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Wonder why the idea of a haunted Scotland seems appropriate? I expect it's the atmosphere - all these old castles, cobbled streets, misty landscapes, tales of murder and foul deeds. Ghosties and spooky goings-on are important elements in the Scottish brand. For a start it seems to support quite a number of companies offering themed guided walks in Edinburgh, as well as some visitor venues for which the idea of them being haunted is central to the visitor experience.
Do I believe in haunted Scotland? Absolutely not - it's all in your imagination and in the suggestion of the tour guide…..except, except…..I was once driving back to my home, then in a rural part of the north of Scotland. I passed an old croft (farm-worker's cottage) by the side of the road. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple standing in the little field at the gable end of the croft. He was broadcasting in the original sense of the word: throwing seed from a tray looped round his neck. She had a long skirt and bonnet.
I thought it odd, they looked so old fashioned. A few days later I passed by once again in the car, looked again, and was amazed to see the field was neglected, green with pasture and weeds and obviously uncultivated. I'm not even sure the croft was occupied. So what had I seen? I'm sure there is a rational explanation. Only I can't quite think of one yet.
Actually, I have had one other personal experience of haunted Scotland. Follow the link for if you dare……actually, it wasn't that scary. Just very odd.
And here are some more places in haunted Scotland. (Cue spooo-oooky music………)
This is Edinburgh's centre for ghostly tourism and a clever use of a series of dusty ancient rooms and passageways below later buildings, formerly used as storage space by the local council. Besides, it gives employment to a whole host of spectres below present-day ground level of the Royal Mile. For example, visitors on their guided tours of the Close are reverently shown the gifts left by well-wishers for the ghost of a little girl who lost her dolly and whose presence has been felt by various 21st-century mystics. Distinctly weird and (unfathomably) popular, but an important part of the haunted Scotland image.
Off High Street.
Another hotspot (or coldspot) for spooks. A poltergeist attacks sightseers, and tourists on local 'ghost walks' have been roughly handled in a variety of ways. Definitely in the haunted Scotland top ten. Notoriously associated as a Covenanters' prison, where many died, some say the presence is that of George 'Bloody' Mackenzie, former Lord Advocate, who imprisoned the Covenanters.
By George IV Bridge
Take your pick from a headless drummer (sighted in 1960) or even a ghostly piper on the battlements even when the famous Military Tattoo isn't on. Then make your way to the Vaults, where workmen were disturbed by prisoners left over from the Napoleonic Wars. If you're a pet lover, you may prefer the phantom dog which has also been seen. (Haunted Scotland has quite a few doggy phantoms.)
This theatre is said to be haunted by a ghost called Albert, said to be friendly but mischievous. It is believed that Albert is the ghost of a maintenance man killed in a backstage accident. It's always nice to put a name to your phantom.
18-22 Greenside Place
The pious Major Weir who had a house here turned out to be a very wicked man. (Local folk should have guessed by the way he sent his walking-stick out on its own to get the shopping.) He was hanged. For years afterwards, his apparition flitted around the street, or galloped off at dead of night on a headless black horse. Grassmarket end of Victoria Street.
Phantom monks put in intermittent appearances in and around the site. These include a monk praying at an altar in the crypt, with four knights in attendance. (He's probably praying for a bit of peace from all the visitors who have turned up here since it featured in Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.) The ghost of the apprentice who carved the famous Apprentice Pillar and who was said to have been murdered by his teacher has also turned up. Strange lights and fire around the chapel are supposed to herald deaths in the Sinclair family - at least, Sir Walter Scott thought so.
6 miles / 10km south of Edinburgh, in the village of Roslin.
Family home of the Dalyells, most famously 17th-century military man Sir Tam Dalyell, whose apparition rides a white horse up to the house. Tam is said to have played cards with the Devil and won. The Devil was furious and threw the card table at Tam. It missed, crashed through a window and landed in a pond, where it was found in 1885. (So it must be true.)
3 miles / 5km east of Linlithgow
Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish writer and historian, created Abbotsford in his own lifetime, filling it with artefacts of Scottish history. His ghost is said to haunt the dining room, where he died in 1832. Another presence, it is said, is that of the spirit of George Bullock, who died in 1818 and was in charge of the rebuilding of Abbotsford.
2 miles / 3 km from Melrose
In Fife, Falkland Palace was a favourite hunting lodge (haunting lodge?) of the Stuart monarchs. Its fine Renaissance work is said to be frequented by a 'White lady'. She stands at a window in the Tapestry Gallery, weeping as she watches her departing lover, who has been - inevitably in such cases - banished forever.
11m / 17km N of Kirkcaldy.
The remains of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1217. A secret tunnel at the abbey was said to lead to a room full of gold, looked after by an old man who waited in a golden chair to hand over the wealth to the lucky(?) finder. A piper and his dog were once sent in to investigate the tunnel - a short time later, the dog came out terrified. The piper was never seen again. Piper and dog in cave a fairly common theme in haunted Scotland.
At the head of the village of Culross off the A985.
The Royal Research Ship Discovery is said to be haunted. Footsteps and other disturbances have been heard. Some think it could be the ghost of Ernest Shackleton or Charles Bonner who fell to his death from the crow's nest in 1901.
Discovery Quay, Dundee
After the disastrous fall of the bridge in 1879, stories began to circulate about strange events on the on the anniversaries of the tragedy, as witnessed by train travellers. A young man joined a north-bound train in Fife and found a compartment empty except for an elderly gentleman dressed in old fashioned clothes. When the train began its crossing over the replacement Tay Bridge, the old man's features began to contort in fear and pain. (These days that would be explained by his looking closely at the price of the rail ticket.) Then he faded away, leaving the young man alone in the compartment.
McManus Galleries have Tay Bridge memorabilia, Albert Square, Dundee. See also picture, above right, in Royal National Museum of Scotland. This is actually one of the broken girders. Pretty impressive, eh?
The Rev Robert Kirk, the local minister, was an authority on fairies and often conversed with them on the Doon Hill. He was found dead in his nightshirt there on night in 1692. Afterwards, he appeared in ethereal form, looking for help in escaping from the fairy world. He has now been turned into the tall pine which grows on the hilltop. Signposted near Aberfoyle.
Just as an afterthought, a few years ago I heard at first hand a very odd tale about an encounter a volunteer had at the National Trust for Scotland's property Barrie's Birthplace in Kirriemuir, Angus. Follow that link to find out more. (I have not seen this tale in print anywhere else.)
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Scotland in Three Days