Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Known also as the “Athens of the North”, this historic city is built on hills, surrounded by the coast, full of cathedrals, colorful gardens, and is home to a medieval castle that sits right in the middle of the city.
If you plan to be in Edinburgh, and are looking for a unique day trip, the village of Culross is only 45 minutes northwest of the city. The village is like a time capsule of 16th century Scotland, and even better, it’s known for being one of the most haunted villages in the country. If you enjoy history and are fascinated by the paranormal, you’ll love Culross.
There are several tour operators that host ghost tours of Culross, but why pay for a tour and be confined to its time limits and schedules? You can easily tour the village on your own while taking plenty of time to enjoy all of what the place has to offer.
Here is your guide to one of the most interesting day trips from Edinburgh.
Getting to Culross
If you’ve rented a car in Edinburgh, driving is the easiest way to get to Culross, located just 23 miles northwest of Edinburgh. If you don’t have a car, public transportation is available.Take the City Link Bus from Edinburgh to Dumferline, then transfer to the local bus headed to Culross. You can also take a train to Dumferline and then transfer to the bus.
When you first reach the edge of the village, it appears to be an unimpressive industrial town- but as you enter the narrow, cobblestone streets, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the stunning architecture as you are transported back in time. Here, its easy to imagine living another life centuries earlier.
Culross may date as far back as the 6th century, but during Victorian times itnearly became a ghost town. In the 1930’s the National Trust for Scotland began restoration and preservation efforts to make it the lovely 16th century village it resembles today.
The Palace is the highlight of Culross. It’s a 16th century merchant’s house built by Sir George Bruce. It is also home to some bewitching ghost tales.
Nick Hoskins, the former head gardener at the palace, had an interesting story to tell. “In 1997– I had a rather strange experience. A man dressed in 16th century clothing walked from the main door of the North Block of the palace into my Bothy. I assumed it was a member of staff or a volunteer who had donned historical clothing – something we did quite often at that time – but when I got to the Bothy there was no one there and no one had been dressed up that day. It was an upper class gentleman, and it was a bright sunny day at about 11am. I have no explanation for it. He was wearing baggy trousers, long socks, tunic, waistcoat and hat. It may have been George Bruce himself. I saw him as plain as day and went to see what he wanted.”
Through October 31, 2011, the palace will have a display on witchcraft. During the 1700s Black Magic was common practice in the village.
The Town House
The Town House was built in 1626. It was the former center of local court. The ground floor was used as a prison where suspected witches were kept separately in the attic.
The Ghost Club (formed in 1862 to investigate paranormal activity in Scotland) has reportedly contacted several ghosts in this building. One has communicated to the investigators that he is the ghost of Judge Johnson, a judge who was said to be especially harsh to defendants, and was responsible for many executions during his time. Another ghost is said to be that of Thomas Gunn who insisted he was innocent all the way up to his death. He’s apparently still trying to clear his name from the other-side.
Admission to Culross Palace is 8 pounds per adult and includes the Town House, Study and Tearoom. It is open daily, all year until 6:00 p.m. or sunset, whichever comes earlier.
The Mad Monk
Culross Abbey is now the remains of a Cistercian monastery that was founded in 1217. One of the monks that served at the Abbey in St Mungo’s Chapel, was Brother Joseph Macgregor. He served there from 1745 to 1789. After his retirement, he began showing signs of madness, and on December 31,1799, he said he had a vision of the Chapel’s collapse. On the night of the summer solstice the following year, the Chapel roof fell in while Brother Joseph was alone inside.
A local woman claimed that she could hear the Brother wail and denounce the devil’s work as the roof fell in. Visitors claim to hear his mourning to this day, and they also see figures in monk’s robes wandering around the area.
Where to eat
After exploring the village and hearing the many fascinating stories of its history, you might be ready for a pint and a bite to eat. The Red Lion Inn is a perfect cozy pub where you can sit back and relax with a delicious plate of fish n chips and a good beer.
I’m sure you’ll agree that Culross makes a wonderfully unique day trip from Edinburgh. I had an unbelievably good time there, and look forward to planning my next visit to Scotland.