Haunted Scotland – Part I

I spent an interesting eight days in Scotland in October on a tour called Haunted Scotland. I highly recommend it and Judy Lowstuter’s company Celtic Journeys (www.celticjourneys.us). Thanks to Judy and her team, things went perfectly.

scotland castles

Scotland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, and the people couldn’t be more congenial. (The food was great too – once I tried Cullen skink, I had it almost every day for lunch!)

Here are some of the highlights, along with descriptions provided in our tour guidebook. I’ll share more next month.

THE REAL MARY KING’S CLOSE, Edinburgh

Buried deep beneath the street called the Royal Mile, it’s the city’s deepest secret:  a warren of hidden streets that remain trapped in a 1600’s time warp. Close is the term for an alleyway, and they form a labyrinth of frightfully narrow streets under the present ones. Mary King’s Close is named for an affluent merchant burgess and widow who lived in the street around 1635.

Mary King’s Close (Wikipedia)

In those days the busy, vibrant street would have been open to the sky and bustling with traders selling wares to the residents, who lived in three- and four-story “skyscrapers” on both sides of the street.  But how did this street find itself underground 400 years later?

Unsanitary living conditions and an influx of rats brought the plague to Edinburgh in 1645. In Mary King’s Close and elsewhere, people dropped like flies. In a dilapidated state of decay and intense overcrowding, some closes were destroyed and others – like this one – covered up.

The hidden closes of Old Town Edinburgh are shrouded in myth and mystery, with bloodcurdling tales of ghosts and murders, plague victims walled up alive and left to die, and when you walk through The Real Mary King’s Close at night, you can easily believe those stories just might be true.

CULLODEN HOUSE HOTEL AND CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD

The beautiful Culloden House has its own paranormal history. Bonnie Prince Charlie requisitioned the home in 1745 during the Jacobite Uprising as his lodging and battlefield headquarters. He slept in the house the night before the Battle of Culloden, suffered a stunning defeat the next morning on the battlefield, and the victor, the Duke of Cumberland, took over the house. Prince Charlie escaped and fled to the Scottish islands, but his anguished spirit walks the halls of his former headquarters to this day.

The Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16, 1746. It was the last battle fought on British soil and was between the Jacobites (supporters of King James VII) and the Hanoverians. James VII’s son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, took up the cause and led the forces that were massacred at Culloden that awful day. 

The atrocities committed on the battlefield are still recounted, and there are those who won’t leave. Brave, Loyal and determined souls who gave their lives for a sadly lost cause still roam the windswept plain.

ELGIN CATHEDRAL

This was one of the most visually spectacular and interesting sites we visited. The cathedral was established in 1224 and abandoned in 1560 with the Scottish Reformation. It fell into decay and stands as a stately Gothic ruin, maintaining its cruciform shape and with a number of its walls still at their original height.

There are recessed tombs and graves everywhere. A number of spirits are said to inhabit the ghostly shell, including Marjorie Anderson, a native of the village of Elgin whose husband was killed in action. Penniless and with her young son in her arms, she began to live a very harsh existence living in the ruins of the Cathedral. She relied on the generosity of locals but spent years as the only living inhabitant of the ancient cathedral, where at night people say she and her child can still be seen roaming the ruins.

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bill thompson

Award-winning best-selling author

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