Scotland is a land of dark history, with some spooky and dark stories from times past. It’s a place where mystical landscapes and abandoned castles have been left to ruin. The country is perfect for a dark history fan and lover of dark tourism in Scotland. If you want a glimpse into the country’s sinister past, want to find haunted places in Scotland to visit, or enjoy dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland be sure to add these 15 dark and spooky Scottish sites to your itinerary.
15 Dark Travel and Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland
Glencoe – Dark Tourism in the Scottish Highlands
Glencoe, an area in Scotland you will pass through if you head north into the Highlands or to visit Loch Ness, is my favourite part of the country.
The quiet Scottish Highland hills of Glencoe is so beautiful, despite its terrible past. This part of the country is shrouded in a dark history 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 MacDonalds 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.
Book a tour to Glencoe from Edinburgh here: Loch Ness, Glencoe, & the Highlands Day Tour
Book a tour to Glencoe from Glasgow here: Oban, Glencoe, Highland Lochs & Castles Tour
Gartloch Hospital – Abanonded Asylums in Scotland
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 any abandoned asylums in Scotland?)
Visiting Gartloch Hospital: You can still visit this former hospital, although the building is no longer a rundown abandoned structure, you can still see the remains of Gartloch. The Gartloch Hospital Administration Block is located at Gartloch Road, Gartloch, Glasgow.
Eilean Donan Castle
One of Scotland’s most popular castles, Eilean Donan Castle was involved in the Jacobite Rebellion. Although the castle was in a state of disarray, with crumbling dilapidated walls, it was once inhabited by allies of the Jacobites.
It was ultimately left to ruin, a state in which it remained until the 1900s when it was rebuilt and transformed into the castle you can visit today.
Eilean Donan Castle is associated with a lot of unique Scottish folklore. It was where the legend of a child gaining strange powers if it’s first drink was from the skull of a raven originated. The fable was confirmed when one of the Clan Matheson members developed the ability to talk to birds after following its guidance.
The spookiest thing about Eilean Donan Castle is my 2010 comment and proof of visit, concealed deep within the pages of the guestbook.
Book your trip to Eilean Donan Castle here: Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle Tour from Inverness
Visiting Eilean Donan Castle from Inverness: Follow the A82 and A87 towards Eilean Donan Castle
New Slains Castle Ruins in Cruden Bay
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! Perhaps you can be one of the ghosts that reside at Slains Castle and be part of one of the haunted places in Scotland to visit.
Visiting New Slains Castle Ruins: You can walk to the Slain Castle Ruins from Cruden Bay village. Just head east and walk for a kilometre to reach them.
Stirling Castle’s Dark and Spooky History
One of the most historic and haunted castles in Scotland, Stirling Castle is shrouded in tales of ghosts haunting its halls. The castle has a long and colourful background, having survived many sieges and being the crowning site of Mary Queen of Scots.
However, Stirling Castle also has a dark history, with ghosts of its past lurking in every corner. Stirling Castle is a great place for dark travel and one of the best spooky places to visit in Scotland.
Reports of a ghost known as The Pink Lady are abundant, but there’s no solid evidence to confirm who the ghostly apparition was when she was alive.
Some say she was a noblewoman who starved to death in the castle during the War of Independence, while others believe her to be a victim of grave robbers who stole her remains and brought them into the castle for dissection. They say she still lingers around the grounds, searching for her remains so she can finally be at peace.
Visiting Stirling Castle from Edinburgh: Take the train headed to Dunblane to Stirling, walk up towards the Castle Esplanade.
Book your ticket to Stirling Castle: Stirling Castle Tickets
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Skaill House, Orkney’s incredible mansion, is said to have been built on top of an ancient Pictish burial ground. Several skeletons were found buried deep beneath the floorboards of the mansion which were later discovered to be remnants of a Norse graveyard which once stood on the mansion’s grounds.
The skeletons aren’t the only thing connecting Skaill House to death. Several people have reported seeing ghosts in empty rooms, followed by the unexplained smell of cigarette smoke flowing throughout the mansion. Many believe the ghostly goings-on are the result of Skaill House residing atop the Pictish burial ground.
Signs of the Picts and their medieval Celtic texts and stones can still be found throughout Orkney today.
Visiting Skaill House from Stromness: Take the bus 8S from the Travel Centre in Stromness to the Visitor Centre and walk 4 minutes to the Skaill House
Overtoun Bridge – Scotland’s Suicide Bridge
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.
Culloden Moor – Site of the Battle of Culloden
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 was 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.
Book your ticket to the Culloden Battlefield Visitors Centre: Culloden Battlefield Visitor Center Ticket with Audio Guide
Gilmerton Cove – Edinburgh’s Underground Chamber
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. He is 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.
Scotland’s Secret Bunker
Buried 100 feet below the ground in Scotland hides a furtive secret — a nuclear bunker. The bunker is complete with a command centre, living quarters, broadcasting studio and a collection of authentic Cold War technology.
The obscure bunker was built in 1951 as an emergency government command centre in preparation for an anticipated war.
Known today as Scotland’s Secret Bunker, the hidden piece of history is open for the public to explore.
Here you can walk through winding tunnels, step inside control rooms, examine the radar room, search the RAF operations room and discover what life was like when the threat of impending nuclear war was on everyone’s minds.
Visiting Scotland’s Secret Bunker: There is no public transportation that stops at the bunker, so the best route from Fife is driving up the B940. Visit their website for more information.
Glamis Castle – Spooky Haunting of Lady Glamis
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. She was 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 travelling from.
Book your ticket to Glamis Castle here: From Edinburgh: Glamis and Dunnottar Castles Day Trip
Witches’ Well – Witch History in Scotland
Witch accusations were common in Edinburgh during the 16th century. Witchcraft was a crime punishable by death. Hundreds of accused witches met their 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. These innocent people were tortured, dunked in 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 Cave of Sawney Bean – Scotland’s Cannibal Family
If you’ve visited Edinburgh Dungeons, you may have heard the legend of the cannibal known as Alexander “Sawney” Bean. Located off the Galloway coast sits Bennane Cave, an almost inaccessible cave once home to the cannibal and his family.
Sawney was as a murderous criminal who regularly attacked passersby and brought their dead bodies back to his cave for his cannibal children, before dumping their remains into the surrounding water.
The people of the nearby village would often come across human bones and skulls which had been washed up on the beach, revealing the horrors the Sawney family had been up to.
To learn more about the legend of Sawney Bean and his cannibalistic inbred family watch this video.
Learn more about the horrors of Sawney Bean at the Edinburgh Dungeons.
Book your ticket to the Edinburgh Dungeons: The Edinburgh Dungeon Entrance Ticket
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 and are perfect for those who love dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland.
The vaults were used as taverns and storage for local merchants. The vaults were used 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 and the darkness moved in. 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. The best are Mercat Tours, Auld Reekie Tours, and the City of the Dead Tours. See where to book the tours below.
City of the Dead Tours
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More Information about Dark Travel and Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland
- Spooky Things to do in Edinburgh
- Witches in Scotland
- Historic Edinburgh Cemeteries to Explore
- Things to do in Edinburgh: Surgeons’ Hall Museum