As the sky begins to darken earlier in the evening, and the first frost hits the air, many travelers scout out colorful leaves, hot ciders and pumpkins for carving. However, for those who love a good spook, haunted tours offer a fun and creepy autumnal alternative.
Haunted tours are nothing new- from Jack the Ripper walks in London, to tours of Vlad the Impaler’s battlefields, for hundreds of years, curious travelers have sought out chills and thrills in some of the spookiest locations on earth.
However, for Americans looking to for a truly historical and terrifying ghost tour, Scotland offers a past filled with centuries of war, clan battles, heresy and massacre. The imprint of Scottish history may be seen not only in the gloomy ruins of cathedrals and castles from the past, but also in the countless reports of ghost sightings throughout the country. Some of these ghosts are recognizable historical personages, others are obscure or non-human. Scotland offers a range of ghost tours available year round, but these are especially fitting during the Halloween season. When planning your own ghost tour of Scotland, several sites, discussed below, are a must see.
Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh:
In the 17th century, a brutal lord named George MacKenzie, fiercely supportive of King Charles II, began imprisoning any person suspected of harboring dissenting opinions against the King. Leaving most of these prisoners to starve to death in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, beheading others, it is estimated that MacKenzie killed over 18,000 people during his tenure. MacKenzie himself was buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh upon his death. For hundreds of years, the site has boasted reports of ghostly sitings and poltergeist activity. However, after MacKenzie’s tomb was desecrated in the 1990s, multiple visitors have reported violent attacks by an unseen poltergeist (MacKenzie’s ghost), occasionally leading to minor physical injuries.
The charming town of St. Andrews is better known for its golf than for its ghosts. However, among locals, it also has the reputation as one of the most haunted places in Scotland. The ghost of a pig is occasionally seen near the ruins of the cathedral, his eyes said to be that of a human’s, filled with despair and guilt. At the ruins of the St Andrew’s Castle, the ghost of a cardinal is witnessed occasionally by mischievous students attempting to enter by night. The cardinal patrols the upper level of the castle, where there is no longer a floor to support his feet. When the tide is high on the East Sands between midnight and 1 AM, a ghostly coach, accompanied by skeleton outriders and driven by a headless coachman, is rarely seen careening towards the sea. In the coach is the terrified ghost of Cardinal David Beaton, sitting next to a devilish looking figure.
This castle boasts more reported ghost sightings than any other structure in Scotland. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, the castle dates back to the 12th century, and has been the seat of many conflicts including the Wars of Scottish Independence, the Jacobite Uprising, the Lang Siege and more. One of the most commonly seen ghosts in the castle is the headless drummer boy, who was first seen in 1650 before an attack on the castle by Oliver Cromwell.
Located near Perth, in central Scotland, Huntingtower was build in the 15th century by the Ruthven family. In 1582, the 1st Earl of Gowrie kidnapped a young King James VI and held him prisoner here for 10 months. Numerous nobles have taken their own lives in the castle during the two-hundred years it was used as a residence. The castle is also said to be haunted by Lady Greensleeves, a tall woman in a green silk dress who usually appears at dusk, and is said to only appear when disaster is nigh.
Near Aberdeen, the grim looking structure of Slains Castle looms toward the sea. The castle served as author Bram Stokers inspiration for the home of his Dracula. While not home to many reported haunting, spend a night in the nearby village of Cruden Bay and absorb the macabre visage of the town as the fog comes rolling in from the sea, eerily covering everything but the castle itself.