As soon as you step off the train at Edinburgh’s Waverley station you can feel it: the history – and the haunting. This is a city with stories to tell.
Perhaps its the presence of Edinburgh Castle glowering over the city from high on top of that dark, craggy rock. Or all those closely built dark stone houses climbing the hillside. Or the fogs, winds and rain. Or those associations of Scotland with the murderous Macbeth and his haunted wife wringing her hands to rid them of the blood.
Whatever it is, it’s not just you and me feeling it: there are ghost tales and tours aplenty in Edinburgh and you don’t want to miss exploring this frisson of history and mystery when visiting.
Edinburgh began as a fort and developed into a city in the 11th century. It really boomed during medieval times and then continued to grow becoming the center of Scottish politics and thought. Kings and armies fighting the English were based here and many a bloody plot of murder and war unfolded in Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The true story of murders and marriage that made up the life of Mary, Queen of Scots outshine anything modern day television writers could think up!
And it wasn’t just confined to the upper classes – there were all sorts of devious shenanigans going on down dark alleys and in basement vaults. It’s no coincidence that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote Sherlock Holmes and Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were natives of Edinburgh. Or even that JK Rowling dreamt up Harry Potter here.
Not surprisingly Edinburgh Castle is well known for its strange paranormal activity and scientific studies have been done to try and disprove the presence of ghosts. Then there are all the murders and hangings that took place way back in time. There are many souls with good reason to want to haunt the cobbled streets of Edinburgh.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, taking a walking tour of Edinburgh led by the deceased director of Edinburgh Cemetery or a hanged highwayman is a great way to get into the past of this fascinating city and find out some of the stories of the people who once walked these streets.
Not quite a ghost but a true story of heartwarming loyalty is Greyfriars Bobby, a loyal Skye terrier who kept vigil over his dead master’s grave for 14 years in the 1870s and 80s. The locals fed and cared for him and he is still one of the city’s most famous past residents.