So there I was. Standing in front of my hostel with nothing but a map, my camera, and my wallet.
What am I doing? I thought to myself. But seriously, whatwas I doing? Not only had I never done such a big solo trip, but I knew nothing about where I was, knew nobody there, and had zero expectations. All I knew is that Edinburgh, Scotland is filled to the brim with a sinister past.
Edinburgh is known for a few things. Fish and chips, beer, the birth of Harry Potter, cashmere and wool, and being downright terrifying. Not in the same way that South Central LA is terrifying, but in a way very similar to the way we are afraid of ghost stories. We know the likelihood of us being part of something so grim has a slim to none chance, but for days after watching a horror movie, you turn around and check your back for whoever or whatever may be lurking behind you.
Let me explain how this correlates with such a city. This ancient village has been filled with savages, criminals, and freaks with twisted minds since the moment Edinburgh came about. And that puts it lightly. Cannibals, vampires, grave robbers... you name it, Edinburgh's had it. The city basically radiates horror which is why I was so drawn to it. Who isn't fascinated with the history of a real life horror story?
So I started on my way. First stop: Greyfriar's Kirkyard. Known for being one of the most haunted graveyards in the world with a very impressive burial list, this place oddly attracts people for all occasions. Locals sometime spend lunch breaks sitting against graves and tourists are drawn to Thomas Riddel's grave (think Tom Riddle, HP fans) and Bluidy Mackenzie's mausoleum. Bluidy Mackenzie was appointed by the King in the 17th century to carry out one of the most bloody religious persecutions against Rebel Presbyterians. Several thousand Presbyterians were rounded up and put in the small graveyard, where they were subjected to torture, starvation, decapitation and much more under Mackenzie's word. Mackenzie was buried in the kirkyard as well, and his mausoleum has the world's most well documented poltergeist activity, with visitors reporting bruises, bite marks, scratches, and even people blacking out after entering his place of burial.
And so I continued. For dinner that night, I looked for the pub with the least amount of St. Andrew's flags outside of it and an older crowd in a more local part of town. I wanted an old school experience and I ended up at The White Hart Inn. Well, my efforts did not disappoint me. Documented as the oldest pub and tavern in Scotland, it's cellar dates back to the 1500s. The name comes from an extremely rare Scottish highland creature, so rare in fact that it is possible to see just one only once a century. The pub got its name from a holy event involving the Scottish king David I. Against the advice of a priest, he went out hunting in the highlands only to be thrown from his horse upon coming up on a white stag. Legend says that a fiery cross appeared between stag's antlers and then vanished from sight. The king then established Holyrood Abbey, and much like a lot of Edinburgh, it is now in ghostly ruins.
But not only is it the oldest pub, but the most haunted. In barbaric times, public executions were held just around the pub which kept the inn and tavern busy with the crowds. To keep up it's gruesome history, infamous murderers William Burke and William Hare spent the year of 1828 luring other White Hart patrons back to their lodging only to murder them and sell their bodies to Edinburgh's Medical School. Recent paranormal activity at the inn suggests that maybe many of these well-documented patrons never really left at all...
Not going to lie, I was spooked the whole time. Edinburgh's every corner is old, dark, and jam packed with bloody history. But you know what wasn't scary? Being alone. It was liberating. Exciting, fascinating, overwhelming in the best way. I had a friend tell me once that traveling alone was the best way to see the world because you see it through your own eyes and nobody elses. That there is no one to hype it up or to put a damper. It is all up to you. And it was true.
Yes, I was scared to go alone. But it was exhilarating and I felt so... so... adultish. I felt so able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. All responsibilities were mine and I almost felt, dare I say, proud for taking on such an adventure on my own. So you imagine that in such an awe-inspiring city, I was overwhelmed with happiness and freedom.
Excuse the cliche, but in a city so known for fear, I became fearless.