Spooky Scotland Top spots for Halloween spirit
HALLOWEEN is fast approaching so here’s our pick of the spookiest places in Scotland to go guising – from Melrose
Abbey in the Borders to the Fairy Glen on Skye.
THE COFFIN ROUTE
This scenic path in south Harris has a dark history which dates to the 15th century when funeral parties carried bodies along the rocky land to the west coast for burial. Bill Lawson’s book Harris in History and Legend shares the story of coffin bearers who were startled by a noise, before realising the body they were carrying wasn’t dead at all. This route is also the inspiration for Peter May’s bestselling book Coffin Road.
Melrose Abbey is a Victorian-style monastery in Roxburghshire. Founded in 1136 for the Cistercian order, its impressive architectural features include unusual goblins – look out
for the bagpipe-playing pig. Robert the Bruce requested that his heart be buried here and this was mentioned in John Barber’s poem The Bruce. The abbey never fully recovered from English attacks during the Middle Ages, which left it a crumbling ruin. It was burned by Edward II’s army in 1322 and was later set on fire by Richard II, killing many of the monks.
Perched on a rocky cliff on the north-east coast at Stonehaven, Dunnottar resembles the asylum from Martin Scorsese’s thriller Shutter Island. A meandering path leads visitors towards the medieval fortress, which stands tall against the lapping sea. A Pictish fort was established here in the third century, and it was liberated by Sir William Wallace in 1297, with its English defenders burned to death. The castle’s gory past and dramatic scenery make it a ghostly spot.
In the hills above the village of Uig on the Isle of Skye is the unique miniature landslip known as Fairy Glen. The crooked trees leading up to it are coated in thick green moss and look as though they have sprouted from another world. Some folklore suggests the land was made by fairies and visitors often leave coins or tokens for the fairies in the hope of good luck. The area certainly has a supernatural and mystical feel.
One of Scotland’s most riveting tales is that of Reverend Kirk.
Legend has it that he ventured to Doon Hill near his home village of Aberfoyle one evening, and shortly after he was found dead. Kirk was a folklorist, famed for his book The Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, which purported to reveal secrets about the existence of mythological creatures. Some believe his soul was “stolen” to Fairyland for betraying them. Rev Kirk’s grave has become a popular local attraction.
NEW SLAINS CASTLE
This impressive ruin near Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire is the original inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Its teeth-like spires, fragmented rock and gaping windows give the place an eery and sinister feel. It’s possible to imagine a bloodthirsty Count chasing intruders in the maze-like courtyard. The building was created in the 16th century by Francis Hay to replace Old Slains Castle, which was destroyed by James VI’s forces after a rebellion. The dramatic clifftop setting and sea views make it a must-see spot.
On a volcanic archipelago on the most westerly point of the United Kingdom lies the crumbling remains of St Kilda’s main settlement on Hirta. The choppy blue waters and swirling mist transport visitors to a prehistoric era as birds circle the island’s peaks. St Kilda was once home to a community of crofters until disease and emigration led to its demise, the last remaining 36
islanders being evacuated in 1930. Their cottages still stand today as a chilling reminder of a lost past.
Loudoun Castle and Theme Park in Ayrshire was a magnet for visitors during the early 2000s with its looping rollercoasters and petting zoo. It is now ghost-like and the Do Not Enter notice at the park’s entrance is enough to drive trespassers away. The castle was used during the Second World War as a camping ground for soldiers. A lack of funding led to the park’s closure in 2010. Today the weeds, crumbling castle and rusty rides provide a glimpse into the park’s past life.
ST PETER’S SEMINARY
This structural wonder in Cardross, Dunbartonshire, was once a Roman Catholic Seminary. It was used as a college to train priests in the 1960s before its closure in the 1980s. From the outside, this building doesn’t look special, yet it is considered to be one of Scotland’s most important buildings. Inside, under semi-circular ceilings, the swirling staircases have become a flowerbed for weeds and the walls a canvas for graffiti artists. The building was to be given a new lease of life as an arts venue, but the plans failed and it has remained derelict ever since.
Above: The impressive ruins of Melrose Abbey. Below: Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire and remote St Kilda