14 Jun 2009

Haunted Scotland: So it's Death you want?

It has been a dark, stormy afternoon. The thunder has skidded across the heavens and the gloom is pouring into my living room. It has nothing to do with the drum roll for the whisky treats draw tomorrow. No, it is because Scotland is simply one of the best places in the world for deep shadows and whispered mysteries.

In the world of Google searches, the post in my first blog that most people land on is this one, about Greyfriars Kirk. I conclude therefore that many people yearn for the macabre, for the things that will make them shiver with just enough fear to get their heart thumping.

I have a small collection of graveyard photos, and since there is bound to be one among you who loves nothing more than walk between the headstones, reading the names aloud like they are pieces from a long lost incantation, I thought I would share them. The solemn angel comes to us from Rosslyn churchyard.

Then the popular Gothic beauty of Greyfriars Kirkyard, my personal favourite in Edinburgh:

Head to the coast and North Berwick, where the scalped remains of the old church presides over a showcase of worn headstones:
But if you visit no other graveyard in the country, make it the Victorian glory of the old Stirling cemetery, where the weathered stones seem to beg for someone to tell the stories of those buried beneath. For those from the USA, Stirling graveyard is also the final resting place of Butch Cassidy's grandfather.

Throughout the graveyard there are many stones featuring skulls and crossbones (which I love for their grisly drama), but the one that most clutches at my spirit is this one, massive and with no name, just the words "wee sister."

Not on any of the tourist maps, but this site near the Water of Leith trail in Edinburgh has an aura of calm that I always enjoy.
Next, the stern-looking monuments of the Glasgow Necropolis. It may seem a bit creepy to some, but this massive space, on a beautiful green hill behind Glasgow Cathedral, is a great place to pass a sunny afternoon with a picnic and a book. And should you start to hear voices from the tombs...well then you know it's time to pack up and head home.

Finally, another Edinburgh gem - the Dean Cemetery, not far from the Gallery of Modern Art. What makes this cemetery special is the claw-like limbs of the trees, but also the myriad of personalized headstones. It seems as if the dead are stuck, oozing between one world another. Below is painter Samuel Bough.

Do you have a love for the morbid that just won't let go? One of my favourite blogs for exploring Scotland's shady past is Edinburgh's Dark Side. If you are a story teller, it can be a great source of inspiration and character material.

The winner of the parcel of whisky treats will be announced tomorrow. Until then, sleep well (queue maniacal laughter).

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