Of Creepy Macabre Tombstones in Scotland and an Encounter With the Ghosts of Clan MacDonald on the Isle of Skye  

Posted by Heidi

Do you believe in ghosts?  It is hard not to when visiting a place as ancient as Scotland.  I have read many accounts of ghostly encounters in the U.K. and I have thought about what I would do if it happened to me.  After pondering on it for a bit, I decided that I would just as soon not be required to deal with such a thing.  However, the first night we were in Scotland, my daughter wanted nothing more than to visit the "haunted" graveyard in Edinburgh, as well as the "haunted" vaults below the streets.  Since she finances these ramblings, I, of course, said yes.  (Also, I love her.)  But first, I'm sharing the creepiest tombstone photos I took during this trip.

I happen to love cemeteries and graveyards and have since I was a young child.  They are green and gray (especially in the U.K.) and are full of architectural splendor, peace, and serenity.  However, the cemeteries in Scotland are pretty creepy in some ways.  (The photo above was taken in Grasmere, England, where Wordsworth of the daffodils is buried.  This is not his tombstone but I thought this one was pretty creepy, what with the disembodied hand, and all.)  (I am certain there will be some who claim it is a camera trick or some such thing, but I am a believer.)

This was the first tombstone I saw in Edinburgh.  It is HUGE.  HUGE! Having never been back east where the oldest tombstones dwell, I can't claim that there is none such in the U.S.  But, honestly, they just got bigger from here.  This one was up against a wall.  Not sure if the wall is deep enough to contain a coffin or how that is done exactly.  Or maybe the body is simply buried in front of the tombstone. (Clearly further research is required.)

This is a detail shot of the tombstone above which, other than its intimidating height, didn't seem so creepy--until you get closer.  The angel at the top is standing on a skeleton and there are skulls scattered here and there throughout.  I am willing to bet that this is some kind of symbolism for conquering death and rising on wings of righteousness into heaven, but it still creeps me out.

This one was larger than the first.  To give you an idea, the headless people on either side of the central cartouche are probably about five feet tall.  The one on the left has a foot on a skull.  Delightful.

There was probably, once upon a time, a skull under the foot of the figure on the right, as well.  I wonder what became of it?  Perhaps it is holding up someone's DVR machine. I had thought that I photo'd the dates on these, but I don't see one that is legible.  However, the ruff around the man's neck and the wimple the woman is wearing puts the creation of this tomb in the 16th or 17th century.

I was fascinated by the color of the baby--the infant Jesus?--on this cartouche.  It made me wonder if the whole piece was in color at one time.  And yet, once you notice the couple shaking hands under a grinning skull, colored babies slip the mind entirely.  It almost appears as if they are making a deal with the devil.  After some contemplation, however, I have decided that the skull represents death, something that comes to us all regardless of our sins or lack thereof.  The banner above the skull reads:  RISQUE ALAMORT.  My internet quest revealed it to be an archaic form of the French phrase "Risked Death" (or thereabouts since I was never able to get a satisfactory answer).  Since we all risk death every day of our lives, it can't be quite that simple.  If one thinks along the lines of eternity and how immortality means that there is no death, things start to become a bit more clear.  Perhaps the inscription merely means that they died in body but that it was not a permanent death.  (Sounds good.  I'm going with it.  If YOU know what it means, please let me know.)

This tomb looks very lovely and innocent with it's plethora of angels.

A closer look reveals more skulls.  A gentle reminder that the resident(s) of the tomb has/have died?  (ugh!)

And another even bigger than the first two.  These, of course, were built by wealthy families and a number of people would have been buried beneath/behind them.  This is not just a tombstone, but a tomb of the sort Americans define as a little building.

I count at least four skulls and one spooky face on this one.  The "pictogram" on this one is quite interesting.  There is a man with wings who seems to be making intercession with the skeleton (at least, part of one) for the man who is resting his elbow on a skull.  One can only assume the angel is Christ whose atonement makes intercession for us all and saves us from permanent physical and spiritual death.  (Maybe these aren't so creepy after all.)

This one is closer to a typical American tomb, but the skull and crossbones on the wall are not my favorite.  (Please bury me elsewhere.) Through the wonders of photoshop, I was able to enlarge the edge of the cross-covered casket to reveal its message (mercifully in English): I must work the work of Him that sent me where it is day, the night.  I'm thinking there is more to the sentence as it wraps its way around the other side.  Why didn't I walk up to it and read it?  (WHY?)

In a city as old as Edinburgh, (founded in the early 1100's) and as small (it just didn't occur to them to build outside of the city wall) there is not a lot of space.  This graveyard is one that we can see.  However, there are so many buried all over the city without any evidence above ground that you are trodding on dead people with every step you take.  Therefore, it seems only natural that one should inhabit a house built "cheek-to-jowl" with a series of tombstones.  I suppose it is only natural to those who are accustomed to it, but I find the pot of red geraniums on the window ledge of someone's kitchen to be creepy.

At least there is an alley between this tombstone and the dwelling behind it.

This rather eerie tower is found in an otherwise gorgeous graveyard in St. Andrew's, the golf capital of the world.  Fun fact:  a graveyard is attached to a church (in this case, this ruined abbey) and a cemetery is not.  (Thanks Jami!)  Also, the first cemetery in Scotland was built during the Victorian era which had not been formerly allowed.  So any burial site prior to that was always built next to a church or abbey and so were called graveyards.

This was such a beautiful graveyard that I couldn't come up with anything too creepy.

The above is another graveyard, this one in Inverness.  It was a less ancient than the one in Edinburgh and had far fewer tomb-like tombstones.  Still, this building is a bit spooky.

The above photo was taken at a very famous cemetery in Glasgow.  It was really quite beautiful (they all are) but the photos I have included do qualify as "kinda creepy".

This cemetery is known as The Necropolis and was established in 1833.  There are about 3,500 monuments and over 50,000 people buried here.  I wish we had had more time to see all of the tombstones as there is a large variety of stunning architectural motifs here, as per the Victorians, anywhere.

Why does this make me think of New Orleans?  I have never even been there.

This cemetery is built along a hill and the path meanders back and forth as one goes up.  (I did not go up.)  (I wish I had.)

This last graveyard is seen from over the wall at Stirling Castle in Stirling.  Based on photos I have seen online, this is just a smattering of tombstones that one can see in this burial ground.  The tower with the triangular cap up on the hill is the William Wallace Memorial.  That was a close as we got to that.

Enough of tombstones.  My daughter did a lot of research before we left and one thing that she absolutely wanted to do was to join a tour as it wended its way through the Edinburgh Graveyard (see large tombstone photos at the beginning of this post) at NIGHT.  I said okay.  It was July, it was cold, it was wettish, it would be late (it doesn't get dark at that time of year until after ten) and I was crazy.  We arrived at the designated meeting spot and found that we were too early for that BUT, we were just on time for the tour of the haunted vaults beneath the city. I was determined not to believe in ghosts but that place (see cool sign outside of the door) was genuinely scary.

Not my photo--it was too dark to take photos when I was there.  And more dank.  

I spent the whole tour humming hymns under my breath, just in case there were such a thing as ghosts who followed you home.  The history lesson we received was incredible (click on the red link in the paragraph above to learn about the horrific things that happened in these vaults) and I knew that if ghosts were real, there were probably about a million of them in this deep, dark, dank space.  By the time we left, I was truly worried that something might have attached itself to us.  Let's be honest--ME. (Dear young, healthy daughter could take care of herself.)

The truth is I didn't feel spiritually right for a number of weeks after our return home.  Something else happened when we were in Scotland.  One day we visited the Isle of Skye, a breath-takingly gorgeous island that was my favorite place in all of Scotland.  There is a Clan MacDonald visitor's center there.  When we entered the club room, I was immediately enchanted by this wonderful staircase.  I stood at the bottom and read the white plaque hanging on the wall with its lovely sculpted angels.  It was a memorial from a father to his sons, all of whom died in infancy.  It was so sad. My daughter left to use the restroom and I decided to stay put to wait for her.  A few moments later, I experienced a feeling of suffocation and I couldn't seem to get any breath into my lungs.  I began to gasp for air and didn't get any relief until I ran outside into the open air.  The moment I went back inside, the gasping and coughing began again.  Eventually, I was able to go into a different part of the building, but I was never able to go into the area of the plaque without the same result.. (doo-doo doo-doo . . .)

More on the Isle of Skye and Armadale Castle sometime in the future.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at Tuesday, October 27, 2015 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

3 wise, witty and wonderful comments

Absolutely love your blog(s). I came across it by accident as I searched for a photo and 2 hours later I've lifted my head to realise I had digressed so far from my quest and not in the least bothered as it was time well spent.You are now a must read and I will endeavour to find more of your work.❤ Thank you .Eve

March 13, 2017 at 3:48 AM

P.S We share a love of architecture,graveyards,taking photos and beautiful daughters.I'd love to read more of your Scottish adventure as it's my home (Glasgow) but I'm loving your insights into London. ❤ Thank you.Eve x

March 13, 2017 at 3:54 AM

Eve, thank you so much for your comments! I am way behind on my posts of our trip to Scotland--I can't believe it was almost 2 years since I was there. We weren't in Glasgow for long, unfortunately--just overnight. However, I do have a blog post planned for that. We flew home from there so that will be at the end. Have a lovely day! Heidi

March 13, 2017 at 9:29 AM

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