Scotland’s murky past involved clan battles, hundreds of years of war with our near neighbour England and the siege of grim looking castles in almost every part of the country. Stories were told and traditions established. There are tales of ghosts, many of whom were said to be the spirits of real people who died in tragic or horrific circumstances. Of apparitions that appear at certain times of the night, or certain periods of the year – perhaps when they were murdered. And of strange, eerie sounds that pierce the chilled Scottish air. The hauntings seem to have no set boundaries. Ghosts have been reported on bleak roads, in old theatres and ancient graveyards.
Scotland’s Spookiest Spots
Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh. The street leading from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is known as “The Royal Mile”, with dark and spooky lanes leading off. One, Mary King’s Close, was bricked up during an outbreak of plague and only recently re-opened. Said to be the most haunted place in the Scottish capital, the spirit of a young girl has often been seen. Guided tours will take you to the close, Greyfriars cemetery, where the ghosts of covenanters who were tortured and executed linger, and also to the place where body snatchers Burke and Hare first dug up corpses to sell for use in medical experiments.
A few miles to the south-east of Edinburgh. Made famous by the novel and movie “The Da Vinci Code”, this working church was built for the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century. Ghostly flames apparently flicker in the burial vault when one of the Sinclairs is about to die, and an apparition of the apprentice who carved the famous Apprentice Pillar and was then murdered by his teacher, can sometimes be seen or heard.
Just north of Aberdeen, this castle is haunted by the spectre of Lilias Drummond who died there in 1601. Some believe she was starved to death by her husband, others that she died from a broken heart. Whatever the truth, it is said that Lilias’s ghost carved her name on the stone window sill of her husband’s bedroom on the night that he took a new bride. The writing can still be seen and the green-ghost of Lilias appears when time bodes ill for the owners of Fyvie. A dead drummer and a haunted trumpeter are also believed to haunt the Castle – with the trumpet sounding when death is near.
On the Aberdeenshire coast and to the east of Fyvie, Cruden Bay is a pleasant looking fishing village. But in the 19th century it was the holiday haunt of Bram Stoker. The ruins of Slains Castle, which drape down from the headland inspired his vision of Count Dracula’s Castle. The Kilmarnock Arms Inn, where Stoker stayed in 1895, is still there. Would you risk a visit to the place where Count Dracula was brought to life?
On the west coast of Scotland, close to the town of Oban, the castle is more than thirteen hundred years old. Besieged and rebuilt many times it was visited by Robert the Bruce, King James IV and Flora Macdonald – who was imprisoned at Dunstaffnage after helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland following the Battle of Culloden. A lady dressed in green walks the ramparts when momentous events are about to unfold for the castle owners, Clan Campbell. When smiling the fortune will be good. But if she is seen weeping, trouble lies ahead. The castle is open daily, with restricted hours during the winter.
Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders, was the home of novelist Sir Walter Scott. When you visit you can walk his library and even sit in his dining room. Be careful though. That is where the great man died after exhausting himself writing in an attempt to pay off huge debts. Might you catch a glimpse of his ghost?
It was here on a windswept patch of ground near Inverness that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebel army was crushed by government troops in 1746. The Prince’s army was made up of Scottish clans like the Stuarts, the Macdonalds and the Frasers. Many were slaughtered after the battle was over. Cairns, or rock monuments, stand where these men died. Visions of the battle and apparitions at the memorial cairns are said to occur in this sorrowful place. A refurbished visitor centre is open all year round.
The castle has a long and bloody historyand is reputed to be haunted by many ghosts, including that of a headless drummer boy. His appearance is said to be a warning that the castle is about to be besieged and was first seen in 1650 before Oliver Cromwell and his English army attacked. The castle is now a major tourist venue and is home to the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny an ancient rock on which the Kings of Scots were crowned.