I was cleaning out my desk and I found an old travel journal I had kept during a trip to the UK and Ireland and Scotland from a few years ago. This had been the first time I had returned to England after being expelled for working without a permit back in the late ’80s. (I have been back a few times more since) But I thought I would share the journal and some pictures with you all.
Getting from the train to the cab, to the B&B was a bit of a blur. I was starting to fall under the weather and knackered. I am very grateful to my travel buddy who made the arrangements in advance for me and even contacted the accommodations in advance to let them know I was coming. The B&B was highly recommended but was a bit of a ride from the train station. My friend told me that there was a bus line that ran into town. When I got to the room I was pleased to see it had its own toilet and shower with great hot water. I really steamed up my windows but it must have done me good because I slept very soundly and didn’t cough too much.
The next morning as I was eating breakfast, I finally got a chance to see where I was at. My B&B was located right on the beach. It was so dark the night before I didn’t even notice. Another I picked up on was that the lady that ran the establishment really liked cats..and Elton John. The entire day room was filled with pictures of them both. She didn’t have one of Elton holding a cat though. (too bad, that would have been awesome!)
After breakfast, I went for a walk on the beach and even was able to gather a few seashells. Then I met up with my travel buddy and heading into the city proper to explore. It was dark when I arrived so I hadn’t a clue just how beautiful of a city I had arrived upon.
Fixed high upon the aptly named Castle Rock, the Castle was a royal residence and a fortress. The castle has stood atop the rock for over 800 years and has been laid siege upon 26 times, making it one of the most attacked fortresses in the world. Today the only invasion the castle sees is from tourists.
The Castle is located in the old town on an area called the Royal Mile which connects the Castle with Holyrood Palace. The street is filled with cathedrals, shops, and pubs.
The other major place I wanted to visit while in Edinburgh was Greyfriars Cemetery. It is widely considered to be one of the most haunted places on earth. Located at the south end of the city’s old town the Kirkyard lies next to Greyfriars Kirk (Kirk being the Gaelic word for church). Both were laid out in the late 1500s on the site of an earlier Franciscan friary who as you can guess was known for wearing grey.
As far as the haunted history of the graveyard that really begins shortly after the church was built. In 1638 a group of Protestant Presbyterians called the Covenanters met at the church and set up a document calling for a break with Catholic Rome and an adherence to their strict religious dogma. Cutting to the chase it did not go too well. Almost 1200 of the covenanters were rounded up and set to a prison on the churchyard and grounds nearby. The conditions were so harsh that within four months only 257 prisoners were still alive. Most of those who died during their incarceration was buried in the churchyard in an area still called the covenanters prison. This section of the graveyard is often kept under lock and key even today.
The chief persecutor of the covenanters was a man named George Mackenzie. Mackenzie was known in life as a brutal and violent man with a quick and acrid temper. In death, he is reported to be Mackenzie’s poltergeist. A spirit that is reported to jealously guard the kirkyard especially at night.
According to the local legend, Mackenzie’s spirit was released in 1999 when a homeless man broke open his grave seeking shelter. But even before then the churchyard had a reputation for being haunted. The graveyard was a scene of frequent and persistent grave-robbing. The major reason for this was that the local university’s medical school paid a hefty price for cadavers and usually didn’t ask questions. It was pretty common to see graves with metal bars and locks over them.
Fans of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series have a connection with this area of Edinburgh. Rowling wrote a lot of her first book at a pub near Greyfriars and the school next to Greyfriars George Heriots is believed to be the inspiration for Hogwarts. Buried in Greyfriars is Thomas Riddell who many “Harry Potter” fans believe was Rowling’s inspiration for the birth name of Lord V. aka ‘he who must not be named”. Readers often come and leave notes and flowers at his grave.
Not all the stories from here are morbid ones. There’s also the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye terrier who belonged to John Grey who was a nightwatchman. When Grey died in 1858, Bobby spent the next 14 years coming to his grave every day and sitting beside it. The local pub next to the church took notice and would feed him. When Bobby died in 1872 he was buried in the churchyard near his master’s grave. (there wasn’t open space right beside his former owner.)
We stopped at a nearby pub and had dinner. I was going to order haggis but my friend mentioned it was tourist haggis not ‘real haggis’ with the ‘heart, lung and bung’ as she called it. So I opted for a meat pie instead. Tomorrow my journey winds down, I take the train to London and catch my flight the next day. I was so grateful to have this visit albeit a short one and was so honored to have my ‘homecoming’ in a country I do love dearly.