Sunday, October 30, 2016

Top 11 Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland

Featured on Scotland - The Gateway to Scotland

Scotland is certainly a spooky place, not just on Halloween. Our long bloody history set in remote forests, castles and glens is the ideal fodder for many gruesome tales of ghosts and ghouls.

Scotland is a nation of storytellers and throughout the centuries accounts persist of the spirits of real people who died in tragic or horrific circumstances. Of apparitions that appear at certain times of the night, or on certain days of the year – perhaps when they were murdered. And of strange, eerie sounds that pierce the chilled Scottish air.

Hauntings seem to have no set boundaries. Ghosts have been reported on bleak roads, in old theatres and ancient graveyards across the land. Is it just a draught seeping through an ancient wall or something altogether more sinister. In Scotland you can never be too sure.

1. Scotland’s Spookiest Street


Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh. The street leading from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is known as “The Royal Mile”, with dark and spooky lanes leading off. One, Mary King’s Close, was bricked up during an outbreak of plague and only recently re-opened. Said to be the most haunted place in the Scottish capital, the spirit of a young girl has often been seen. Guided tours will take you to the close, Greyfriars cemetery, where the ghosts of covenanters who were tortured and executed linger, and also to the place where body snatchers Burke and Hare first dug up corpses to sell for use in medical experiments.

2. Roslyn Chapel



A few miles to the south-east of Edinburgh. Made famous by the novel and movie “The Da Vinci Code”, this working church was built for the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century. Ghostly flames apparently flicker in the burial vault when one of the Sinclairs is about to die, and an apparition of the apprentice who carved the famous Apprentice Pillar and was then murdered by his teacher, can sometimes be seen or heard.

3. Stirling Castle



Stirling Castle was the home to the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Trouble, intrigue and death were never far from their walls. Stirling is not short of a ghost story or two. Some of their origins are clear, others are shrouded in even more secrets. The Pink Lady falls into the latter category.

Some say she was a pretty noblewoman engaged to a brave knights who starved to death inside Stirling Castle – while under an English siege in 1304 - during the Wars of Independence. She in turn died, not from malnourishment but from the pain of a broken heart.

Her spirit roams the castle awaiting the day their souls will be entwined once more.

Others say she is Mary Witherspoon, a victim of Grave Robbers who sold bodies to educated men for dissection. While the robbers were brought to justice her ghost still seeks her mortal remains. People report a faint scent of rose-blossom in the air before she appears, her favourite flower.

4. Fyvie Castle



Just north of Aberdeen, this castle is haunted by the spectre of Lilias Drummond who died there in 1601. Some believe she was starved to death by her husband, others that she died from a broken heart. Whatever the truth, it is said that Lilias’s ghost carved her name on the stone window sill of her husband’s bedroom on the night that he took a new bride. The writing can still be seen and the green-ghost of Lilias appears when time bodes ill for the owners of Fyvie. A dead drummer and a haunted trumpeter are also believed to haunt the Castle – with the trumpet sounding when death is near.

5. Cruden Bay



On the Aberdeenshire coast and to the east of Fyvie, Cruden Bay is a pleasant looking fishing village. But in the 19th century it was the holiday haunt of Bram Stoker. The ruins of Slains Castle, which drape down from the headland inspired his vision of Count Dracula’s Castle. The Kilmarnock Arms Inn, where Stoker stayed in 1895, is still there. Would you risk a visit to the place where Count Dracula was brought to life?

6. Cawdor Castle



Shakespeare’s Macbeth was given the title of Thane of Cawdor in the classic story or power and revenge. While the castle did not exist during the time of the real Macbeth, could the stories of Cawdor Castle, close to Nairn near inverness, be stranger than Shakespeare’s fiction.

One ghost is thought to be the daughter of and earl of Cawdor. A wayward lass who insulted her father by flattering an enemy chieftain’s son. When the Earl discovered their tryst she fled to the highest tower of the castle as he followed in murderous pursuit. She lowered herself from the window to escape the threats of her father. He showed no mercy and chopped off her hands sending her to her death.

Visitors have reported seeing the ghost of this handless girl still roaming the castle.

7. Dunstaffnage Castle



On the west coast of Scotland, close to the town of Oban, the castle is more than thirteen hundred years old. Besieged and rebuilt many times it was visited by Robert the Bruce, King James IV and Flora Macdonald – who was imprisoned at Dunstaffnage after helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland following the Battle of Culloden. A lady dressed in green walks the ramparts when momentous events are about to unfold for the castle owners, Clan Campbell. When smiling the fortune will be good. But if she is seen weeping, trouble lies ahead. The castle is open daily, with restricted hours during the winter.

8. The Home of Walter Scott at Abbotsford House



Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders, was the home of novelist Sir Walter Scott. When you visit you can walk his library and even sit in his dining room. Be careful though. That is where the great man died after exhausting himself writing in an attempt to pay off huge debts. Might you catch a glimpse of his ghost?

9. Culloden Moor



It was here on a windswept patch of ground near Inverness that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebel army was crushed by government troops in 1746. The Prince’s army was made up of Scottish clans like the Stuarts, the Macdonalds and the Frasers. Many were slaughtered after the battle was over. Cairns, or rock monuments, stand where these men died. Visions of the battle and apparitions at the memorial cairns are said to occur in this sorrowful place. A refurbished visitor centre is open all year round.

10. Edinburgh Castle



The castle has a long and bloody historyand is reputed to be haunted by many ghosts, including that of a headless drummer boy. His appearance is said to be a warning that the castle is about to be besieged and was first seen in 1650 before Oliver Cromwell and his English army attacked. The castle is now a major tourist venue and is home to the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny an ancient rock on which the Kings of Scots were crowned.

11. Overton Bridge



A modern day mystery, the Overton Bridge in West Dunbartonshire has been the site of many unexplained dog suicides. The dogs are reported to take the plunge from exact same spot on the same side of the bridge. Some of those lucky enough to survive are said to return moments later to try again. It is alleged Overton Bridge has taken the lives of 50 unfortunate canine companions.

There have been many attempts to explain the phenomena. Some think the problem lies with mink trails leading over the side of the bridge. However, in Celtic beliefs Overton Bridge is called a "thin place" where the realms of the living and the dead cross. Others believe that dogs are super sensitive to the spirits and spooked enough by the bridge to take their own lives.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Outlander’s Sam Heughan on Why Season 3 Is “Like Having a Death in the Family”

By: Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

By Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images


It’s been just under four months since Outlander fans had to say good-bye to Claire and Jamie Fraser during the emotional Season 2 finale. But it’s also a long wait until the time-traveling, star-crossed couple returns to Starz for Season 3 next April. Thankfully, in the meantime, there’s a new Blu-ray edition of Season 2 out on Tuesday, November 1. And, for the true devotees to both the show and the Diana Gabaldon novels, there’s also a special Collector’s Edition that features an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming Outlander novel “Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone.” Outlander star Sam Heughan took a break from his grueling 11-month shooting schedule to reflect back on Season 2 and give a preview of why Season 3 feels like “a different show.” (Hint: It has to do with him missing co-star Caitriona Balfe.) 

Vanity Fair: After the overwhelmingly warm reception for Season 1, was there a particular fan reaction to Season 2 that you did not see coming?

Sam Heughan: I think the first half of the season set in France was quite complicated, and it certainly wasn't going back over the old ground of Season 1. I think we were very aware that the first season was this young relationship and about new love. We wanted to show something a bit more complicated [in Season 2]. I think fans were surprised. People tune in expecting the same show or the same sort of scenes and, yeah, I think we surprised fans with that.

I know you hear from fans who are put out or surprised by changes from the books. Was there any particular book aspect left out of Season 2 that you felt like fans were most hoping to see and didn’t?

Diana is all over this. I mean, I have constant e-mail updates, several times a day, about things she’s watched or things she’s read. We confer a lot, probably more than the producers want us to. There’s always going to be little details that will be missed because the show is only an hour-long episode each week. I know myself and Caitriona, we read the books and if we can sneak in a small detail that may not be in the script or even just that we know ourselves, that going from one scene to another, that something's happened in between that maybe we haven't been able to show, but at least we know it and, hopefully, in some way it manifests itself. Hopefully it’s all in Diana’s world. I know that she said herself that Season 2, especially at the start, was kind of complex and difficult to make into episodic TV. 

There’s a behind-the-scenes feature on the Blu-ray of you, Caitriona, and Graham McTavish prepping for your big Season 2 fight scene. Can you tease anything about what fans might not know about how you prepare for combat? 

Yeah, I mean, my God, the show is incredible. Not to give away much, but today, one minute I was on a horse riding across the Scottish countryside, and then I'm somewhere else in studio, and then I'm laying in a cot. But that particular Season 2 scene was very emotional. I absolutely loved doing a fight scene with Graham; I've always wanted to. He absolutely hated me fighting him. We actually shot several alternate endings to the fight because, obviously, in the book, Claire isn't complicit. We thought, Jamie and Claire are a couple and they need to be both guilty of this deed. It's not that Claire wants to kill anyone—she's not a killer, she's a hero—but she wants to aid Jamie and she basically ends up being complicit in the death of Dougal. 

It was very funny because we were actually shooting a pick up on that and we didn't have Caitriona there at the time; it was actually a double's hands that are on the dagger. Graham was very wary of this double pushing too hard down on him that he might actually get stabbed. He was just this very hard man complaining that someone was pushing a fake dagger too hard on him.

Of course, with any Blu-ray, there are deleted scenes included here. Which deleted Season 2 scene were you most devastated not to see included in the original episodes?

There was one recently that was released on social media; it was the “Faith” scene. Certainly, from my perspective, you got to see a lot more of Jamie and his angst. I mean, he’s kind of not present for most of that episode. I think that's important, that's an important cut. We go on that journey with Claire and see her go through all the stages of grief and mourning and then some sort of brittle resolve. Almost, in a way, we didn't want the camera to blink from her. I think that’s what was decided. Watching Jamie also go through it, well, absolutely, it’s another side. I certainly know that I really felt very strong in that scene. I felt that it was a very awkward place for Jamie to be that will have some sort of repercussion—even now in Season 3. I don’t think Jamie or Claire get over the loss of Faith. I think it’s wonderful that the fans actually get to see a glimpse into some of the other work that we do that’s not always on the screen.

I’ve heard you say that, as opposed to Caitriona with her elaborate costumes, it only takes you five minutes to get into wardrobe when Jamie is wearing the kilt. But I was curious, since we’re going to jump forward several years in Season 3, if you have some extra time in makeup chair this year and if you can tell us anything about what older Jaime looks like? 

I mean, I’m probably not allowed to say much, but I think we all know that the books do span a great amount of time. Season 3, in particular, yeah, I mean, there was an aging process. There was definitely a different look to the characters, but you’ll have to tune in to find out, I guess. But even in Season 1, I had hours and hours of prosthetic makeup whenever the back scarring was on or Jamie got shot or injured. By no means does that stop in Season 3 so, yes, there’s been a lot of very long days where I’ve been in makeup.

The end of Season 2 saw Claire back in her own timeline so I really don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that you filmed a good part of Season 3 without Caitriona. Since you two have been such close partners on this whole experience, what was it like to go on without her? 

Yeah. Honestly, it’s like having a death in the family. Well, I don’t know, I mean, it’s just like a different show. It’s hard to separate yourself from the character. Jamie’s present, living in his world, and Claire’s present and living in her world, and they both believe the other is dead. It’s always hard when we’re apart, actually, because she’s a great person, great to come to work with, and a very good actress. But I think it all adds to the reunion—if there’s a reunion, or when there’s a reunion—well you know there’s one in the books. It should be very special.

Do you have a fondest memory from Season 2 that you’re excited for the fans to re-live via the Blu-ray?

Wow. Whoa, that's tough, I think—Paris was almost like another world and it was great fun—but for us getting back to Scotland, to Lallybroch, and then to having all the MacKenzies turn up, Graham McTavish as Dougal and Stephen Walters as Angus and all the others. It was so rewarding to be in Scotland with the wind and the rain and the cold and everyone was miserable but kind of happy because we were back and it felt like coming home. I think it’s a very sad ending because we all knew that people were going to die— that’s what history tells us—that's what Jamie and Claire are fighting to stop is the end of these people. So it’s a bittersweet return home to Scotland. In the back of your mind, you’re aware that it’s sort of coming to a close.


Joanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.