It’s an 18th century Gothic castle surrounded by luscious woodlands and haunted by the distraught spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots.
And now the atmospheric Melville Castle in Dalkeith is set to be the focus of its very own Hollywood horror film – with filming expected to begin as early as next winter.
The currently untitled “Scottish Horror Story” will be shot on location and is the brainchild of Edinburgh-born actress Louise Linton, whose family owns the historic mansion and oversaw its transformation from crumbling ruin to luxury hotel and wedding venue.
And Louise won’t have to look far for inspiration when it comes to chilling tales of the undead.
During the renovation of Melville Castle in the early 1990s – when her family first bought it over – a shrouded and featureless apparition was seen by builders near the fireplace of the library bar, in the exact spot a blocked-up doorway was later discovered hidden under layers of old plaster.
And the same restless spirit has since been spotted by terrified guests hovering at the foot of the bed in a first-floor bedroom and even glimpsed as a shadowy figure in the mirror.
The ghost is believed to be that of Mary, Queen of Scots, who visited the original tower house often in the 16th century with her Italian secretary and close companion Seigneur David Rizzio – who was later brutally murdered by Mary’s jealous husband Lord Darnley.
Louise’s brother, David Hay, who looks after the running of the castle on a day-to-day basis, said the “grand old building” would make a perfect setting for his sister’s ambitious plans.
He said: “Many of the rooms are now not the sort of dark, cold, draughty castle rooms you might expect. It’s a country house castle.
“But it’s what you would expect from an old, historic castle in other ways – it’s the sort of place that, if you’re in the building on your own, nobody is going to hear you scream. And you are a long way from any other house.
“We get a lot of guests coming to stay in the castle – especially from abroad – who like to hear about these things. It will be good for the publicity.”
Louise Linton and producing partner Tina Sutakanat, of Stormchaser Films, are set to front the new movie, which they promise will feature “a couple of major stars from the US”.
The producing duo has already made waves with forthcoming thriller flick Intruder, starring music mogul Moby in his feature film debut.
And Louise insisted the brooding Scottish weather and windswept landscapes would also have a starring role.
She said: “Scotland has so many incredible and majestic locations that haven’t been seen on film before.
“The landscape there is magical and makes an ideal backdrop for many different kinds of films. It’s remarkable that more films haven’t been set there as there is so much on offer.
“Even the weather can be a huge plus, especially for the horror and thriller genres where LA’s endless summer can be a problem when you need clouds or rain to set the tone of a film.
“The country has been under-utilised in film and while I’m excited to be using locations that haven’t been seen on film before, I hope this movie will encourage other filmmakers to shoot there.”
Property steeped in history
Set in luxurious stately gardens surrounded by woodland, Melville Castle was commissioned by the first Viscount Melville and designed by the renowned Scottish architect William Playfair in 1791.
But the history of the area stretches back long before then, with the original tower house that stood on the site once the hunting seat of Mary, Queen of Scots and temporarily home to her close friend and secretary Seigneur David Rizzio.
By the 1980s the historic mansion was left empty and in a state of disrepair before it was bought by current owner William Hay in 1991.
The property was then restored and transformed into the luxury hotel and wedding venue it remains to this day.