Famous Eilean Donan Castle in Spring misty morning. dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland.

Dark Travel and Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland

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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 in the Scottish Highlands, a glen filled with green grass and trees, with a munro sitting high in the sky with fog rolling in over the hill. Glencoe has dark history and is a spooky place to visit in Scotland because of it's dark tourism past.

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

Abandoned asylums in Scotland. Gartloch Hospital in Glasgow Scotland. Large brick building with windows missing, abandoned building in Scotland.
credit: Gartloch Hospital FaceBook Group

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

Eilean Donan Castle in Spring misty morning. dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland.

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

New Slains Castle, ruins and crumbled castle with all windows smashed out sitting on a hill with a stormy sky. One of the dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland.

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

Robert the Bruce Statue in front of Stirling Castle Walls in Scotland. The popular castle is a place of dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland.

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

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

Overtoun Bridge in Scotland - well known for being the suicide bridge for local dogs.

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

Memorial stone with Clan Fraser written on it, the Culloden Battlefield is the marshy warzone from the Battle of Culloden and is a dark travel and spooky places to visit in Scotland

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

Inside the tunnels of the Gilmerton Cove in Edinburgh Scotland
credit: scotsman.com

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 in the sun in Scotland

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

Witches Well in Edinburgh Scotland
credit: my cool friend Chris

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.

Glasgow Necropolis

Two mossy graves that are weathered, aged and hard to read in Glasgow Necropolis. Overcast sky with more graves and tombstones and autumn trees with no leaves behind the two graves that sit next to each other.
Two mossy graves

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

Edinburgh Vaults

Dark gloomy Edinburgh Vault that lays beneath the historic Royal Mile
One of the Edinburgh Vaults

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.

Mercat Tours

Book the Edinburgh: Late Night Haunted Underground Vaults Tour here.

City of the Dead Tours

Book Edinburgh: Underground City of the Dead Tours here & Book Edinburgh: City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tours here

Auld Reekie

Book Edinburgh: Underground Vaults Terror Tour here.

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Comments 33

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  1. Ooh I wish I would’ve seen the vaults when I was in Edinburgh! But maybe a blessing I didn’t, I might’ve been too scared to sleep!

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      They do actually have history tours where you can go into the vaults! If/when you head back you should do that tour! That way it’s just history, no ghosts tales and it’ll get you down there. They are pretty cool! It’s a tour with Mercat Tours called Historic Underground. I will go on it next time I visit and let you know what it’s like!

  2. Edinburgh’s vaults where amazing, and I didn’t realize the history behind Glencoe. This is such an amazing post, it’s drawing me back to visit Scotland and see so much that I’ve missed.

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      Yes! If you ever want a super cool friend to go with I nominate myself. Did we go on the tour where that girl fainted before we started the tour?

  3. I was just talking with my boyfriend about a possible trip to Scotland and Ireland. I can’t wait to see these places in person.

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      OH YES! That would be great, that way I can read your blog posts and see your Scotland pictures on instagram! I hope you guys end up going this year!

  4. My two favorites here that I would love to visit are Gartloch’s Hospital and the Witches’ Well. I am not sure what it is about hospitals and asylums, but I am always intrigued by their history and stories. Gothic architecture adds a nice touch, too, to the spooky ambiance.

    I’m also in love with the design of that bridge although the dog story breaks my heart! That’s so weird that they would jump off. Thanks for providing one theory–I was definitely wondering what made them jump too.

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      Yeah! Witches Well is such an easy thing to miss too, I lived in Edinburgh for years and only noticed it near the end of my stay there. I love a bit of gothic architecture! It’s definitely my favourite – the Scott Monument on Princes Street is a really nice gothic piece. The hospital being built in that style is so cool!

      Yeah – the bridge – not too many dogs have died there over the years, but way more than normal. I wouldn’t risk walking my dog there – ever! You just never know. Especially since they don’t truly know what is causing them to jump. Everything is still just a theory.

  5. That’s too bad that they killed witches back then, they were probably just practicing what we call alternative medicine these days, which is a good thing.

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  6. Oooohh spooky. Love some of these locations. The cave looks eerie, and the asylum was fab. What a shame they had to refurb it. Meddlers. The bridge situation is very intriguing, I wouldn’t like to take my dog (which I don’t have) but I would be interested to see the reaction of someone else’s dog. Is that messed up? Thanks for sharing very interesting post

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      I know!! WHY are people always tearing down spooky historic hospitals to built apartments? They are doing that to a place in my city too – it’s called the Charle’s Camsell Hospital and it’s super creepy… but APARTMENTS! Also, note to self: if I ever get a dog, do not let John walk it in Scotland.

      1. Lol. I wouldn’t walk your dog, or anyone else’s dog. But if someone else were stupid enough to walk theirs, then I want to see.

        Such a shame about your spooky Hospital, I’ve been in a few and being inspired to write a horror movie screenplay. I never have of course. It was just momentary inspiration. Plus I wouldn’t live in them, agghhh

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  7. It’s embarrassing that I’ve BEEN to Glencoe and didn’t know it had a dark history *facepalm*

    I’m so glad you write about all these awesome places in Scotland, because I doubt we’ll be able to head back anytime soon and all I ever did in Scotland was hang out in the Highlands with friends and drink… A lot. Weirdly, I won’t be blogging about that.

    I have to agree with Christine that the Gartloch hospital and Witches Well would be top on my spooky Scotland itinerary. But I’m also super intrigued by Gilmerton Cove. I love a good underground romp… and a mystery! They sound super cool. But honestly, I would enjoy any of these places, I think. Except maybe the Overtoun Bridge, that just makes me super sad! And I’d NEVER go there with a dog!

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      If it makes you feel better – neither did I! The first time I went my friends were speaking about the Campbells and how you shouldn’t tell people if you are a Campbell in Scotland! Then I got a more detailed story when I took my bestie up to Loch Ness and we stopped in Glencoe along the way. At that point I had already fallen in love with it’s history and beauty.

      The witches well is pretty tiny. I have a witch post coming up about witchcraft in Scotland that you and Christine will hopefully enjoy! I do love my historic Scotland!

  8. I used to live by the Charles Camsel hospital and walked my dog by it regularly. The only thing scary about it is the asbestos. The location is awesome and I would totally live there.

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      I always found it pretty creepy when I would see it while visiting my friend. This was back when it was still just an abandoned structure. I went on a ghost tour with Morgan Knudsen last October and it was one of her stops – the stories definitely scared me! I don’t think I could ever live there but I would love to visit someone who decides to buy one of the condos!

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. A wonderful post – Culloden was one of my favorite places we’ve ever been! Glamis is definitely on the list now – looks like a trip to Scotland is in order!!! xx

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  10. I’m planning on going to Aberdeen, Scotland. Is there anything there worth seeing?

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      Hello – if you are into witchcraft history I have a post about where to find witches in Scotland that includes a piece about Aberdeen (https://wanderingcrystal.com/scotlandwitchcraft/) Be sure to visit the Kirk of St. Nicolas and St. Mary’s Chapel for that history! Slains Castle is in Aberdeenshire – which is close to the city if you wanted to take a day trip out there. It’s a beautiful ruined castle that was thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s castle (as above).

      Also visit the Tolbooth Museum which has cells of former prisoners, execution tools and all sorts of creepy things! Aberdeen also has a lot of ghost tours that will take you around to all the spooky and haunted places in the city! Be sure to visit the pub Ma Cameron’s as it’s quite haunted!

      Hope you have a fantastic time!

  11. I am finding your blog very helpful. My daughters and I are planning a trip to Scotland in either May or October of 2020. Kind of a trip to the “motherland”. But we are practicing pagans and are more interested in pagan sites, druids and such with a mild interest in the witches purge of James the VI. We are more interested in what they did and what they left behind before the purge. Thank you very much.

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  12. Such an interesting post. Loved it totally! I did know about Scotland ‘s dark past but not so much in depth. Enjoy thoroughly

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      Thank you so much! There is so much more dark history to explore so perhaps in the future I will expand this post. I appreciate your comment!

  13. I’ve tried researching the Glencoe massacre out of curiosity (especially after hiking through Kinlochleven which was supposedly where they advanced from? ), but it’s really complicated and confusing to me. I don’t quite understand the issues at play between the different parties involved. Would you happen to know of a good resource where I can find like a Cliffnotes version?

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  14. Wow, I never knew about the cave below Edinburgh. It seems so eerie. We stayed at a hotel in Ballaculish, just down the road from Glencoe and had a ghostly experience with the room door opening and closing in the early hours of the morning. How dark is the Bridge of Death. I wonder if that’s where Monty Python got their joke for the Holy Grail movie.

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      Creepy! Did you mention the door opening and closing to the hotel staff? That would freak me out! Edinburgh has so much buried below the city, it’s crazy interesting! I want to explore it all. Glasgow even has a village underneath some of the buildings in the city!

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