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  • Writer's pictureGreg Stewart

The Haunting of Castle Coeffin

Little remains of Castle Coeffin on the island of Lismore, yet what does remain is striking. Visitors could easily be forgiven for thinking that the vegetation-covered structure was part of an unusual natural rock formation, yet as you get closer, it becomes clear that it is the stone structure of the castle.


The islands had been held by the Vikings until their defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The Treaty of Perth in 1266 secured the islands for the Scots, and King Alexander III of Scotland returned Lismore to the Clan MacDougall. It is believed that the castle was built soon after for the MacDougalls of Lorn, although the exact date is not known. In fact, there is little known about the history of the castle at all. It is believed to have changed hands several times based on the lordship of the island of Lismore changing hands several times. By the time of the earliest written record for the castle in 1469, it was in the possession of the Campbells, with it being one of the items documented as being passed to Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy by his uncle.


With little more written about the castle in the records, it is thought that, although it remained in the ownership of the Campbells until the 18th century, it was not used as a main residence for them and may not have even been used at all, allowing the property to fall into a state of disrepair and decay. It is certain that by the 19th century, the castle was a ruin, so it is possible that it had been quarried for stones to build nearby structures.


The tale of the haunting comes from an older fortress that is said to have stood on the site, from which the current castle took its name. It is told that this had been the stronghold of a Viking Prince named Caifen, and among those who lived there with him was his sister, Beothail. The young princess had fallen in love with a Viking warrior yet was left heartbroken when he was killed in battle in Norway. Grief-stricken, she too soon passed away and was buried close to the castle, yet her restless spirit began to be seen around the castle grounds.

She is said to have appeared to both her father and her brother and begged for her bones to be taken to Norway and buried with the remains of her true love. After several sightings, they did as was asked and had her remains exhumed, washed in the waters of the Holy Well to prepare and bless them for the sea journey ahead, and taken to Norway, where she was buried in the same grave as her lover.


Any hope that this would end the haunting was, however, short-lived, with her spirit continuing to be seen in the castle and again appearing to her brother and father to beg that her remains were taken to Norway. Close examination of her original grave revealed that one small bone had been left, and so it too was washed and transported to Norway, before being laid to rest with the remainder of her body.


After this, it is said the ghost was no longer seen; however, more recent sightings seem to suggest this may not be the case. Visitors have reported catching a fleeting glimpse of a lonely figure walking through the ruins of the castle, and some have reported anomalies appearing in photographs. Perhaps the spirit of Beothail feels compelled to still return to the place where she had both lived happily and experienced extreme grief.





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