One of my all time favorite trips was to Edinburgh Scotland...It was so unlike anywhere else I had visited including the areas of England I'd been too. One of the aspects of the city that I found so fascinating was the history, the ghostly, unexplainable stories and legends that are so much a part of the Royal Mile, the hub of the ghastly goings on which have been talked and written about for centuries. Back to those later...
The city itself was exciting, all the people hustling and bustling through the streets as we took in all the sights...
And those sights? There are so many of them, but none can compare with the sight of Edinburgh Castle...what an imposing structure that is, as it sits above the city, looking quite mysterious, lending a truly a theatrical and almost surreal feel to the town, including the very beginnings of the spot where it was built, on the site of a dead volcano, called Castle Rock.
|Lets play circle the ghost game!|
Inside the Castle people flock to visit tiny St. Margaret's chapel, which had been built in the 12th century and, not to be missed, are the States apartments, the most popular one, the bedroom where Queen Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI, who later became James the first, King of England. Another room you just can't miss is the Crown Chamber, here you find on display the Royal Crown, the Sword of Scotland and the Royal Scepter. But the most eerie are the French Prisons. where huge storerooms had been turned into a prison and a dungeon during the 18th century, hundreds, maybe thousands, of Napoleons soldiers were imprisoned there. During their captivity they carved their initials and pictures onto the walls, still visible today. Napoleonic graffiti!
On the other side of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh's oldest street, is the Palace of Holyrood...this palace is filled with mysterious hidden chambers where all sorts of strange goings on took place, including murders and political intrigues throughout the centuries. Today, the Queen of England still takes her yearly trips to the Palace and, during those visits, tourists aren't allowed in. You can tell when she is there by the royal flag displayed above the palace. We were lucky to have been there when she wasn't there so we had a most interesting tour of the place including the old ruined Abbey...these ruins are quite a sight and has some very interesting stories to tell as well.
|I left my heart and the rest of my body in Edinburgh Scotland|
But I've decided to concentrate on what seemed to intrigue me the most, The Royal Mile itself with all the spine chilling legends of witches, ghouls, ghosts, and quite a few really disturbing tales of the mile. Most of which remain unexplained!
If you have any interest at all in ghostly doings, witches and things that go bump in the night then the Royal Mile is a walk you must take....This famous mile, an old cobbled street, runs from the Castle to the Palace and, in every nook and cranny, there are stories to be told of the past...The historial John Knox house, from the 15th century, is certainly interesting to tour, Knox began the Presbyterian Church of Scotland with all the reforms that went with it and did not make the citizens very happy at the time...this is the only original Timbered house left and the hand painted ceilings inside are still intact...Knox is buried on the property.
You can also tour the Gladstone Estate from the 17th century..once owned by a merchant of great wealth, the tour shows off the original furnishings and decorations, all quite elaborate, demonstratring the taste of the times...Gladstone Estate is run by the National Trust and conveys the feeling that it's still lived in today.
There are quite a few other historic sights to see on this Royal Mile but it was the alleyways and the small neighborhoods called "The Close", where strange goings on have always intrigued those who have been there...myself included!
These alleys leading off the main street certainly have had their share of "ghostly going's on....The most famous is called Mary Kings Close....It was here that the plague struck very hard, killing more people than anywhere else during the epidemic of 1645...in order to prevent the disease from spreading the magistrate sealed off the Close so, all those poor unfortunates, who were within the enclosure were trapped and doomed to death.
|Nothing like a little fog to make a castle more eary|
Those who were outside couldn't get in either so more tenements were hastily built for the destitute but eventually the homeless made their way back inside the Close...Soon strange ghost stories were told, folks who died of the disease were seen again, more and more stories came out, even about dogs that fell sick, roaming the streets. It became so bad, that the Close was eventually abandoned. Then a fire broke out destroying all that had been left behind to decay and rot.....Now there is a big gate where once the entranceway stood leading off into different directions.......Nobody but nobody is allowed in, but there are whispers in the night, are they keeping us out? Or something in?
Another tale that has been documented has to do with music which seems to come from under the ground The story goes like this: once there was an underground tunnel that ran from the castle dungeon all the way to the Palace...a young piper was told to explore the pathway and was ordered play the entire time, so those above could follow him. But, only halfway through, the music stopped. This poor young man was never seen again... It is said that pipe music can be heard today.
|Supposedly some pictures of ghosts|
Other stories are rampant. One, called the death coach...a ghostly wagon is recorded in some old documents as being seen, just before a disaster strikes, galloping from the Palace to the Castle led by a headless horse, breathing fire as it races through the streets.
There was always something strange going on in and around the Mile. Our story wouldn't be complete without a tale of witches. Edinburgh was once thought to be the principal center for witchcraft. Between 1479 and 1722, more than 300 women were burned to death on Castle hill after being found guilty of "working with the devil". Today a plaque in a wall at the foot of the esplanade, opposite Cannonball house, marks the spot. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Presbyterians of Scotland, under strong Puritan influence, gave the go ahead for the burning, no matter how flimsy the evidence.
|Some of the catacombs|
Most of the women had probably never committed a crime, but we have to remember, those ancestors were extremely superstitious and truly believed that some seemingly ordinary women took the form of old hags at nightfall, to fly through the air on brooms, dispensing evil spells like confetti. They were not allowed any defense and were always proven guilty. Even some men were considered witches and were similarly punished.
Edinburgh is also famous for some very heinous crimes and murders...In 1827-1828, two men, Burke and Hare, are said to have strangled 16 people, at least, in order to sell the bodies for medical experiments and research...at first corpses were dug up from graves but those gruesome men decided it was easier to kill then to dig...
And, last but not least, one of the most famous pubs, Deacon Brodies Tavern, opened in 1806, (which is pointed out when you are on a tour), has another myth most of us have heard about...Deacon Brodie, the owner of this tavern, is said to be the inspiration of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous book, "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"....Brodie was a model citizen by day but at night he was said to be a thief and probably a murderer....He ended up being hung in October, 1778.....today, the tavern is a very popular one for locals and of course visitors, many who come just to say they have been there, to the house of Dr. Jekyll.
|The ghost in the pictures is circled|
The Castle itself has many stories of strange sightings and things that go bump in the night...It would be no surprise since so many people had been murdered or just disappeared after being brought to the dungeon.
It seems to me that if ghoulish happenings, unexplained noises, witches tales and strange disappearances seem to happen often along this famous Royal Mile, they shouldn't come as any surprise...with all that went on for so many centuries, I certainly wouldn't want to be there alone, on All Hallows Eve, or, at any time, for that matter...Would you?