Spooky Scot­land Top spots for Hal­loween spirit

The Herald Magazine - - etc TRAVEL - SO­PHIE MCLEAN

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.


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.


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.


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

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