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The Piper of Duntrune Castle

The Highlands are known for their chilling tales of ghostly apparitions and haunted castles. One of the more enduring legends is connected to Duntrune Castle in Argyll, the home of the Malcolm Clan.

The castle was built in the 12th Century, and is one of the' oldest continually occupied castles in the Highlands.

Robin Malcolm, the current chief of the Malcolm Clan, firmly believes the castle is haunted by the ghost of a piper whose life came to a violent end more than 400 years ago.

In the 17th century a civil war broke out in England that extended north into Scotland. Charles the 1st had a disagreement with parliament, over his attempts to impose higher taxes, and an Anglican form of worship. At first the Scots had tried to stay out of this war, but it became sharply divided along religious lines, and Scotland was drawn into the fray.

The King's Scottish army was supported by several clans and their leader was regarded as a military genius, James Graham, the Marques of Montrose and The Covenant army was led by the powerful Archibald Campbell, the Marques of Argyll.

This led to an armed conflict in the Highlands between the MacDonalds and the Clan Campbell. The MacDonalds were led by Sir Alistar MacDonald, also known as the dreaded Colkitto.

At 6 feet 6 inches tall it was known he could easily cleave a man in two with one stroke of a claymore. Colkitto was a master of hit and run guerrilla tactics, and defeated the Covenant armies in seven battles. In the process Colkitto had helped the Clan MacIntyre of Glen Coe, and as a reward for this assistance, the Clan Chief gave Colkitto his favorite piper to accompany him on his battle campaign.

Colkitto continued his march through Argyll eventually arriving at Duntrune Castle. In a daring night raid, his men surprised and defeated the Campbell defenders. The piper and a small band of Colkittos men were left to garrison the castle while he boarded the his galley and sailed away to meet with other Royalists. Before Colkitto could return, the Campbell's mounted a counter attack and the castle fell to the Campbell's.

In an act of vengeance the Campbell's killed all of Colkittos men except the piper, who was ordered to play to the amusement and torture of his captors.

The Campbell's impatiently waited for Colkitto to return to Duntrune. Finally one day his galley came into view in the Sound of Jura, and the clever piper asked permission to play a tune on the pipes that he had created for the occasion - so they allowed him to play on.

The piper took his place high on the castle ramparts and began playing "'Piobaireachd-dhum-Naomhaid", or as it is known, "The Piper's Warning to His Master''. Colkitto listened closely, and noticed mistakes that were unusual for such an accomplished piper. Waving a grateful salute to the brave piper, he ordered his men to about turn and they escaped to the open sea.

The piper was taken before the commander of the castle, Lady Dunstaffnage, who was known as "'the black bitch", and confronted with the treachery.

She gave orders that the piper's hands be cut off so that "'He will never again give a similar warning'.

The exhausted and defeated piper extended his hands, and these nimble hands that played so well were severed from his arms with a single blow from a chopping axe. Unable to stop the flow of blood, the piper soon died. (was this not an episode of Game of Thrones too??!)

Over the years many inhabitants of the castle have claimed to witness strange phenomena. Some have even heard the music of the piper of Duntrune.

Skeptics scoffed, believing that this was just another Scottish ghost story.

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