castles · Edinburgh · horror stories · Scotland

Scotland: Edinburgh’s Castles and Ghosts

Street in Killarney

Bye Bye Killarney

Had a bit of internal debate on whether I should mention our move from Killarney to Edinburgh, and after reading the account, I had to include it, because it captured my feelings for the little town.

The plan that day was simple– ride a train back to Dublin, take a taxi to the airport and then on a plane to Edinburgh. No need to explain how exhausting that sounded (it was a painful situation for different reasons).

But let’s go to that morning in Killarney, where we had our final breakfast at The Old Weir as usual. That day though, our hosts were also there to see us one last time before they went for their different day jobs. It was a bittersweet moment because I got attached to the food (yes, food makes an impression on me), the place, and the people, especially our hosts. It felt like we had a family around us. As we drove off to the train station, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of nostalgia. I’ve walked these streets, I’ve memorized them like it were my own town, my own home. I think sometimes, that part of what made me feel like I belonged was that these people were so welcoming– the strangers who weren’t really, and our hosts. Their kindness is seared in to me, and I look forward to going back there again.

The Flight and Arrival to Edinburgh

Nothing but skies

Now we move on to the flight from hell. I don’t want to mention the details, but there was a bit of abuse towards by laptop (my poor baby!) and my handbag (grr!). It wasn’t permanent, thank goodness, but that one hour flight was a hellish emotional experience. 

Fast forward to Edinburgh and our actual apartment– I LOVE how most of the buildings’ exterior were preserved. The city still had that old-quality to it, despite the neon signs over shops and such. Not a skyscraper or a modern tall building in sight. It was all normal buildings from times past, with a full view of the sky. 
Our own apartment building is 200 years old. The inside was more modernized of course, but it was amazing. 
Scottish Castles
Edinburgh Castle

It’s kind of sad to say, but I didn’t enjoy Edinburgh’s tourism as much as I did Dublin. I can’t pinpoint what it was; too historically heavy, or that they didn’t know how to deliver their story to us simpletons who loved to learn but not be bogged down by the heavy details. Either way, they sounded like those mundane professors who sprouted information but did not care a wit if we took it in or not. 
The first was Edinburgh Castle, which didn’t have much to show. It was impressive to see the battlements, and one of the cannons going off just for show. 
View from the battlement

The next impressive thing was the “Honors” of Scotland. The “Honors” are important relics in Scottish history, but it wasn’t clear how the tradition started. It’s the sword, the scepter and the crown that was present for each of the royal coronations. It had such a long historical journey: it is was stolen, returned, buried, hidden, and then found again through different time periods. Right now, it’s on display, thank goodness. Or is it? 

What I loved about the castle was that it was built on high volcanic rock. At the bottom of it was Sals Craig, which hikers are welcome to tread along through. The crags and bumps of the rocky hill was just  perfect.

Stirling Castle– Queen Anne’s Garden

The other castle we went to was Stirling Castle. Interesting thing we learned there is– when these castles were built, it was more of a beige yellow color. It’s through weather conditions over the years that changes the stone to grey.

The Edinburgh Dungeon

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a dungeon. More like an underground comedic horror experience, with actors, and scary situations explaining the prominent horror stories known in Scotland. The drama I made that day did not deter my brothers from dragging me in there. It did help that the tour was with a huge group of people. Nothing like going through the dark with things waiting to scare the living daylights out of you to bond you with strangers.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. Actually, it was quite hilarious, in a morbid sort of way. Some of the stories that was reenacted (and which later kept me up all night):

Legend of Sawny Bean

Sawney Bean was supposedly a normal guy, who got married, and then he and his very sick-minded wife took themselves out of society and lived in cave, where they grew to a bigger, incestuous,  murderous and cannibalistic family. They had murdered more than 200 people before they were found, captured, and executed. The men members had their feet and hands cut off to bleed to death, while the women and children watched and later burned.

Now whether this is actually real or not was debatable. The story surfaced around the 1800s, but the time period of the story takes place was in the 1500s, and there are not many accounts of that back then. 
The Plague and Mary King’s Close
At the time of the plague, many places were supposedly shut off to keep the disease from spreading. That also meant trapping the people in those places. One such story is of a woman who had the disease, and tried to escape. Instead, the men (soldiers or villagers, it wasn’t clear) grabbed her, put her in her home, and began holing her up. Realizing there is no escape from her attackers, she gave a vicious glare and said ominously “I’ll see thee in Hell.” She kept saying that phrase over and over, even after she was completely trapped behind the wall.
Creepy, no?
Another story about the plague was Mary King’s Close: a small area in Edinburgh that is said to be haunted– really!– by the victims of the plague. One such haunting is little Annie, who is quite famous after a Japanese psychic felt her presence. After that, there were more claims from tourists saying the either felt or saw something. Today, tourists bring Annie flowers or toys. 
Murders in the name of Science

The last most interesting story was of William Hare and William..well, I can’t remember the other Will’s last name, but basically, these two were in the grave digging industry. Except they upgraded their game from robbing corpses to actually making corpses (murder!), and selling it to the anatomists in Edinburgh, one of them is the notable Dr. John Knox. They managed to get around 16 or 17 people before they were caught and tried. The good doctor who profited from their business was untouched by the law.

And with that, I apologize to all those who read this at night. Now you know how I felt during my 4 nights in Scotland…

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