Scotland can be a very spooky place. If you are searching for a scary or ghostly experience, you are in the right country! In the last year we have discovered some sinister and terrifying sites. From the Scottish borders right up to the Highlands and Islands. Scotland is rich in history, and we love a Scottish adventure which is shrouded in mystery. Our list includes abandoned castles, haunted hotels, creepy cemeteries, and dark and disused railway tunnels. Here are some of Scotland’s scariest places, and if you are anything like us they are guaranteed to put a shiver down your spine.
Does the movie ‘The Descent’ spring to mind when you look at the pictures of Spar Cave? We were certainly reminded of the film as we made our way through the dark and forbidding 80-metre-deep cave! The cave is cold and eerie inside. Drips of water can be heard and felt as you climb the two ‘crystallised’ flowstone staircases. The dark and otherworldly environment creates the distinct impression that there are malevolent forces hiding in the crevices. Don’t forget your torch and try not to look back!
Adventurer Bear Grylls once took Ben Stiller here and filmed an episode for his TV show called ‘Surviving the night in Spar Cave’. I’m not quite sure I’d be brave enough to spend the night in it. An hour was enough!
If you do decide to visit the cave, please bear in mind it can only be accessed at low tide. Due to this, it’s essential to properly plan your visit. The lack of information boards, signs, rails or steps at Spar Cave makes it a riskier prospect than most tourist attractions on Skye. However, that’s also part of the appeal!
If you succeed in finding the cave, I promise you will have a spine chilling, unearthly experience! You can read more about our experience in Spar Cave and direction for finding it here.
Yester Castle and Goblin Ha’
This 12th century castle ruin and dungeon near the small village of Gifford in East Lothian was built on the orders of Sir Hugo De Gifford. Sit Hugo was nicknamed ‘The wizard of Yester’ due to the mysterious rituals he carried out in dungeons below the castle. It is widely considered one of Scotland’s scariest places.
Due to Sir Hugo’s supernatural dabbling, it is rumoured that demonic forces helped with the construction of the building. De Gifford was widely renowned as a wizard and gained the trust of King Alexander who he would advise on battles and other important events.
Goblin Ha’ can be entered from the North of the Castle. Here, an eerie dark and narrow old staircase leads you deeper underground. This staircase has the ominous nickname – the ‘gateway to hell’. Partly due to the supernatural history of the castle and partly due to the events that have followed.
Would you be brave enough to enter the gateway to hell?
You can read more about Yester Castle and Goblin Ha’ with direction for finding it here.
Old Doune Church Burial Ground and the Cursed Grave of Seath Mor
Seath mor was a 14th century warrior. His gravestone reads “Victor at the battle of Perth.” The inscription relates to a clan battle between 30 of Seath Mor’s men (Clan Chattan) and 30 men from one of their traditional enemy clans. King Robert the 3rd had ordered the clan war to settle a dispute. Thanks mainly to Seath Mors battle prowess they slay all but one of the opposing side. Cementing into legend his reputation as a fearsome warrior!
Seath Mor’s grave is now the subject of speculation and superstition. Sitting on top of his grave are five, cylinder shaped stones. Why are they there you may ask? Legend has it that these stones are cursed and there to protect the soul of Seath Mor. Reports of people becoming poorly or dying after touching these stones exist in abundance, and the story goes that the iron grid was placed over the grave to protect all those that visited its site. The ghost of Seath Mor is said to roam the graveyard at night- it isn’t advised to anger his restless spirit.
The less exciting explanation is that the stones were previously stolen and the iron grate was placed over the grave to protect its integrity. However, as I scanned the many coins that have been left atop the grave as an offering to the ghost of Seath Mor, I found myself reaching in my pockets and adding some of my own. We didn’t want to take any chances! We definitely think this is one of Scotland’s scariest places.
More information and directions to find it here.
The Cauldron of the Heads
One of the most notorious sites in Skye is “Corie nan Ceann” – the Cauldron of the Heads. This pool of water once bled red with the blood of the Macleod Clansman after their defeat in the Battle of Trouternes. The Macleods fought the Macdonalds in 1539 over the disputed Trotternish territory on the banks of Snizort River at Skeabost.
Legend has it that the ruthless Macdonalds threw their enemies decapitated heads in the river upstream at St Columbas Island. The bobbing heads became trapped in the large pool at the bottom of the waterfall, turning the water a deep blood red. The site is now marked with a plaque and exudes an atmosphere that’s difficult to explain. Legend has it that the wails from the slain clansmen can still be heard all the way from St Columbas Isle to the Cauldron of the heads.
This site is forever stained by the blood of hundreds of clansmen and can definitely be considered one of Scotland’s scariest places.
If you’d like to learn more about this site along with the nearby St Columba’s Isle and the Grave of a Crusader click here.
Boleskin House has a long and dark history. Legend has it that it was built on the site of a church that burned down during a service. The house overlooks Boleskin Cemetery and Loch Ness and there is allegedly an underground tunnel connecting the house to the cemetery. Notorious occultist Alastair Crowley bought the house in 1899, for its secluded location and a place where he could perform dark magic.
Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy page also owned the house for a period of time from 1971 -1992. In 2015 it suffered a devastating fire which all but destroyed the house. A Scottish charity has now bought the estate and plans are in place to restore the fire damaged roofless shell. Access is not allowed into the grounds of Boleskin House but you are allowed to explore the adjacent graveyard
Due to many years of occultism, dark magic, and secret rituals this site is said to be haunted by powerful demons. If you’re brave enough to go at night be sure the take a friend to watch your back. It is after all, one of Scotland’s scariest places.
Lennox Town Hospital
Abandoned mental asylums are on most people’s lists of scary places, including our own. Hidden in a secluded spot, north of Glasgow is the abandoned Lennox Town psychiatric hospital. The castle was built in 1830’s and converted into a psychiatric facility in the 20th century. It was one of the most advanced institutions of its type, offering accommodation for over 1200 patients suffering from mental illness.
Unfortunately, it went on to become notorious, with reports of mental and physical abuse of the patients and severe overcrowding. Unmarried mothers and people with learning difficulties were locked up here for decades and had to endure unimaginable things. As conditions continued to deteriorate, the medical director Dr Alasdair Sim spoke out and said he had never worked in a ‘a worse pit’. Eventually it closed its doors in 2002 and has never been occupied since.
The setting of the crumbling asylum is like something out of a horror movie. The old sandstone staircase is covered in a thick layer of moss and the pathway to the hospital is lined with twisted and contorted trees. If you’re brave enough to make it to the building you may well hear the cries of tortured patients long forgotten! The setting and history of this magnificent building definitely make it one of Scotland’s scariest places.
Neidpath Railway Tunnel
Neidpath railway tunnel is almost half a mile long. It is a completely abandoned train tunnel situated close to the town of Peebles. It is the longest tunnel on a railway walkway in Britain.
We entered the tunnel just after the old railway viaduct. It wasn’t long until all-natural light had abandoned us. Our torches did little to light the sinister environment. About halfway through the tunnel there is an opening that takes you into a mysterious secret room. We decided it might be fun to go inside and turn our torches off for a minute. I can honestly say I have never experienced darkness like it before. I was relieved when the minute was up and we got some light again!
We walked the rest of the tunnel continually checking our backs. We had the constant feeling of being followed. However, every time we checked we were only met by an all-encompassing darkness!
I’m sure a visit on Halloween would provide a truly nerve-wracking experience!
The Pirate’s Graveyard
The ‘Pirate’s Graveyard’ is an ancient and fascinating graveyard sitting on a hill in the quaint village of Cromarty. The locals gave the graveyard this nickname due to the skull and cross bone decorations. Its real name is St Regulus’ Graveyard.
The Pirate’s Graveyard has a variety of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century grave slabs decorated in the ‘memento mori’ style. Memento mori is Latin for ‘remember you will die’. The gravestone adornments include skull and crossbones, bells, hourglasses, shovels, and spectres. A symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.
A private chapel once stood in the centre of this graveyard. Now only the crypt below the chapel remains. It is possible to access the crypt by going down a slope and through a stone doorway. The Urquhart clan crest sits proudly above the entrance. The crypt is appropriately gloomy and eerie inside and has 4 tiny gravestones. The air immediately cools as you enter the lifeless crypt. Maybe from the lack of sun. Perhaps due to something else.
Sculptors Cave is one of many sea caves situated on the Moray Firth. What distinguishes Sculptors Cave from all the others is its long and fascinating history.
It is widely believed that the mummified severed heads of children were displayed at the entrance of the cave during the bronze age. All the discoveries point to the cave being used for rituals and sacrifices. The why remains a mystery. However, one theory suggests that as the cave is situated between land and sea, people viewed it as a passage to the underworld, where the living could transition to dead.
Pictish markings that date back over 1500 years can be found mostly around the cave’s entrance! While this cave wasn’t as scary in appearance as Spar Cave, the rituals and sacrifices that have taken place here makes it an unmissably creepy place to visit. It could well be one of Scotland’s scariest places.
More information on Sculptors cave can be found here and directions on how to find it.
Culloden Battlefield and Clootie Well
Culloden is home to a haunted battlefield where gravestones of the fallen are dotted all over the moor. Thousands of Jacobite soldiers were slaughtered at this blood thirsty battle in 1746. The red coats (British army) won a decisive and brutal victory that effectively squashed the Jacobite rebellion.
Many locals and visitors have claimed that on the anniversary of the battle on 16th April, they can hear noise of marching soldiers and see the ghosts of the fallen clansmen. The battlefield is an atmospheric place to visit all year round but if you visit on the battle’s anniversary you just might get a glimpse of some weary Jacobite spirits. The frequency of sightings makes this one of Scotland’s scariest places.
In the heart of Culloden Woods, just a short distance from the Battlefield is a walled Clootie Well known as St Mary’s well. It is believed that if you dip a piece of cloth belonging to someone who is unwell in to the water of the holy well, then tie it to a branch while saying a prayer then the spirit of the well will heal the ill person.
A little way further into Culloden Woods is a large boulder nicknames “Prisoner’s Stone”. At this spot just days after the great battle, 17 wounded soldiers were lined up and shot dead. Another grim reminder of a brutal and bloodthirsty slaughter.
The impressive ruin of Slains Castle can be found on Cruden Bay’s dramatic cliff edge. This castle is famously connected to Bram Stoker who was one of the most notable guests. Slain’s is widely thought to have been the inspiration for the setting of his book Dracula.
You can wander around the maze of corridors, rooms, and even climb the staircase to the top of the tower. Care should be taken when exploring the ruins.
Crows often circle the castle and the waves below violently crash against the cliffs adding to the eerie atmosphere at Slains Castle.
It is rumoured that the abandoned castle is haunted. There have been many sightings of ghostly figures walking around the corridors inside the castle. Both Haunted Scotland and Scottish Paranormal have conducted experiments at the castle and discovered paranormal activities.
Accused witches used to be locked up in the tower jail and voices of the witches have since been recorded. The spirit of the jailor who locked the witches up has been seen walking around the corridors. Solemnly shaking his keys and tugging on the jackets of some visitors. World War II soldiers have been seen marching by the castle too.
The Drovers Inn is the oldest public house in Scotland. It is also rumoured to be one of the most haunted hotels in the UK. Room 6 is where most ghosts have been spotted. Some guests have woken during the night and felt a small, cold and wet body next to them. This is believed to be the ghost a young girl who drowned in the river that runs behind the Drovers Inn. There have also been sightings of the ghost of a cattle drover who wanders the pub screaming late at night.
There’s a whole list of ghost stories from guests on The Drovers Inn website. You can read more about them here. We definitely think this qualifies as one of Scotland’s scariest places.
If you don’t feel brave enough to stay the night, the pub itself is worth a visit! The décor dates back 300 years. The flickering candlelight and ancient décor adds to the supernatural ambiance. The bar staff are willing to add to the atmosphere by telling a few ghost stories of their own!
Dog Suicide Bridge
You might want to keep your fury friends on a lead for this next one. This ancient bridge in Dumbarton has been given the nickname of the ‘Dog Suicide Bridge’ and for years locals have been left bewildered as to why a large number of dogs have leapt over the side of the bridge and plummeted 50 feet to their death.
Its real name is Overtoun Bridge and is located next to the magnificent Overtoun Mansion which is said to be haunted by the late Lady Overtoun. She lost her husband in 1908 and lived the next 23 years of her life depressed and grief stricken. Walkers have spotted a lady dressed in white, in the grounds of the house and spotted a ghostly white figure looking out of the old windows.
One theory suggests that Lady Overtoun’s ghost may have something to do with these unexplained incidents on the bridge. Some say that her spirit still mourns the death of her husband and uses supernatural ability to entice the dogs over the edge of the bridge to share her sadness. Others put it down to the dogs having a strong sense of smell and being able to smell wild animals in the trees below.
Whatever the reason behind it I know for sure I wouldn’t take any risks if crossing this bridge with a furry friend!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of Scotland’s scariest places! We would love to hear about any of your own recommendations, as lets face it, who doesn’t love being scared! Especially when Halloween is just around the corner!
Remember, no matter where you go to take only pictures and leave only footprints so that Scotland can stay beautiful for all who visit!
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