In this article, Adam Christie takes us through his own personal choice of the 10 spookiest places in Scotland. Expect some unexpected gems in here to go and visit yourself.
You could literally make a list of a hundred spooky places to visit in Scotland, just pick any old castle or stately home and list it.However, that wasn’t good enough for me. I don’t believe in ghosts etc so shouldn’t be affected by such things. Nevertheless, some places I have visited have sent a shiver up my spine strong enough to remember it. So, with Halloween this weekend there doesn’t seem a better time to get it off my chest. Here’s my list of the spookiest places to visit in Scotland (and yes, OK, there are one or two castles in there):
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
This is quite possibly one of the most remote places on this list. If you are looking at a map, look up at the top left of the country right up to Cape Wrath, come south a few miles and that first beach is Sandwood Bay. There are few more beautiful places in the whole country. When I first visited, I had heard the stories of an old mariner ghost on the beach and another poltergeist in the bothy you pass on the way down the hill to the beach if you approach from the south. That was enough to spook me as I lay in a tent as a storm rolled in off the ocean and I was glad to make it out again next morning!
Goblin Ha, near Gifford, East Lothian
Goblin Ha is the subterranean chamber under the ruins of Yester Castle near Gifford. Sir Hugo de Gifford was known as the Wizard of Yester and was known to be a sorcerer and a necromancer. The Ha’ is where he was said to practice his nefarious deeds. The ruined nature of this spot with the spooky chamber below it could get the hairs standing up even if it wasn’t for the tales of dark magic and deals with the Devil, but it wouldn’t be a Scottish spooky place without those now, would it?
Glamis Castle, Angus
Glamis is known for its ghosts. Lots of ghosts. When I was a child I used to sit and read about them in my grandfather’s copy of the Readers Digest Ghosts and Ghouls of Great Britain. But it’s not the ghost stories that make it spooky for me. It’s the story of the walled up room and what might reside inside it. Furthermore, knowing that a couple of those windows looking down on you from the castle are the windows of that very room that no-one has been inside in living memory.
The Hidden Valley, Glencoe
The spookiness of this location could be down to the towering mountains threatening to collapse on top of you, or it could be due to the history of fleeing Macdonalds after the Massacre of Glencoe who supposedly came up here to escape the Redcoats but ended up succumbing to the winter snows. It takes less than an hour to get up here from the road but is a different world when you get here. Judge for yourself.
Another hill-related spooky location, Macdui is Scotland’s second highest mountain in the heart of the Cairngorms. Story after story has been told of a large figure in the fog that follows or even chases walkers down from the summit of this hill. When you are up on the Cairngorm Plateau and the mist comes in, it is pretty featureless and pretty spooky. With thoughts of the big grey man following at the edge of where you can see, you could be forgiven for letting yourself get spooked up there.
South Bridge Vaults, Edinburgh
The only time I have ever been to the South Bridge Vaults was for a birthday party!. The main couple of vaults were fine, and quite atmospheric with candles and lots of good will. Go near one of the corners where a narrow passage leads off into other other vaults, and the atmosphere chills and changes. It felt like something was warning you away from going in there. All in the mind? Who knows but this place scared the pants off of me.
The Eastern Necropolis, Glasgow
This would be on a lot of people’s lists. A vast, old dead place in the heart of our largest city. You could spend hours here looking at the stones and the history of the fine people of Glasgow. After a while, in my own experience, it felt like I shouldn’t be here any longer. It doesn’t feel like it belongs to the living, it belongs to the dead.
Rackwick Village, Hoy
This one surprised me. I didn’t go here expecting any spookiness at all. I visited Hoy from mainland Orkney for the day and went for a drive to the north-west of the island. The small village of Rackwick sits on a small bay by the foot of the highest sea cliffs in Britain. Tiny, low houses huddling into the ground to shelter from the Atlantic gales. Great clouds of seabirds wheeling and diving from a thousand feet up in the air. Maybe on a nice day it is perfectly amenable, but on the dark, grey day I was there with the wind howling off the sea, I didn’t stay long at all.
Bangour Village, Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital, West Lothian
If you watch horror movies, you have seen at least one set in an old abandoned asylum. Bangour Village in West Lothian is that movie. OK, so everything is boarded up and you cannot roam the corridors, but just walking around the grounds and road network at dusk knowing you are in a cross between Scooby Doo (lots of dog walkers up here) and American Horror Story should make you think you’ve started hearing the tortured screams of long-dead patients.
Culloden Moor, by Inverness
The battlefield where the Stewart dynasty made it’s last stand, and where the Jacobite clans came to an end is a brooding, dark place to visit. It might be situated up on an open hillside near Inverness, but there is a shadow that hangs over this ground whatever time of day or year you visit. Walking the well tended path around the battlefield and viewing the stones that mark the falling places of so many proud Highland clans makes you wonder what it must have been like to feel steel cutting through flesh on that cold morning in 1746. You’ll be glad when you make it back into the visitor centre for a cup of tea and a scone without having been dragged down into the bog by the hands of history.
So there you have it. My 10 spookiest places in Scotland. There are of course so many more atmospheric and downright frightening places to discover but these are the ones that have stood out to me on my travels. Sweet dreams now!