Scotland is a land of rich history, with some dark and horrible stories from times past. It’s a place where mystical landscapes, hastily abandoned locations and castles left to ruin have inspired the settings of our favourite horror novels. If you want a glimpse into the country’s sinister past, check out these 10 spooky places to visit in Scotland.
The best spooky places to visit in Scotland
Glencoe, an area in Scotland you’ll undoubtedly pass through if you head north into the Highlands or to visit Loch Ness, is my favourite part of the country because it’s so beautiful, despite its terrible past. This part of the country is shrouded in a dark drama better known as the Massacre of Glencoe.
The story begins when Archibald Campbell and his troops spent two weeks with the MacDonald Clan, who welcomed Campbell and his soldiers with great hospitality. One night, after receiving an order from Scotland’s secretary of state, Campbell attacked and slaughtered members of the MacDonald clan in the night. Women and children were not spared from the slaughter, houses were brutally set on fire and the remaining MacDonald’s fled from their homes in fear.
Visiting Glencoe by car:
Take the A82 from Glasgow or the A828 through Oban. Alternatively, if you take a tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness, the bus will briefly stop in Glencoe.
Once a mental health asylum and tuberculosis hospital, Gartloch Hospital closed down in 1996, leaving behind a creepy, Gothic Victorian-style structure that shortly began to deteriorate due to being abandoned. Like most abandoned structures, particularly ones which once dealt with serious health outbreaks, the derelict site became well-known for reports of apparitions peering out the windows of one of the former hospital wards.
Located near the village of Gartcosh, the once derelict building is now being converted into a luxury village, much like the very haunted Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. (Why do people want to convert old hospitals into homes in these scary locations? Would you live in a former asylum?)
Visiting Gartloch Hospital: You can still visit this former hospital, although the building is no longer a rundown abandoned structure, and you can still see the remains of Gartloch. The Gartloch Hospital Administration Block is located at Gartloch Road, Gartloch, Glasgow.
New Slains Castle Ruins
The ruins of Slains Castle are located in Cruden Bay, just 25 miles north of Aberdeen. The area surrounding the castle was often visited by Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, and many believe that Slains Castle was the inspiration for the castle in his book. Although the castle rewards visitors with incredible views of the North Sea, what’s left today is little more than remains of walls, large open windows and stairways which are weatherworn and lead to nowhere.
So while Slains Castle is free to visit and offers stunningly picturesque views of the sea, it’s located right on the cliffside and isn’t the most structurally-sound building. So be careful — if you trip, it’s a long way down!
Visiting New Slains Castle Ruins: You can walk to the Slain Castle Ruins from Cruden Bay village. Just head east and walk for a kilometer to reach them.
Known as “The Bridge of Death”, Overtoun Bridge in the village of Milton is famous for being the spot where dogs jump to their deaths. The bridge sits atop many rough, jagged rocks that could easily injure or kill any animal unlucky enough to land upon them. No one’s quite sure what causes dogs to jump off the bridge. One theory is that there’s a prominent mink scent in the area which, when combined with the height of the bridge walls, confuses the dogs and causes them to jump over in an effort to reach the unattainable musk.
Personally, I think Overtoun Bridge looks beautiful but I would surely keep my dog on a very tight leash (or “lead” as they say in Scotland) if we ever ventured near it.
Visiting Overtoun Bridge: The bridge is located in Dumbarton, on the approach road to Overtoun House. Head northwest onto Strathleven and turn off at Round Riding Road. You’ll find Overtoun Bridge located at Campbell Avenue in Dumbarton.
In an attempt to return the British crown to his father, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Stuart) and the Jacobites (a political group of mostly Highlanders, but with some Irish and French troops mixed in, too) participated in a brutal but short battle on the Culloden Moor.
The Battle of Culloden took place on April 16th in 1746 and lasted less than an hour. Despite its brevity, the battle resulted in about 1250 Jacobite deaths, plus 50 deaths and over 300 injuries on the British government troop side.
The Royal Troops of King George II arrived at Culloden Moor well rested, fed and ready to fight. On the other side, the Jacobite Army were tired, hungry and not in an optimal position on the battlefield. The grounds of the Culloden Moor on which they charged were marshy, which was a huge disadvantage to the usual battle tactic they employed called the Highland Charge. This method was a high-speed run, involving the Highlanders clustering together and attacking with force. Their defeat resulted in the end of the clan system in Scotland.
The best way to learn more about the Battle of Culloden is to visit the Culloden Moor Visitors Centre. Although it’s also worth visiting the memorial cairn and taking a look at the headstone notes on the clan graves. If you’re a fan of the “Outlander” TV show or books, it’s a great place to learn a lot about the Jacobites.
Visiting the Culloden Moor Visitors Centre: The Culloden battlefield is always open, but the visitor’s centre has different opening hours depending on the time of year. Take a look at the website to view opening times. Entrance to the visitor centre is £11 per person. You can also book here.
Located at the south end of Edinburgh in Drum Street, Gilmerton Cove is a network of hand-carved underground tunnels and chambers that sit 10 feet below the city’s streets. The chambers here have sandstone furniture, including benches, tables and there’s even a hand-carved chapel. The entrance to the tunnels is in the home of a man who used to be a local locksmith and who is also believed to be the creator of the passageways.
Although the real purpose of Gilmerton Cove is a mystery, many theories exist pertaining to its origin. Some historians suspect the tunnels may have been used as a drinking den, as a refuge for the religious Covenanters (a Scottish Presbyterian movement) or as a hideout. Be sure to visit and see what you think these underground dwellings were used for.
Visiting Gilmerton Cove: Gilmerton Cove is located at 16A Drum Street in Edinburgh. Access to Gilmerton Cove is by appointment only, so be sure to book here.
Glamis Castle is best known for three things. It’s the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, it’s the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and it’s also one of the most haunted castles in Scotland. One of the more well-known ghosts to haunt the castle is the Grey Lady. She’s believed to be the ghost of Lady Glamis, who was falsely accused of poisoning her husband and sent to the Edinburgh Castle dungeon for years before ultimately being burned at the stake for being a witch in the 1500s. Her apparition has been seen roaming the halls of Glamis Castle.
Ghost tours are only held in October. So if you want to be guided through the spookiest parts of Glamis Castle, make sure you visit around Halloween. However, the castle and its surrounding gardens are open for several months — they’re stunning and shouldn’t be missed. Plus, you never know when you might spot one of the resident ghosts!
Visiting Glamis Castle: Glamis Castle is located in the village of Glamis in Angus. Visit their website for car, rail, and bus directions depending on where you’re traveling from.
Castle tours are £15.50 for adults and gardens & ground visits are £9.50 for adults.
Glamis Castle and its surrounding gardens will be open from March 30th, 2019.
Witch accusations were common in Edinburgh during the 16th century. As witchcraft was a crime in the city punishable by death, hundreds of accused witches met the fate by being burned at the stake. The burnings took place on the castle esplanade at Castle Hill, which is where the Witches’ Well stands today.
The Witches’ Well is a bronze plaque depicting images of witches’ heads tangled by a snake and a fountain. This monument commemorates the women who lost their lives when they were persecuted as witches, tortured, dunked in the Nor’ Loch (see my post on Mary King’s Close to learn more about the Nor’ Loch) and ultimately burned at the stake.
Related Post: Where to Find Witches in Scotland
Visiting Witches’ Well: As you walk up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle, take a right just as you pass the shop “The Tartan Weaving Mill” and you won’t miss it.
The beautiful Victorian cemetery of Glasgow Necropolis sits on a hill next to the Glasgow Cathedral on Castle Street. As you enter the necropolis, you walk over the “Bridge of Sighs”, indirectly named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice and because it was part of the route of funeral processions.
Glasgow Necropolis covers 37 acres and is home to 50000 bodies. Despite this, it only contains 3500 tombs, meaning a lot of bodies haven’t been marked. The cemetery is a great place to walk and the Friends of Glasgow even offer walking tours to discuss the history of the cemetery and some of its famous residents.
Visiting Glasgow Necropolis: Glasgow Necropolis is located on Castle Street, on the eastern edge of Glasgow City Centre and on the second highest hill in Glasgow. The main gates sit behind St Mungo’s Museum and are adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral. Walking from the Glasgow Cross, follow the high street until you reach St. Mungo’s Museum. You can find more information about this route on the Glasgow Necropolis website.
Related Post: Glasgow Necropolis – Exploring the City of the Dead
The Edinburgh Vaults are one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh if you’re interested in a night full of history and spooky stories. The underground chambers have a rich history. They were originally used as taverns, as storage for local merchants and as workshops by cobblers, smelters, cutlers and other tradesmen. Due to poor construction leading to leaks, the conditions were incredibly poor inside the vaults. The merchants moved out, the darkness moved in and the vaults were filled with criminals, including body snatchers who used the vaults as storage for corpses.
There are several tour companies today that will take you underground to experience the dark, damp, spine-chillingly spooky vaults. On a tour, you’ll hear stories about the vault’s fascinating history, including the resident ghosts that call the vaults their homes. I spent the night in one of the vaults known as Damnation Alley and I’ll never forget it!
Visiting Edinburgh Vaults: You can only access the vaults by joining a tour. There are several companies which will take you, but the best are Mercat Tours, Auld Reekie Tours, and the City of the Dead Tours. See where to book the tours below.