Scotland is a land with a long history. It's a land where mystical valleys, centuries-old ruins, and abandoned castles have been left behind, including its ghostly tales and spooky stories. If you want to glimpse the country's dark past or wish to find haunted places to visit, be sure to add these 11 sites to your itinerary.
1. The Lost Valley - Glencoe, Highlands
The Lost Valley, or Coire Gabhail, is a hidden valley surrounded by the Three Sisters Mountains in the Scottish Highlands, not far from Glencoe. To see the Lost Valley itself, you need to make a challenging, steep hike of 4 kilometres long over rocky terrain. The Lost Valley was a safe haven for the MacDonalds clan of Glencoe, who escaped the infamous massacre here in 1692, which is one of the cruelest acts in Scotland's history. People believe that the spirits of the MacDonald clan members return to the valley every year on the anniversary of that black day in history. Are you in for a hike in the valley?
2. Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle played a vital role in Scotland's history. It has witnessed many battles-with three major battlefields nearby-coronations, murders, and it was the residence of Scotland's royalties in the 1500s. The castle's turbulent past has resulted in more than a few spectral spirits that still seem to roam the halls and ramparts.
Perhaps the most popular is the Green Lady, who supposedly was a servant to Queen Mary. One night, the Queen was asleep when her bed curtains were set afire by a candle. The servant saved her life, losing her own... There is also a ghostly Highlander, dressed in a Highland kilt, who appears around the corner of the corridors and disappears right away. Haunted or not, the castle is absolutely worth a visit. It is a beautifully preserved Renaissance building, and its royal chambers are splendidly decorated and furnished.
3. Culloden Battlefield
Many of the old battlefields of Scotland are rumoured to be plagued by the souls of those who died there. So it's not surprising that Culloden, the site of one of the most bloody battles in British history, is among them. In barely 40 minutes, nearly 1500 clansmen were killed, and the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was defeated. Since then, people have heard cries, clashes of swords, and even gunfire on the battlefield. But there is more. Close to the battlefield is the house where Charles Edward Stuart slept the night before the battle. Although now a hotel, it is said that the 'Prince's' spirit still lingers here, wearing a complete Highland costume, waiting for a new battle…
4. Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle is set in a stunning and scenic spot in Scotland, on a small tidal island where three sea lochs come together. Thanks to its stunning location, it is one of the most photographed castles in Europe. In the early 20th-century, the castle was restored, and it is believed that the castle had not been entirely empty while it was a ruin. It is said that the spirit of a fallen Spanish soldier lingers, with his head tucked under his arm. An apparition, known as 'Lady Mary', has also been spotted in one of the castle's bedrooms. Whether or not you encounter these ghosts, Eilean Donan Castle is an awe-inspiring place in an equally stunning location that cannot be missed.
5. Ben Macdui Mountain, Cairngorms
Ben Macdui is the second tallest mountain in Britain, just 35 meters shorter than the better-known Ben Nevis. It might not have the tallest peak, but it certainly has a rich — and some say supernatural - history. The mountain is said to be plagued by the Big Grey Man, known in Scottish folklore as Am Fear Liath Mòr. Eyewitnesses describe the yeti-like man as an extremely tall hairy figure… Legends say this creature haunts the summit and passes of the mountain. Many adventurers have claimed to hear ghostly footsteps crunching in the snow behind them. Despite causing unease among climbers, there is no firm proof that the Big Grey Man has ever been brought to light. Some theorists suggest that what walkers see are mountain specters - their shadows cast upon a cloud.
6. Skaill House, Orkney
At a short distance from the stone-age village of Skara Brae stands the majestic 17th-century manor house known as Skaill House. It was built on the remnants of an ancient burial ground (of the Pics). Many believe this is one of the reasons for the apparitions of ghostly figures at Skaill House. The one sure thing is that there are skeletons under the floorboards. Preparing Skaill House for its opening to the public, fifteen skeletons were discovered in the wing and under the gravel in front of the castle. Even though there are many stories about these ghosts, a visit to Skaill House gives an interesting insight into Orkney's exciting past.
7. Loch Morar
Loch Morar is peacefully set on the West coast of Scotland's Highlands, only about 70 miles from Loch Ness. The surrounding area is stunning, wild, rugged, and remote. The loch is one of the deepest freshwater lakes in the UK. Even more impressive is that this stretch of water holds a mystery that dates back almost as far as Nessie (the well-known monster of Loch Ness). The residents here named their monster - Morag. Sightings of Morag date back to the 1880s, being described as a large black snake-like creature of 9 metres long!
With superstition and Celtic mythology playing an important part in Morag's history, it could have influenced the belief in both Loch Morar's Morag and Nessie. Other theories say that sightings could be attributed to cat's paws (swirling waves caused by wind). Who is right?
8. Culzean Castle
Hanging on a cliff above the Ayrshire coast stands Culzean Castle proudly. The castle was built by Sir Thomas Kennedy, who was murdered in 1602. Since then, it is said that when a member of the Kennedy family was getting married, a ghostly piper was heard. The story goes that a piper and his loyal dog had been sent to explore the caves underneath the castle. Later the piper had disappeared, but his music was still heard from the castle. The Kennedy family handed Culzean Castle over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, and today you can visit the castle and its magnificent park. Don't miss the oval staircase, the impressive centerpiece of the castle.
9. St. Andrews Cathedral
St. Andrews is a seaside town on the east coast of Scotland'. It is known for its long and rich history. The cobbled streets of St. Andrews lead you to medieval ruins, which reveal the town's turbulent past. One of these ruins is St. Andrews Cathedral - once the site of Scotland's largest and magnificent medieval church. The Cathedral witnessed many terrifying events over the centuries. Still, today it is linked with dark stories abound about the ghosts of St. Andrews.
It is said that the haunted tower at St. Andrews Cathedral is home to an exceptionally prominent presence, the White Lady. The spirit of a woman was said to have died from a broken heart. For the past hundreds of years, people have been talking about the apparition of a lady wearing white gloves roaming the grounds before vanishing at the Cathedral's tower.
Not only is the Cathedral an interesting site, but also St. Andrews town is worthwhile visiting. It is home to Scotland's oldest university, gorgeous traditional townhouses, and, besides, a paradise for golfers.
10. Edinburgh Vaults
Located beneath the South Bridge, the Edinburgh Vaults have a turbulent past. Dating back to 1788, they were once a place with businesses and where poor people tried to survive. Soon, through the cracks of the poorly constructed viaduct, dirty water and waste entered the lowest levels turning it into a place of despair. At the end of the 19th-century, the vaults were closed off for good. They were rediscovered in the 1980s, and since then, the vaults of South Bridge have been opened to the public. With guided tours, you can explore the tunnels and rooms and learn about the facts and spooky legends of the vaults... Some witnesses claimed to feel cold air gusts, hear voices, and sense a supernatural presence... Would you dare to take a tour?
11. Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle is an impressive medieval fortress perched on a huge rocky headland in the North Sea. It is an icon of Scotland and was once home to countless kings, queens, and noblemen. Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, the only way to access the castle is via a small strip of land.
Probably for its remote position, the fortress boasts a number of ghostly stories. It is said that a young woman in a traditional green dress - the Green Lady - is looking for her "lost children" in the castle, and a tall Scandinavian-looking man is still looking out for Viking attackers.
There's no doubt Dunnottar has a hideous past, but it is a fascinating castle and well worth a visit.