JOURNAL ENTRY | SCOTLAND
I have brought my investigations further afield up into Scotland, travelling to many places, seeking many historical buildings. My first port of call was the 'Isle of Skye' famous for its quaint fishing villages and astounding medieval castles, lochs, fairy pools, picturesque mountains, giants, legends and myths. I will admit that Pendle Hill in Lancashire had caught my breath with its charming and colourful beauty, as I sat alone at the peak, staring in wonder at the sights before me. But as for Scotland... nothing, in my opinion, can ever beat this divine place that is Scotland.
And it is here that I have walked the seashores on many an early morning near the harbour, looking out to sea, to watch the fishermen's boats as they glided over the waters, followed closely by flocks of gulls. I've also stood on lands that clans have fought in bloody battles and touched the walls of now ancient castles. But it was Bonnie Prince Charlie (aka 'The Young Pretender') that I had ventured to Skye for... and I have to say, I am really looking forward to coming back here with my crew.
But for now, it was time to head back to see an old friend. Old Ed'. Scotland's capital. For Edinburgh is a place that certainly has caught my heart. Not only because of its history and its hauntings but because of its dedication to all of the arts and artists with its bright and energetic festivals, and also because of the city's people who are exceptionally friendly and heartwarming. Edinburgh is now, what I call, my second home.
"Or could this be Mackenzie himself still persisting, even after death, to treat the living cruelly, whilst at the same time also refusing to let his victims souls move on, by keeping them trapped for eternity inside the Kirkyard?"
When I first toured here, in the late 90s, I decided to venture into the castle to see the Stone of Destiny, but sadly photos are not permitted of the jewels. So because of this, I have visited the castle on many other occasions to view the treasures which I can only keep captured in my mind's eye. The castle itself, which overlooks the city, sits on a volcanic rock, and I would advise any visitor to head to Princes Street at night, for one would see an amazing view of the castle, brightly lit up in all of its glory. It is truly a wonderful sight.
After leaving the castle, I followed the cobbled stones down Castle Hill, past the street performers who were shielded by gathering crowds. I ventured down Advocate's Close (a dark alleyway) only find myself entering a new one, and I must have climbed at least a thousand steps, for to me, they never seemed to ever end. But as I paused to look up, I somehow remember never really wanting the steps to end, for the surroundings were enchanting and very inviting. I felt greedy and excited inside... I just needed to see more.
The shops were just like out of the Harry Potter books with their crooked windows and doors, and because I was so mesmerized by the wonders before me, I hadn't realized how far I'd actually strolled until I found myself standing on the Royal Mile. But there is another reason why I find this city most fascinating, for if you stand in Princes Street (by the gardens) and you look to your one side, you will see a normal everyday world 'the New Town' with its normal shops and its normal buildings. Then you look to your other side, and you will see this whole new 'Old world' with its medieval buildings, cobbled stone floors, dark lamp lit lanes and strange shops full of bewildering curiosities that are just beckoning you in.
I also managed to visit the vaults where the notorious 'Mr Boots' haunts. These are underground chambers/arches that sit underneath Edinburgh City, once used in the past as storage and as workshops. They also housed taverns, illegal activity, murder, rape, prostitution and much much more, but here I will have to stop and leave that for another journal entry.
I continued to explore, crossing the North Bridge where I found myself stopping to sit on a kerb next to a homeless ex-soldier who was asking for handouts. We spoke for a while and I listened as he told me his story of how he came to be where he was today. I often think about him, even now as I write this up in my notebook, that if he is safe and if his luck has changed.
Next, I found myself wandering down even more steps into Princes Street Gardens that were littered with tourists sunbathing in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. On the corner, I could hear a bagpiper drowning out the noise of the traffic in the background as he played a melancholy tune (which I thought would be impossible on bagpipes) that was fit to hear, as one roamed through the gardens. At the bottom of the steps sits a small cottage and next to it on the left, I had noticed a sign that strictly said 'Keep off the Grass' and I couldn't help but take a photograph, along with many other tourist doing the same thing, of myself breaking the rules once again. But after all the sightseeing and the shop browsing, it was time to get down to what I was really here for. Investigating... and I had two Kirkyards on my hit list, that I thought somehow were connected - St. Cuthberts, and the notably famous graveyard of all - Greyfriars.
St. Cuthberts sits on Lothian Road next to St. Johns, and looking up through the trees as I stood outside of the gates, I could see the corner of the castle looming over me. On entering, the atmosphere felt very pleasant. It was a quiet and solitary place, and even though it had a very macabre look, it was very inviting.
On making my way down the path, two old-fashioned lampposts, which were very noticeable, were sitting directly opposite each other as if to say that anyone visiting would now be passing through a barrier into another land. It had all the qualities that I admired in any graveyard, churchyard or Kirkyard - Kirk meaning church - only this one, including Greyfriars, were more artistic. It was like walking into an art gallery and looking at art. The designs on the gravestones are truly creative, consisting mostly of the skull and crossbones. People who visit sometimes do find them terrifyingly morbid an ugly, but I myself do not. For the skull represents not only death... but also our mortality.
I was very much interested in seeing the church's Tiffany stained glass window, it features one of my most favourite stories from the Bible which is that of David and Goliath. It shows David holding his sling and setting off to go into battle. Also in this same church during the 1930's, the famous crime writer (one of my favourites authors) Agatha Christie married her second husband in the chapel. But this church itself is steeped in history which is unbeknown to new visitors, for as soon as they enter the capital, the first graveyard they head to, is Greyfriars. And just as I stated earlier, Greyfriars I find, in my opinion, is the twin to this one, St. Cuthberts. Both are steeped in history, hauntings and exquisite Gothic beauty.
Moving on to Greyfriars, the Kirkyard is said to have been built around 1561/62 and is situated in the Old Town region of Edinburgh. It was built on the site of a Franciscan monastery. This land was given to the council by Mary Queen of Scots to be used as a burial ground. It is frequently visited by tourist because of its famous burials and its known hauntings, especially the poltergeist haunting. But popularity has increased even more due to the Harry Potter books.
Also associated with Greyfriars, is the Greyfriars Bobby. A lovely story about a dog who stood guarding his master's grave day and night. On entrance to the Kirkyard, you can see Bobby's headstone marking his actual burial place. Also outside, near Candlemaker Row, a statue of the dog can be seen before you make your way into the Kirkyard.
On entering, the Kirk (church) sits directly in front as if greeting you as you enter, to your right sits a small shop selling gifts, but if you follow the path to the left, you can clearly see some of the enclosed vaults, one of which is the most notable of all - the Mausoleum tomb of George Mackenzie.
George Mackenzie, nicknamed the 'Bluidy Mackenzie' by all of his victims, seemed somehow to be of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' type character. For his family experienced his role as a doting husband and a loving father, yet they never knew about his darker side, and of all the inexplicable cruelty that he inflicted upon others. But Mackenzie, in my opinion, was just like another witch-finder general. His time was called the 'Killing Time' and he took the lives of nearly 18,000 people, and some of his victims who he had imprisoned in Greyfriars, unfortunately, had also died in there.
Whilst at the site, and what I found most strange, is that Mackenzie's tomb sits a short walk from where his victims were laid to rest. This makes me question the said poltergeist activity in the area. Stories have been told of people feeling blasts of air through the tomb bars, feelings of being watched, voices whispering, being pushed and also the most notable one of all was that of a woman found unconscious after being strangled by some unseen force. The blame is said to have been placed on a homeless man who one night, who had broken into the Mackenzie tomb and accidentally knocked over the coffins inside releasing angry spirits. A priest had also tried to perform an exorcism inside of the churchyard but quickly changed his mind after feeling some overwhelming evil surrounding him, including hundreds of tortured souls. The priest was found deceased, a few weeks later.
So could it be that Sir George Mackenzie is not able to rest because the souls of his victims are refusing him to do so? Are his victims getting revenge for what he had done to them by making Mackenzie suffer eternal damnation? If so, is this causing Mackenzie to lash out in anger? Or could this be Mackenzie himself still persisting, even after death, to treat the living cruelly, whilst at the same time also refusing to let his victims souls move on, by keeping them trapped for eternity inside the Kirkyard? So I ask myself this, is George Mackenzie the reason behind all of the unexplained activity in the Kirkyard? Or is it something else? Our investigation here may help us find out.
Moving further in, Iron railings and stonewalling can clearly be seen. These I had read when researching, had been put in place to stop the grave robbing which Edinburgh is most famous for in the 18th century. For bodies were removed from many graves to supply to medical men for dissection. But there is another walling that can be seen which is a remaining section of the Flodden Wall that was built when the Scots defeated the English at the battle of Flodden.
Overall, I remember staying in the Kirkyard for an entirety of maybe three and a half hours or more, just walking and taking in whatever I could. At one point there was a sun shower which gave the churchyard an even grimmer, more atmospheric look. But Edinburgh is indeed like the Jekyll and Hyde character of George Mackenzie himself. For it has a beauty like no other that seems to draw a person in. Things such as its captivating scenery, it's history, its medieval buildings and monuments, festivals and the street performers, haggis, kilts and shops. But on another note... you have the darker side of Edinburgh. Bloody battles, murder, body snatching, torture, plague victims, the underground vaults, dark alleyways, ghostly hauntings, poltergeist activity and much much more. It's no wonder that I have found myself here. It has everything that I require. I look forward to my freelancing that I have been currently undertaking over these past couples of years in Old Edinburgh, Scotland. For my evidence, so far, has not been disappointing in the slightest.
Note: If you did like this post, please do give it a like and maybe also a share. Thanks for reading.
~ Tania Louise x