For as lovely and awe-inspiring as it can be, Scotland can also be incredibly spooky at times – as anyone who's walked around Edinburgh's Old Town at night can attest.
It's not that it's dangerous. Scotland is an incredibly safe country. It's more about the feeling places have, and perhaps some kind of lingering sense of tragedy that comes from thinking about all the dreadful things that have happened in any given spot over the course of the country's long and bloody history.
Since we're focusing on the spooky, we figured we might as well make a list of 13. So, without further ado, here are 13 spooky places in Scotland.
A Spooky Moray Forest
In the northeastern part of Scotland, you'll find the council area of Moray, and it's there that you'll find this bit of forest that manages to be creepy even in broad daylight. It's certainly not the only one in Scotland, but it's always a bit unsettling to find yourself in trees so dense they block out much of the sun's natural light. Add a few clouds and a bit of fog, and you may find yourself dashing for the light.
Everything Looks Creepier with a Castle Looming Overhead
On a bright and sunny day, you'd be forgiven for thinking this statue looked innocent, even cheerful against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle – but when the sun goes down and the fog rolls in, it's a chilling sight.
A Bit Frightening to the Unsuspecting
Thousands of people travel to the Shetland Islands for Up Helly Aa each year, but imagine for a moment that you happened upon it without knowing what was going on. You're adrift in the cold, dark North Sea and you finally find a port…and this is happening.
The “Innocent” Railway Tunnel?
For tourists wanting to get away from the Royal Mile and Arthur's Seat to do something a bit different, the Innocent Railway Tunnel is an option. You'll need to be brave, though, because “innocent” is probably one of the last words that springs to mind when you're inside this long, dark tunnel.
It's surprisingly well-hidden among some flats at the base of Arthur's Seat, so it will generally take some looking, even if you have instructions on how to find it. The tunnel was part of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway back in the 1800s, and it's believed to have gotten its name because it continued to use horse-drawn carriages for quite some time after steam trains were adopted elsewhere – giving it an air of old-fashioned innocence. Another explanation is that it got the name for its lack of accidents and deaths, but that's probably not true since there were actually quite a few.
These days, it looks like a great place for a murder – but mostly, people use it for cycling and walking.
Descending Into a Foggy Abyss…
Roughly 12 miles north of Edinburgh, you'll find the town of Kirkcaldy, a bustling coastal settlement of roughly 50,000. It's a town of hardy, friendly people that's likely seen better days, but when the fog rolls in, it takes on a very different, otherworldly feel.
Imagine proceeding down those stairs – it wouldn't be hard to envision some kind of horrifying creature waiting at the bottom, ready to pull you off into the deep.
The Old Calton Burial Ground…
If we were keeping score, Edinburgh would definitely be at the top of our list of spookiest places in Scotland. The combination of history and architecture and narrows streets and closes just elevates beyond anywhere else in the country.
The Old Calton Burial Ground is home to a number of famous bodies, including that of famed historian and philosopher David Hume. As a notable and historic cemetery, the entire burial ground is a protected category A listed building. That doesn't make it any less creepy on a dark and foggy night, though.
Feel Awe and Terror at Your Own Insignificance…
While Scotland's cities are full of tiny passageways, winding roads, and historic buildings, the countryside is another matter entirely. It's a landscape of big skies and epic proportions. Standing in the middle of it all will no doubt give you an almost suffocating reminder of how big the universe is, and how small any one of us is in the grand scheme of things. Though it's a bit scary, it's also a wonderful reminder that our troubles, however great they may seem, will soon be forgotten.
You May Need a Drink by Now…
Across the street from the Dunfermline Abbey and churchyard, you'll find The Creepy Wee Pub, a dilapidated old pub that's as creepy on the inside as it is on the outside. Doll heads and skulls adorn the dimly-lit interior, but luckily, the living, human faces you'll encounter are much less threatening.
Dunferlmine is roughly 18 miles from Edinburgh on the other side of the Firth of Forth. The town is home to roughly 50,000 people, and if you'd like to see a less tourist-y side of Scotland, it's a great side trip. They have a lovely library you can wander around via Google Maps, too, if you enjoy a bit of virtual travel.
Climb the Often Spooky Streets of Stirling
A quick 40-60 minute train ride from Glasgow or Edinburgh, you'll find the city of Stirling. Yes, it's a city, and yes, it's smaller than many places designated as “towns”. It was created as a royal burgh by King David I back in 1130, and in 2002, it was granted city status as part of Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee.
I've never been to Stirling on a sunny day. I'm sure they have a few, but every time I'm there, it's always rain or fog or clouds or some combination of the three – and for Stirling, it really works. The old part of the city is filled with beautiful stone buildings and hilly streets, and when you get to the the top, you're rewarded with Stirling Castle and an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
As night falls, there's very little in Stirling that isn't incredibly creepy. You don't feel unsafe because of the current inhabitants, but there's definitely a sort of lingering sadness and mystery that's hard to shake off.
An Eerie Island Landscape with Inhabitants Long Gone…
There are abandoned crofts and cottages like this all over in the Highlands and islands, but this one is on the Isle of Bute. It makes you wonder how it came to be abandoned, and what life was like for the people who lived there. It surely wasn't an easy existence. These days, it's overgrown and everything is mossy, damp, and just a bit creepy.
The Grim Streets of Glasgow
Back in 2005, Glasgow was pronounced the murder capital of Europe, with a homicide rate of 2.33 deaths per 100,000 people (still laughable to those in the US, whose cities average more than double that and reach figures as high as 60+ per 100,000 people) – but since then, they've managed to drastically reduce those figures and make the streets safer.
Still, when it's dark at night and the moon shines through the fog, you can see a different Glasgow – the old Glasgow full of poverty and poor sanitation and maybe even a few grave robbers. It's enough to give you a chill before snapping back to reality and appreciating the scene for its eerie beauty.
Ghostly Ships in the Highlands and Islands…
Aside from the fact that the islands west of Scotland are home to one of the world's deadliest whirlpools (the Corryvreckan), there's also the fact that the fog, when combined with the dramatic landscape and relative emptiness, tends to make boats look like they're sailing in from the great beyond – moving into our world like ghosts from the mist.
What's Lurking in the Closes of Edinburgh?
If you've spent much time in Edinburgh's Old Town, you'll know the streets are dotted with little paths between buildings – closes, as they call them there. They appear harmless enough by day, but when night falls, they get more than a little creepy. In reality, you're not likely to encounter much worse than somebody smoking or relieving themselves…but as with so much of Scotland, it's easy to imagine other, more sinister things that could have lurked there in the past.
It calls to mind that old version of Scotland where people dumped sewage out their windows at night, and the disease-ridden ladies of the night prowled the alleyways looking for patrons. It was the time before Princes Street Gardens existed – when it was a body of heavily “water” called Nor Loch, draining downhill from the Old Town. It was a darker, more dangerous time, and in some ways, it seems to exist in parallel with our safer modern existence. Some say the stones, like water, might just have a memory…
Do You Enjoy Scotland's Spooky Side?
Do you enjoy visiting spooky places? Have you ventured to any of these locations yet? And would you?
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