Tuesday, August 25, 2015

British Isles #17: Edinburgh Haunts

The cool, misty, windy days of Edinburgh in late March were the best sort of days to amble through grey, stoney cemeteries and forgotten underground vaults. Greyfriar's Kirkyard (kirk is Scots Gaelic for church) is an ancient graveyard surrounding Greyfriar's Kirk, named for a Franciscan order of monks established in the 16th century. The kirkyard is walled in and not terribly large but it is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. I have seen many a ghost hunter show visit this shadowy place. I, however, enjoyed walking around the fascinating graveyard with so many little vaults and mausoleums, sculptures and macabre reliefs of skulls and such. I myself felt no tug on my coat tails, no ominous chill, no sense of dread. It was a quiet, and actually beautiful, little pocket of the town near Grassmarket.

Later that evening we met a guide from Mercat Tours to lead us into the once forgotten Blaire Street Underground Vaults of  Edinburgh. Below you can see one of our cloaked guides. Would you believe she was a native of ...... Arkansas! In 1785 work began on the South Bridge to connect old town with new town and to purposely create a street for shops. The vaults under South Bridge were intended to be storage and workshops for the stores above. Eventually they were abandoned due to frequent flooding. The abandoned vaults soon became housing for the city's poor - lives lived in damp, dark, dirty quarters without water or sanitation. Crimes of all sorts were soon rampant. At some point, the vaults were once again abandoned and rock and rubble prevented access. It was not until the 1990s that they were rediscovered. Many paranormal investigators visit the vaults and find myriad bits of evidence attesting to the grim lives once led below. Now, people can visit the vaults on guided tours, a subterranean tour lit by lanterns and candles. Our tour began above ground as the guides led us down little wynds and alleys telling tales of Edinburgh's dark past. Really half of the tour was above ground, which was a little disappointing. We then descended to the underground vaults, lit by dim orange glow of flickering flames. We had to stay pretty tight with our group of about 15 while the guides regaled us with haunting tales and bits of history. It would be fun and frightening to explore these alone (well with a trusty sidekick), which you can actually do! I don't think they are so extensive one would get lost. A fun tour but a bit of a let down. Not nearly as creepy or interesting as the Catacombs of Paris.

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