Written Jan. 26, 2017
Today was filled with all sorts of random findings and stories.
I hopped on a train to Stirling, hailed as “the heart of Scotland,” mainly to see Stirling Castle. The city itself is lovely and full of stunning parks and gardens. I only managed to see the King’s Park and Royal Gardens (both sprawling acres of beauty), but my favourite was King’s Knot. The best way to describe it would be a comparison to M. Night Shyamalan’s film, “Signs.” Except rather than crop circles, the King’s Knot was considered part of the Royal Gardens and formed with circular humps and formations, almost like a mini Hobbiton or Teletubbies mound. It was impossible to get great photos from standing on it, since it’s best viewed from an aerial perspective (like from the castle).
Stirling Castle was marvellous. I was sceptical about paying more money to see yet another castle, but I actually love exploring castles and palaces. There’s always so much knowledge and history to try and soak in that I end up skimming over half the signs and just taking a billion photos of the inner court. The Great Hall and king’s/queen’s bedrooms were obviously the most regal. The castle had a lot more exhibitions and the museums interested me more than the ones at Edinburgh Castle – and I quite liked how some of the workers had to role play and dress in the era, pretending to be knitting or writing in character in certain rooms.
I also crammed in Falkirk and Linlithgow, two large towns that are only 10 min away from Stirling by train. Falkirk is actually a gem of Scotland, mainly because of the Kelpies (see horse photo below) and the Falkirk Wheel. I knew I wanted to see the Kelpies (a 230+m horse monument) because I had Googled the best attractions in/around Edinburgh and that one was in the top 10. It was a remarkable landmark, a modern work of metal towering high into the sky. Definitely worth the 40-min. walk from the train station.
I also visited Linlithgow, a royal burgh most famous for its palace and adjoining chapel. I arrived just as the sun had set, so everything was dark and I sadly couldn’t go into the palace – but the photos I managed to get were incredible, the pink/blue skyline in the background. Linlithgow Loch is also beautiful, and I fell in love the instant I saw it.
When I got back into Edinburgh late at night (in the midst of rush hour on the trains), I went on a “Double Death” tour by City of the Dead, a paid walking ghost tour. After reading reviews of the free ghost tours in the city, I wanted the paid one where you could access the underground vaults and hear authentic ghost stories that went along with it.
The tour consisted of our guide, David, leading 8 of us into the underground vaults in South Bridge, and then walking through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard into the Covenanter’s Prison. I was really skeptical about wanting to shell out quite a bit of money for a 1.5 hour tour, but it ended up being pretty cool – the underground vaults were beautiful and I absolutely love spooky stuff and anything eerie like that.
However, I was the only one who screamed and jumped in the air when we had surprise jump scares at two different points.
Apparently the ghosts haunting the underground vaults in South Bridge are a mother, father, and child. David told us all about how children were mistreated in the Industrial Revolution. Some as young as 4 yrs. old were forced to squeeze into chimneys to clean them, and if they got stuck, others would tie a rope around their ankles and tug, therefore dislocating or majorly injuring them. It was gruesome to hear about, and we had to stand in silence in the very last vault in hopes of hearing any ghostly whispers or paranormal activity (none – I don’t really believe in that stuff anyway).
Walking through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard at night, in -2 Celsius freezing weather, was also super cool. I’m fascinated with cemeteries throughout the UK, and I’ve definitely walked through multiple ones in pitch black whilst here – but this was a neater experience because we heard about the horrors associated with the Black Mausoleum and Bloody McKenzie.
To summarise in a nutshell, the Covenanter’s Prison is a locked premise part of the graveyard, but the public can still see it through the locked gates. I’d write all about its history but I’m super exhausted. In sum, it was a cool experience and I’m glad that I did it. No paranormal activity was witnessed, as expected …