinte Scotland Tours, brought a young American guest to Blackness. It was just prior to the explosion of Outlander visitors (as a result of the Starz television series) so visitors that afternoon were few. In fact, only Catriona and her guest and another couple were in the castle that day. As Catriona explains it…
“As we were in the central tower, we started hearing noises from the room above us. Thumping or maybe footsteps as if someone was walking around and enjoying a visit. (We were on the 3rd floor). I joked and said that no one could be up there, however, the noises were obvious thumps along with a dragging sound. We went to the next floor and yes, no one was there. No noises at this point so I said whomever was there must have gone up to the roof. As we walked up the stairs to the roof, no one passed us coming down and I saw from the top the other visiting guests were still quite a distance away in the North Tower, so it could not have been them. So, I thought there must have been someone else here and we missed them going down while we were still in the room. On the way down, as soon as we passed the 4th floor room, the noises started again. That is when my guest said…LET’S GET OUTTA HERE!” And we did.”
Catch the History Bug and read more about Scotland’s dramatic past at Historic Scotland.
Have you visited Blackness Castle? If so, did you see or hear any unexplained activity?