It’s Halloween! Ghosts, goblins, witches, and vampires will soon walk our hometown streets in pursuit of filling their trick or treat bags with candy. Scotland has many Halloween traditions that we have adapted and carry-on to this day.
The Scottish holiday is known as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and held on November 1st to celebrate the end of summer, the harvest, and the start of winter. Scottish traditions begin with a large bonfire. Some turnips are carved into lanterns which are lit and carried and the forerunner of our carved pumpkins.
About fifteen years ago, my husband and I were fortunate enough to take a driving tour through Scotland. We arrived in Edinburgh and one of the first tours that caught our eyes was a ghost walk at night through the streets of the old part of the city.
Edinburgh, noted as being one of the most haunted places in the UK, makes it a prime destination for ghost-hunters. Little did we know at the time that Edinburgh has since been designated as the most haunted city in all of Europe as well. Believe me when I say, Halloween or not, this tour made chills run up my spine.
We met our guide near St. Giles Cathedral and he began to relate some very scary tales of hauntings, murder, and witchcraft. We walked the dimly lit streets to Mary Kings Close, a street where victims of the Black Death were sealed up to die. They say their voices can still be heard especially at night. Trust me when I say, his comments rung so true, I was too nervous to listen and that’s coming from a paranormal author.
|Old Town- Home to Mary's King Close|
Some other scary places we did not visit at night include Dalry House which is in an area of the city near the Famous Haymarket. This house is believed to be haunted by one of the most famous Edinburgh’s ghost: The Johnny One Arm. Doesn’t sound like someone I’d like to meet up with at night. His real name was John Chiesly who lived during the 17th century. Legend has it that he was ordered to pay a substantial annual alimony payment to his wife when their divorce became final. Johnny didn’t take this lightly. He did not want to pay the money so one day, guided by anger, he killed the magistrate who ordered the payment. He was soon captured, tortured, and his right arm cut off. He was hanged and his body was left on the gallows to warn others. The body, however, soon disappeared. Some believed it was taken by his friends for burial, but rumors surfaced that a one armed ghost was spotted in the area. A three hundred year old skeleton with only one arm was found beneath the Dalry House in 1965. Sure gives me the shivers!
The Death Coach of the Royal Mile is believed to be a horse driven carriage travelling to Old Town to collect the souls of the departed. Witnesses to this event describe the coach as glowing and pulled by black horses. Sightings of this coach are believed to signal an imminent disaster in the city. Yikes!!!!
The Liberton House ghost is one of a very few that has been photographed. It seems this house is haunted by an unknown girl. What we do know is that she manifests herself by wreaking havoc in the electrical equipment which malfunctions for no good reason.
Let’s not forget Edinburgh castle. Lucky for us we toured the castle during daylight. With nine hundred years of history, the castle is one of Scotland’s most haunted places. Built as a military fortress in the early 12th century, the castle has survived surprise attacks, executions and a short capture by the English. Now a major tourist stop, tours of the dungeons which housed the infamous Lady Jane Douglas of Glamis who was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Her ghost wandered down the castle’s underground passages and never returned.
In 2001, Edinburgh Castle became the site of the one of the largest paranormal investigations in history. Nine paranormal researchers and over 200 members of the public explored the castle's forgotten chambers and secret passages for signs of ghostly activity. The public was not informed in advance as to which areas of the castle were rumored to be haunted and which were not. What the researches learned was that 51% of participants in haunted areas reported paranormal activity, while only 35% did so in the non-haunted areas. When visiting the castle, always look behind you. Shadowy figures, sudden drops in temperature, and feeling like someone is tugging on your clothes are all everyday experiences there. Thank goodness our tour ended in the gift shop to taste a wee dram of Scotch. Trust me that dram was needed!
Ghosts, witches, and stories of torture aside, I loved Scotland filled with wonderful people, beautiful scenery, and amazing history. I hope to go back some day.
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Egypt! The land of the pharaohs, the pyramids, and The Nile! Ever since we
have been married, Egypt
has always been at the top of our trip wish list. In 2010, our dream came true.
Believe me, I felt like pinching myself from the time we landed in Cairo to
sailing into the Temple of Abu Simbel
not too far from the Sudanese border.
|Giza & The Sphinx|
We awoke the next morning to a breath taking view of The Nile. After breakfast, we left for the pyramids at Giza. We climbed up to the entrance of the largest one but did not go inside since you had to crawl most of the way through it. From there, we went to the Sphinx. I remember thinking how close this monument was to town. There were street merchants all around, but they didn’t hassle you. I remember buying two necklaces from the cutest little boy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Egypt without a camel ride so that was our next stop. The camels looked regal with their colorful woven blankets and handlers in traditional garb. I got up on one which surprised me!
After lunch in a local outdoor restaurant where they cooked chickens in the ground and had restrooms that were mere holes in the dirt (culture shock), we drove to the step pyramid, the oldest pyramid on record.
Since it was the prototype, its structure was not perfect, but it was situated in n the Sahara desert. Not too far away, lush tropical greenery from Nile irrigated fields served as home to water buffalo and donkeys.
Our second day in Cairo, we visited the largest mosque in Egypt and the Cairo museum. The museum was raided with relics destroyed during the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring began less than two months after we arrived home. Filled with ancient treasures, the coral colored building was not air conditioned back then except for Tutankhamen’s room. At the time of our visit, the museum housed many royal mummies and archeologists had just discovered a new one of a queen. Tutankhamen’s burial mask was inlaid gold as were his two sarcophagi.
The next day, our flight to Luxor left at four AM. From the airport we went to
the temple of Karnak filled with statues and drawings. I was
greeted by a small dog sleeping at the feet of the statute Ramses. That same
day, we went to the Temple of Luxor with its enormous columns and its promenade
lined with small sphinxes.
That evening we took a horse and buggy ride with Omar and his horse Rambo through the market where your eyes feasted on colors and your nose inhaled spices before attending a light and sound show at Karnak. We watched the show, but could see men digging not too far away reminiscent of Indiana Jones.
One our tour, we visited the Temple of Horus with paintings dating back to 1500 B.C and visited the museum at Luxor.
Leaving Luxor, we toured the Valley of the Kings. We went inside the tombs of Ramses II and Ramses VI and of course the most popular Tutankhamun’s tomb which housed his gold sarcophagus and mummy. The young king’s room had paintings of baboons on the wall. Before this turns out to be a book, I’ll skip down to our trip to Abu Simbel. Along the way, we visited temples and ruins on islands since we spent three days on a Nile riverboat. We approached the massive temple at Abu Simbel by boat on Lake Nasser and the sight of it when we approached was jaw-dropping.
|Original 2000 years old un-retouched|
It was quite a walk to the large temple of Ramses with its enormous statues that greeted us at the entrance. Inside the temple were colorful drawings and painting that looked like they had just been finished. From there we visited Queen Nefertiti’s temple with smaller but just as beautiful statues. We stayed for the light and sound show which took my breath away with its beauty in multi colors and pictures projected upon the Temple.
We were in Egypt two weeks and toured the entire length of the country by boat, plane, bus, and riverboat. Our guides were professors of antiquities from the University of Cairo. I feel so very fortunate to have participated on such a journey that I filled the pages of a journal.
|Abu Simbel- The small figures at the bottom are people!|
I love to travel and always have a wish list but this trip is by far my most memorable.
In my writing, I Travel as well, only through Time Travel like in The Duchess’ Necklace. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.