08 November 2006

Calton Hill and Mercat Tours, Edinburgh

Hearing: TV noise

Ok, laugh if you want but im sleeping with the TV on tonight. That ghost tour really gets your heart racing. But before i get carried away let me just start at the begining.

First up are photos of Calton Hill and views from it since i was there this morning.

One of the more famous shots of Edinburgh. Looking out from Calton Hill to Princess street Edinburgh Castle in the distance and the top of St Giles to the the left.

All Mercat Tours start here at the Mercat Cross next to St Giles Cathedral. At around 2.30pm i met up with my tour group and did the Secrets of the Royal Mile Tour which was really interesting. It pointed out things that you wouldnt notice normally.


Here are a few things the guide told us about:
  • The Parliament building and carpark are built on top of St Giles Cathedrals graveyard. There is a yellow square slab on parking bay 23 marking the grave of John Knox.
  • The Mercat Cross acted as the town centre. It was much bigger back then and acted as a market, a place for entertainment, where gossip was shared, public announcement were made, public punishments were delt and where the stocks were kept (kinda conveinent since you could buy rotten fruit from the market and throw it at whoever was in the stocks).
  • There is a golden "I" at one of the intersections which marks where the hangings and beheadings happened.
  • The real life person the character of Dr. Jykell/Mr Hyde was based on lived here and apparently had 1 wife, 2 mistresses and 18 kids!

Now the tour that has gotten me into the state I'm in was also by Mercat Tours and is called the Ghosthunter Trail (no under 16yo). It started at 9pm and there was a huge turnout. Couples, friends even a few singles like myself. Our guide Faith, was brilliant. We started with a visit to the haunted underground vaults. As we walked through we were told all sorts of stories about people who lived here and met with their deaths, about other group tours where people felt or heard something and ran for it about the 3 main ghosts who were most active down there...I must admit it was fun having your heart race and watching how others were dealing with it too. Some of the girls demanded their boyfriends hold their hand at all times and stay close and the guys i could tell were just putting on a brave face. Everywhere people were imagining something tugging on their sleeves or a cold draft as a ghouls breath. The atmosphere was pulsing and everyone was holding their breath just waiting for something to happen. What a rush!

Ghost story after ghost story and then out of the underground vaults and onto a graveyard for more ghost stories. I remember one being about a lady being buried alive because her family thought she was dead only to be found by grave robbers. That lead to people insisting on being buried with a string tied to their wrists and attached to a bell outside their grave so if they were buried alive they could pull the string and ring the bell to alert the grounds keeper. One of the stories that really got to me was this...

A long time ago there was a building - number 13 - which was home to a family. Then one day they disappeared and no one ever went in or came out of there for a long time. One day the place was bought and turned into a hotel of sorts, there was no problem until a maid doing her rounds came across a room that was at the very top. Hearing something inside she went in to investigate and never came out - they found her on the floor frozen dead with a look of fear on her face looking up at the centre of the ceiling. Two men decided to investigate. One would spend the night in that room and the other in the room next to it. The deal was that if the man saw anything he would ring a small bell, if something big was happening he would ring a larger booming bell and his friend would come running. The clock ticked away and soon the friend heard the tinkle of a small bell, he waited, heard it again, and then got up and headed for the door by the time he reached the mans room the other big booming bell was ringing out and the minute the friend put his hand on the door knob everything went silent. The friend stepped inside and there was the man, on the floor dead, the same as the maid staring at the centre of the ceiling. The large bell was on a shelf in the corner of the room. The friend looked at where his friend was looking and ... died. Now the thing is no one knows which building this is anymore, since that time, the streets have changed and so have the numbers and guess where I'm staying? The topmost floor of my hotel...LOL! Just to prove I'm not such a big scaredy-cat i did look at the ceiling of my room when i came in but I'm still sleeping with the TV on tonight!!!


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