Last month I introduced you to some of the fascinating places I visited on a tour called Haunted Scotland (www.celticjourneys.us). Here are a few more worth visiting, along with descriptions from the tour materials.
EILEAN DONAN CASTLE, Dornie, Scotland
This beautiful, eerie castle is one of the Scottish Highlands’ most popular visitor attractions. It sits on its own island overlooking the Isle of Skye at the point where three lochs meet. It was the site of Bishop Donan’s monastic cell in 634 AD. The castle was destroyed by the British in 1719 and lay in ruins until 1912 when a family bought and restored it.
It is therefore relatively new, but the ancient grounds contain lost spirits who roam the site. In 1331 the Earl of Moray executed fifty men and displayed their heads. A ghost roams what is now the gift shop, his headless torso a testament to his torture.
ABBOTSFORD HOUSE, Galashiels, on the Scottish Borders
Abbotsford House is the former residence of novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott. Beginning in 1811, he built a magnificent mansion, using stones from ruined castles and abbeys for miles around. He gathered an enormous library, a collection of arms and armor, and many other relics and curiosities. Scott, who wrote Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and The Lady of the Lake among many others, was the most influential author of his day. His financial success has been compared to that of J.K. Rowling today. The baronial mansion has a history of spooky tales. Scott himself used to hear heavy furniture being dragged across the floor in the armory below his bedroom, even though no one else was in the house. His ghost haunts the dining room, where he died of typhus in 1832. Another ghost is George Bullock, who supervised the building of Abbotsford and died in 1818. The home is filled with nooks and crannies, narrow staircases and beautifully furnished rooms. It’s a national showplace loved by visitors to Scotland.
Dunnotar Castle was the most scenic spot I visited in Scotland, thanks to its position high atop a rock overlooking the North Sea. It was the most impregnable fortress in Scotland, the only two ways in being through a heavily defended main gate or through a cave to a steep path, which again took one to the main gate.
It has been home to fortifications for more than two thousand years. It was an administrative center for William the Lion in the 1100s, and William Wallace burned the church with an entire English garrision inside in 1297. It changed hands between English and Scottish for centuries until it became an opulent mansion at the end of the 1500s.
The castle’s darkest moment was in May 1685 when 167 Coventanter prisioners, both men and women, were locked in the Whig’s Vault. Many died of starvation and disease, or were killed trying to escape.
Standing on a windswept hill, Dunnotar Castle is a site not to be missed. Its haunting beauty is matched by the truly haunted ruined halls and rooms.