Scotland is a land of extraordinary landscapes and magnificent, sometimes remote castles. But it is also a unique culture and folklore. It is around Halloween that this folklore is most evident in Scotland. Indeed, fascinated by fright, the Scots have fully embraced the spirit of this festival. Encouraged by the influx of tourists, the Scots have made the most of their scary events, places and stories.
But what are the little known or misunderstood Scottish myths and legends? And above all, how can you make the most of your stay in Scotland to discover all this culture of the paranormal and the frightening? Here are the answers, right now!
This folklore has been widely exported throughout the world. Indeed, Nessy, the Loch Ness Monster, is an international celebrity. This long-necked aquatic monster is said to reside in Loch Ness, a deep lake 37 km long. It is located in the north of Scotland. There, many tourist visits are organised.
But did you know that this monster had a sister? Morag, in Loch Morar, located further east of Loch Ness and less known to the general public. Off the beaten track, this lake will allow you to avoid the influx of tourists coming to find the Scottish monster.
(Loch Ness, Scotland)
Then the Scottish legends were built throughout its history. At first Celtic, the legends are then attached to nature and in particular to water and animals.
Among these, we can mention the Kelpies. These sea horses lure unwary people near the water in order to drown them. These creatures can be seen in secluded corners, deep in forests and near water. This legend, very close to the Viking culture, is today strongly integrated in the Scottish culture. They are represented artistically, in particular, by the two statues by Andy Scott in Helix Park.
(Kelpies’ statue, in the Helix park, by Andy Scott)
There are also other stories involving animals and water. One example is the seal men and women (Selkies, see photo below). These are seals with the ability to take on the appearance of human beings. There are also fish-men: the “Blue Men of Minch” or “Storm Kelpies”. They lived in the northwest of Scotland, between the mainland and the archipelagos.
(Selkie, Kopakonan Statue, by Hans Pauli Olsen, Mikladalur, Faroe Islands)
Finally, some natural marine phenomena also have their share of legends. This is the case of the Corryvekran whirlpool. This is the third largest whirlpool in the world. Its roar can be heard for 16 km and can make waves 9 m high. There, a prince is said to have drowned while trying to prove his bravery to the father of a princess. This legend has survived to the present day, and if you don’t see ghosts, you will see a rare natural phenomenon.
All over Scotland there are a number of castles, remnants of the country’s bloody history. It is during all these wars and conflicts that many legends were born. Among them, the most famous ones concern ghosts and monsters.
The most famous, and surely one of the most haunted, is Glamis Castle. Several apparitions have occurred there throughout Scottish history. The most famous legend is that of the Castle Monster. This is the ghost of a child born deformed and locked in a room all his life. However, this place, like Crathes Castel, is nowadays very popular with tourists. The Glamis Monster and the Green Lady (the ghostly apparition at Crathes Castel) have become central to the celebration of Halloween and are victims of their own success. So has the ghost of the headless drummer in Edinburgh Castle.
We suggest you move away from the capital and visit the beautiful and equally haunted Dalhousie Castle. There, a young noblewoman has fallen in love with a servant. This forbidden love led her to lock herself in her room until she died. She has been appearing ever since, dressed in grey, weeping for this impossible love.
Less well known to the general public, this historical site will allow you to avoid the over-tourism of Edinburgh in the run-up to Halloween.
The spirit of Halloween is also about vampires and witches. And that’s just as well, because Scottish myths are full of them. You can visit the Glasgow Cemetery, for example. It gained its scary fame after the appearance of a huge red-eyed vampire, scaring all the children in the neighbourhood. The fact that a vampire is based there has not been proven. Moreover, other versions speak of a witch haunting the place. It’s up to you to choose which one you will hunt!
(Cimetery in Scotland)
Another place symbolically close to witchcraft is the grave of Lord Mackenzie, located in Greyfriars Kirkyard. This bloody politician is said to have his grave haunted by his 1200 or so victims. This famous cemetery in the heart of Edinburgh will be recognisable to fans of the Harry Potter films. The heavy atmosphere of this place was favourable for the shooting of some scenes. This Greyfriars is a symbol of what Scottish folklore can bring to Halloween.
(Greyfiards Kirkyard, Edimbourg, Scottland)
Finally, Scotland is blessed with a range of mysterious and unexplainable events on Halloween. One of the best known is the presence of menhirs. These menhirs are dotted around Scotland, and no explanation has yet been found for their presence and purpose. Scottish folklore evokes many myths and legends concerning them. They are said to be giants locked in stone, a place for ghosts and fairies. Finally, some mention them as a place of extraterrestrial encounter.
If you want to visit these iconic areas, we advise you to avoid the most popular ones. The overcrowding of tourists in the area is leading to the degradation of these magnificent heritages. For example, you might decide to explore the stone circles of Kilmartin. Lost in the far west of Scotland, you will be immersed in a unique place, off the beaten track. This stone circle is surrounded by large forests and numerous lochs.
Finally, if you are still looking for a unique expedition, there is one last place to visit. It is said that in Dunphy a ghost train appears, at times, at night. The first appearance dates back to 1921. And although the tracks have disappeared, since 1965 some locals have reported seeing it. If you don’t see it, you’ll be immersed in beautiful scenery, where very few tourists have ventured.
There are still so many Scottish scary stories, and it’s well worth finding out about them first hand. During this period, many of these places get up to speed. So it’s a great time to be in Scotland for Halloween. However, be sure to go to places that are not too busy to avoid over-tourism and its negative effects on these places. By doing so, you will be helping to preserve Scottish culture, and ensuring that your trip is a success!