Bridget McGrouther freaks herself out at some of Scotland’s scariest spots…
I’m not a lover of horror films and I don’t like getting spooked. Yet Scotland, interwoven with a blood-curdling history of legends, ghost stories, battles, creepy castles and murky sea mists, is arguably one of the most eerily inviting destinations in the world.
As the Scots have the dubious honour of being thought to have invented Hallowe’en and all the superstitions surrounding it, for anyone who would like to scare themselves silly at this dark and mysterious time of year, the chances are, you won’t have to travel too far. There are quite a few haunting places I can recall where I’ve felt uneasy and the hairs on the back of my neck have stood on end.
One time, on a two-day Rabbie’s Tour (rabbies.com) of the mystical Highlands, our group spent the night in a hostel that was said to be haunted. I don’t know if it was something I’d said on the minibus, but the guide couldn’t wait to give me the key to the ‘haunted’ room which, despite being a dorm, had been reserved only for me.
The spooky stories told round the dinner table set me on edge. I couldn’t get a wink of sleep all night, but rather than being due to any ghostly apparitions, it was all because the bloke next door was snoring so loudly! And that was probably due to the number of spirits he’d emptied from his glass!
By day, Glamis Castle in Angus seems perfectly tranquil, yet it has long held a reputation as one of the most haunted homes in Scotland. King Malcolm II was murdered here, allegedly leaving a bloodstain on the floor which defied all efforts to be removed. Eventually, the only way to cover it up was to board it over.
Glamis is also said to contain secret rooms, one of which is believed to have housed a monster which roamed at night; while the ghostly ‘Grey Lady’ apparently still haunts the Chapel. New for this year, there are interactive walks of the Bewitched Wood on 28th and 29th October, where the macabre Macbeth Trail comes to life, or take a haunted tour of the castle if you dare (book at glamis-castle.co.uk).
For me, the spookiest ruin I’ve visited is Slains Castle, said to have inspired Dracula as Bram Stoker was a frequent visitor to Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire. Having stood on the edge of that dramatic and windswept clifftop, with waves thundering against the rocks far below, it’s little wonder the author used this unnerving setting for one of the greatest horror stories ever told.
St Andrews, too, reportedly has its fair share of ghosts, especially flitting through and around the Cathedral, where not only a monk, but a lady wearing white gloves have both been sighted (fortunately not by me) before vanishing into the tower. A ghost tour (standrewsghosttours.com) is bound to give you the creeps and I’m not sure whether Minnie would thank me, but dogs are welcome as well.
Edinburgh’s Old Town is reputed to be a hive of paranormal activity, hardly surprising when the city’s claims to fame include body snatchers Burke & Hare. Auld Reekie’s freaky cobbled streets and wynds are filled with sinister shadows, while the underground labyrinth of vaults and catacombs below the South Bridge and at the Real Mary King’s Close hold some of the darkest terrors.
Take your pick of daily and nightly ghoul, witch and vampire wanderings through the capital, or hop aboard a Ghost Bus Tour on an old vintage double decker (theghostbustours.com) for some of the scariest sightseeing ever.
A popular stop, Greyfriars Kirkyard is where you’ll encounter the lair of the Mackenzie Poltergeist as well as the grave of the much more loyal and loving Greyfriars Bobby. It’s no wonder that in such malevolent surroundings, visitors are compelled to touch the nose of the dog’s statue for luck, although the Council is urging them not to as the muzzle is being rubbed away! Is that all down to the mischievous poltergeist?
Airth Castle Hotel and Spa near Falkirk, a popular wedding venue, is also reputed to be haunted by several ghosts, including a four-legged one which has a tendency to nip at guests’ ankles! Beware all those in a kilt…
To get even more in the spirit of Hallowe’en, dare to delve into ebooks.visitscotland.com/ghosts-myths-legends
Quorvus Collection’s G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh, home to the city’s largest colony of hotel-residing honey bees, is holding a ‘Meet the Bees’ pop-up hive in celebration of National Honey Week. Visitors can pop into the hotel lobby today and tomorrow (28th & 29th Oct 2017) to learn about the bees and taste the honey that is enjoyed by hotel guests.
The world’s first sauna made from snow has been created at the Arctic Snow Hotel and Glass Igloos in Finland. The heart of the sauna, the stove, is cocooned by walls made from snow 1.5m thick. The snow saunas melt 3.5mm with each use. Set in secluded Arctic landscape next to Lake Lehtojarvi, visit offthemap.travel
As the UK’s largest light festival and birthplace of Lumiere, artists from around the world will return to Durham for the fifth event to illuminate the city from 16-19 Nov 2017. Durham’s iconic landmarks – the Cathedral and Castle – are the first locations to be lit up, while Miners’ Hall at Redhills will also have artworks projected on the buildings (
Travelbag (Tel 0207 001 4112, travelbag.co.uk) is offering eight nights at the 5* Fairmont The Palm in Dubai with a free upgrade to half board. Prices start from £529 pp (saving £225 pp) including flights from Manchester and free seaplane transfers. Based on selected June 2018 departure dates, book by October 31, 2017.