Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

Had I known we’d spend a night at a haunted castle, I might have brought some holy water to sprinkle about, but it was my husband’s idea of a wedding anniversary surprise. Not a bad one, though, as Dragholm’s uneven walls embrace a Michelin-starred restaurant featuring tasty titbits by former Noma chef, Claus Henriksen, and fine wines from the cellar.

First built in 1215, Dragsholm served as a jail between 1536 and 1664, incarcerating any aristocrat who insulted the king. For 10 years, James Hepburn, Scotland’s 4th Earl of Bothwell and third husband of Mary Queen of Scots, was chained here to a pillar ‒ still on display ‒ until his death aged 44 on April 4 1578. Hepburn is just one of 100 ghosts said to haunt Dragsholm, now a boutique hotel in Hørve.

Bicycles for hire in the grounds of Dragsholm Castle. Picture: Caroline Hurry

Some claim to have glimpsed Hepburn’s ghostly funeral carriage conveying his coffin to the nearby Fårevejle church that displayed his mummified remains until recently, but I witnessed no such thing. Neither did I see the famous White Lady wandering the corridors, said to be the ghost of Celestine de Bayonne Guildenstern impregnated by a stable groom.

Part of the moat around Dragsholm Castle. Picture: Caroline Hurry

Her father had promised her to a nobleman and, on discovering her condition, drugged her at a celebratory dinner and had her bricked up inside the castle wall. Her skeleton in a dirty white dress ‒ jaw frozen in a petrified scream ‒ was uncovered during 1910 structural renovations and remains in situ. That I did see, and the horror haunts me still!

View from my window at Dragsholm

In the wee hours, I awoke with a start. Something ‒ or someone ‒ kept switching on the bathroom light. It would shine for a few minutes, then go dark. My husband snored on despite my persistent prodding, so I got up to gaze across the moonlit garden and fields, listening for clanking chains or deathly moans. Nothing! (Ikke noget, in the vernacular.) Spousal groans came the next morning on inspection of the bill for a one-night stay with dinner and a mediocre, gluten-heavy breakfast.

Winner of a Tourism Authority of Thailand Award for International Media Reporting, Caroline Hurry has written for Independent Newspapers, The Citizen, Sunday Times, Business Traveller, Journeys, and Habitat, among others. Married to a Dane, she divides her time between Copenhagen and Johannesburg. A self-described word herder, dog wrangler, and cat slave, she loves visiting new countries and sitting in the lap of luxury