One of the things that I particularly enjoyed about my recent trip to Edinburgh was a trip around some of the most haunted spots in the city. We hadn’t deliberately set out to do a ghost walk but on one of the days we visited The Real Mary King’s Close, Gladstone’s Land and Greyfriars’ churchyard and in the process got something of a paranormal overload.
I had been expecting the Real Mary King’s Close to be the place where I felt the strongest supernatural vibes. Of course we also had with us Rochester the trusty guide dog puppy and everyone knows that animals are a great deal more susceptible to the supernatural than we are, so as we headed down the steps into the dark passageways of the Close I was waiting for something dramatic to happen.
The Close has had a reputation for hauntings since at least the 17th century. Originally it consisted of narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to seven stories high. When the Royal Exchange building was constructed in 1753 the Close was partially demolished and the remainder of the streets and houses were buried beneath the building. As a result it became a place of myth and legend, with tales of plague deaths, murders and hauntings abounding. It was easy enough to feel spooked as we walked through the dimly lit rooms and passageways but Rochester tootled along quite happily and I have to admit that although I thoroughly enjoyed the tour I didn’t feel the touch of any ghostly apparition.
And so to Greyfriars Churchyard, where Rochester wanted to pay homage to the faithful terrier Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who for many years stoodguard over his master’s grave. The Kirk stands on the site of the Franciscan monastery of the Grey Friars and the building is one of the oldest surviving outside of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The kirkyard is reputedly haunted by a poltergeist, the unhappy spirit of “Bloody” George Mackenzie, which is said to cause bruises, bites and cuts to those unfortunate people who come into contact with it. Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate, imprisoned 1200 of the Scottish Covenanters, Presbyterians who opposed the policies of King Charles II. Their prison adjoins the churchyard and I must admit that the longer I stayed there the more oppressive the atmosphere seemed to become. No bites or bruises, fortunately, but definitely a sense of unhappiness and dread.
And so finally to Gladstone’s Land, a surviving 17th century tenement house that the National Trust for Scotland has restored and furnished. This was the home of a prosperous Edinburgh merchant, Thomas Gledstanes, and it was a fascinating. I really enjoyed my visit. and especially the beautiful “painted chamber.” Alas, Rochester the puppy wasn’t so keen. He got as far as the kitchen and became very agitated, whining to go out. I don’t know whether Gladstone’s Land is reputed to be haunted but as one of the other visitors said to me: “That dog can see something you and I can’t!”
For a guide dog puppy’s view of the Edinburgh trip check out Rochester’s blog, Puppy with a Purpose!