A-Z Challenge 2012 - R
Rait Castle’s Girl with No Hands
The ruins of the 13th century Rait Castle, near Nairn in the Highland region of Scotland have been designated a scheduled ancient monument and a Class A listed building but stand largely neglected and over grown. Attempts to preserve it have been hampered by modern day disputes over who owns it. The castle lies on the estates which were home to the Thanes of Cawdor of Shakespearean fame, with lineage traceable back to MacBeth.
The story of Rait Castle is mixed up with a bloody episode in Scotland’s history of clan warfare, such that large parts of it remain intact as locals were reluctant to plunder its stones for reuse after it had been abandoned in 1442. It the 1200s the land in the area had been held by the de Raits and Clan Chatton (led by Clan Mackintosh) before the castle was won by Comyns (Cummings).
Rivalry between the Cummings and the Mackintoshes came to a head at a grand banquet at the castle. Ostensibly the banquet was intended to heal the rifts between the families, but the Cummings planned to slay their guests.
However the daughter of the Cumming chieftain had a young Mackintosh as a lover to whom she disclosed the plot. A large boulder near the castle was their meeting place and it was there at “Stone of the Maiden” that she revealed the Cummings intentions.
The Mackintoshes attended the feast, each man with a dirk hidden in his plaid. The signal for the slaughter was the entrance of a bull’s head and a toast to “Memory of the Dead.” Before the Cummings could draw their swords the forewarned Mackintoshes struck with their dirks. Only the chief escaped.
The enraged chief cornered his daughter in a turret where she sought to escape by leaping out of a window. Before she could do so, the chief sliced off both her hands with a broadsword.
The castle has been empty since that night of horror. Empty that is except for the girl in a blood-red dress who has no hands and who still haunts the ruins.
Hilary Melton-Butcher's Q castle yesterday was Queens Castle, Windsor.