Memorably described by the poet Hugh MacDiarmid as a ‘mad god’s dream’, it makes sense that fellow writer JK Rowling was inspired by Edinburgh’s other-worldly atmosphere when writing her wildly successful Harry Potter novels. The first novels about the boy wizard are said to have been scribbled in a café on Nicolson Street.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting for a ghost sighting than while exploring the Old Town’s narrow alleyways – known locally as wynds or closes – on foot. Wander down the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the Old Town. Some of the ghostly characters believed to haunt this succession of bustling streets include Deacon Brodie holding a lantern aloft with a set of keys in his other hand, and a galloping spectre on a white steed believed to be the ghost of General Tam Dalzell. Also known as 'Bluidy Tam', this Scottish Royalist general is said to have on occasion played cards with the Devil.
Looming high above the city atop Castle Rock sits Edinburgh Castle. This imposing fortress is not only home to Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, it also boasts its own array of ghostly entities which include a headless drummer, a phantom piper and the spirit of Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis, who was falsely accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to assassinate King James V and burnt at the stake in 1537.
Continue down the Royal Mile until you reach the Scottish Parliament. At the heart of this daringly modern structure sits the 17th century Queensberry Lodge which also has a macabre past. When the building was a hospital, a lady was frequently sighted sitting by a sickbed weeping profusely.
Pay a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse next and take a tour of its splendid Royal Apartments where the tragic Mary Queen of Scots resided from 1561 to 1567. It is here that the Queen married both of her ill-fated husbands, Lord Darnley and the Earl of Bothwell, and where the brutal murder of her private secretary David Rizzio took place in 1566. Although the reason behind Rizzio’s murder remains a mystery, most historians now believe that it was orchestrated by Lord Darnley who was jealous of his close relationship with the Queen.
The floorboards of the little supper room where Rizzio was stabbed 56 times are stained by what is purported to be his blood. It is said that the stains have persisted despite numerous attempts throughout the centuries to remove them.