Early in the morning, about 7.45am and of course most if not all attractions of Edinburgh are still closed. What better than visiting a cemetery then? :)
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard dates from 1562 when Mary Queen of Scots granted the former convent garden surrounding Greyfriar’s Kirk to be used as a burial ground.
The church was closed but I walked around the graveyard for a while, the numerous blackened headstones create some great atmosphere, goths will love it(no surprise ghost tours come here). There are numerous permanent residents here but the star is Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal skye terrier who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years until he passed away too.
Greyfriars Kirk is a parish church that stands on the site of a pre-Reformation Franciscan monastery “Grey Friars. It was built in early 17th century (one of the oldest buildings outside the walls) and is connected with Covenanters (Scottish Presbyterian movement that were the de facto government of Scotland for some years) as this was the place where the National Covenant was signed in 1638 (sealing that this form of Protestant worship remained the dominant form in Scotland). Many years later (and numerous human loses because of the civil war) 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned in 1679 inside the Kirkyard pending trial in squalid conditions. Many hanged at the Grassmarket while others deported to Barbados as slaves (many of them never really made it as the ship wrecked after a while). The churchyard hosts the Martyr’s Monument and the Covenanters’ Prison. An interesting fact is that George Bloody MacKenzie who persecuted many of them is also buried here. If you follow a ghost tour they will tell you that MacKenzie is still around causing minor cuts to visitors but no matter how much I stood there nothing happened to me...
There are Sunday services in English and Gaelic.
The Kirk, the Story of Greyfriars Museum and shop are open to the general public Monday - Saturday from April - October
Greyfriars itself is one of the oldest buildings outside Edinburgh old town, though it only dates from 1602. It was built on the site of an earlier Franciscan monastery, hence its name.
Apart from the story of the dog and the supposedly-haunted kirkyard (see tip) Greyfriars Kirk has an important place in Scots history. It was in Greyfriars kirk that, in 1638, the National Covenant (the document which ensured that Presbyterian (a form of Protestant) worship remained the dominant form of worship in Scotland) was signed. As always seems the way with religious disputes, this action and its supporters inevitably led to bloody battles and many deaths over a long period. In 1679, the kirkyard itself was used as a prison for 1200 'Covenanters'.
Greyfriars kirk itself is a light, airy but largely undecorated space, still used for church services but also as a concert venue. I have to be honest and say that I found nothing inside to particularly interest me but the kirkyard itself is wonderful. It is full of 17th-century graves, their smoke-blackened stonework creating a real atmosphere (it's no wonder the kirkyard is so popular with ghost tours!).
I was especially taken with the row of gravestones and memorials which back onto buildings on Candlemaker Row. The buildings have been built around the memorials, absorbing them into their fabric.
Even if you're not interested in the dog or the ghosts Greyfriars is definitely worth a visit. Maybe don't bother with the church itself (unless you are particularly interested in the Covenanters or local history) but do take some time to wander the kirkyard and investigate the gravestones, mausoleums and memorials.
Greyfriars Kirk is famous for the story of 'Greyfriars Bobby', the little Skye terrier who supposedly spent 14 years 'mourning' his dead master (one John Grey, a night watchman) and who supposedly ended up buried in the kirkyard (in unconsecrated ground) because of his loyalty.
I say 'supposedly' because, to be honest, the story is very dubious. It's a glorious confection of early tourist 'propaganda' and Victorian sentimentality, with its own popularity ensuring that the tale was embellished as it became better-known.
Personally, I suspect 'Greyfriars Bobby' was just one of the commonplace 'graveyard digs....strays...and an enterprising local made up the original story for personal gain.
Whatever, Greyfriars Bobby and his grave are the primary reason people visit Greyfriars kirkyard. The second reason is because it is supposed to be haunted (there are regular ghost tours). Tales of attacks by ghosts...the 'Mackenzie poltergeist' in particular......have been commonplace since the late 1990s. Since 1998, to be exact, when a homeless man broke into the Mackenzie Mausoleum for the night thus 'disturbing' the spirits and/or 'unleashing evil forces'.
Believe either story if you like...but do remember the key word is 'story'. Tourists bring in lots of money, both now and in Victorian times. :-)
I was very surprised to see a memorial plaque for the victims of the Bhopal disaster in India back in 1984, Just in case you have forgotten there was a catastrophic gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal and gas spewed out over the surrounding area. More than 10,000 people died within 72 hours and another 15,000 have died since and 120,000 have a chronic sickness. 30 years on the toxin is in the plants, the soil and the water. Union Carbide went to extraordinary measures to prevent liability and obstruct rehabilitation and i doubt if they will be held accountable now as the company was taken over by Dow Chemicals who profit from Union Carbide while ignoring their responsibilities.
The Greyfriars Kirk had a collection to help with the medical expenses in Bhopal and had a service on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. Apparently i was not the only one surprised by the memorial plaque according to this report in the New Indian express.
. ‘So far from home, what took us by surprise at Greyfriars was a plaque dedicated to victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy. “In remembrance of the thousands killed by the Union Carbide Gas Disaster in Bhopal, India on 3rd December 1984"
In 1638 the National Covenant, one of the most significant documents in Scottish history, was signed in Greyfriar’s Kirk.
This document was the Scottish Presbyterian’s answer to Charles I’s religious policy which had been causing a lot of anger. Copies of the Covenant were distributed throughout Scotland and the Covenanters became the catalyst for the Bishop’s Wars of 1639 and 1640. This ultimately led to the English Civil War in 1642 and the execution of the King in 1649.
After the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, the Covenanters found themselves on the back foot and after the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679 over a thousand of them found themselves in a prison in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Although some of them switched allegiance and others escaped, there were many who died here or were executed. The area where the prison stood is still here and there’s a Martyr’s Memorial in the bottom right hand corner of the Kirkyard.
Amongst those who survived many were sentenced to Transportation. A plaque next to where the prison stood tells us that the final 257 men being transported boarded a ship at Leith, but never made it to North America. It got wrecked off of the Orkneys. 48 survived.
I’m not sure if any of the Covenanters are buried in Greyfriars or not, but there are plenty of tombstones and mausoleums here including one to the famous architects William Adam and his son, John. Apart from the Adams family, Sir George Mackenzie is interred here, which I’m not sure if is appropriate or not. You see, Mr Mackenzie, or to his adversaries, ‘Bluidy Mackenzie’ was the Lord Advocate responsible for dishing out the penalties to the Covenanters.
If you think you may want to visit Mackenzie’s mausoleum I suggest you think again. Apparently a lot of paranormal activity takes place here. Whatever the truth to all this stuff is I don’t know, but it seems like there are plenty of witnesses to the ‘Mackenzie Poltergeist’ - including an exorcist, who supposedly died not long after his experience of ‘evil forces’.
Some of us may scoff at all this stuff, but a whole new business has sprung up around nightime ghost tours of the Kirkyard.
Would I be happy to go on one? I’m not sure. Bear in mind this graveyard was the haunt (!) of grave robbers and ‘Resurrection Men’ who supplied the medical college with ‘samples’.
Come to think of it I’m probably a prime candidate for a heart attack without inflicting this sort of thing on myself, so I think I’ll probably give it a miss. There’s enough time to find out what it’s like on the other side when the Grim Reaper comes knocking anyway. I don’t think there’s any need for me to go looking for him.
Greyfriars Kirkyard touches on many aspects of Edinburgh's history. Being a central part of the city for many centuries, the great and good have interred themselves here by the dozen. There's also less obvious touches, like the Mortsafes which lie above the graves of some Victorian bodies to protect them from body snatchers. Some famous names you might recognize in the graveyard include the poet William McGonagall, reformer George Buchanan and Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, the inventor of the steamship.
Most recently the mausoleum of George Mackenzie was disturbed, resulting in a popular belief in the existence of a poltergeist haunting the graveyard. His story has been aired on a number of paranormal television shows and is claimed to be the most famous existing ghost in the world. He's been blamed for a number of unpleasant incidents, especially to tourists, resulting in cuts, scratches and bruises. Maybe he was responsible for my son's nasty fall and cut knees, or maybe that was just the loose gravel...
Originally a Franciscan convent , which were called Greyfryars , but now it belongs to the Church of Scotland .
The church yard ( kirkyard ) is a cemetery , in which apart from being full of macabre stories and legends claims to be one of the places that produce the greatest number of paranormal events.
It is a pleasant garden, quiet, where you can see the tombs of important personages in large mausoleums, others with gravestones , some tombs are protected with bars and locks , to avoid steal the corpses , others are also marked with a skull and crossbones indicating that someone had died there by the Plague
The dog Bobby, a Scott Terrier , with a history of fidelity to his master, who thrilled the people of Edinburgh, has helped to give more fame to this cemetery
Since they could not bury an animal in the cemetery , Holy Land , they decided to bury him at the door, so he should be near his owner and there we may see his statue
Originalmente fue un convento Franciscano , que se les llamaba Greyfryars , pero en la actualidad pertenece a la Iglesia Escocesa .
El patio de la Iglesia ( Kirkyard ) es un cementerio, en el que aparte de estar lleno de historias, de leyendas macabras y de presumir de ser uno de los sitios en los que se producen el mayor número de sucesos paranormales es un jardín agradable, tranquilo donde se pueden ver los enterramientos de personajes importantes en grandes mausoleos , otros están con lápidas normales, alguno tiene la tumba protegida con rejas y candados, para que no robaran el cadáver , también otras están señaladas con una calavera y los huesos cruzados indicando que allí había muerto alguien por la Peste
El perro Bobby , un Scott Terrier, con una historia de fidelidad a su amo, que emocionó a la gente de Edimburgo, ha ayudado a dar más fama a este cementerio
Como no podían enterrar a un animal en el cementerio, tierra Santa, decidieron enterrarlo en la puerta para que estuviera junto a su dueño y allí podemos ver su estatua
Greyfiars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfairs Church in Central Edinburgh.It is located on the southern edge of the Old Town in the shadow of the Castle and next to Princes st.Gardens.the graveyard and its monuments are protected as a category A listed building.Greyfiars takes its name from the 'Franciscan Friary' on the site which was dissolved in 1559.The churchyard was founded in 1561/2 to replace the churchyard at St.Giles which was considered full.Reputedly haunted by the restless spirit of 'George Mackenzie' buried there in 1691.The 'Mackenzie Poltergeist' is said to cause bruising,bites and cuts to those that come into contact with it and many visitors have reported to have felt strange sensations.There are several Ghost Tours that come to Greyfiars for those brave enough to walk around it at night.
One of the main places on the tourist trail, mainly due to the association with Greyfriars Bobby - immortalised in a film. The statue of the wee terrier is outside the entrance to the churchyard.
The Kirk dates back to 1620, so it's coming up for 400 years old. It has important associations with Scottish history - the website has an excellent history and I'm not going to try to create my own version. Check it out.
I was at George Heriot's School for 13 years - it lies to the west of the churchyard. All our end of term services were held at Greyfriars, so the inside is well known to me.
When I was in final year, one of our favourite escapades was head into the churchyard at lunchtime, hide our blazers & ties behind a historic gravestone, and head into Sandy Bell's (aka Forest Hill Bar) for a pint and a pie.
Also a good spot for sunbathing in summer term
Yup, you guessed it, we went on a City of the Dead Tour. I have been on many, simply because I wanted to catch a ghost on camera and also to frighten the beejesus out of my guests. They never feel satisfied unless they have seen or heard of a real Scottish ghost.
The storytellers are pretty good. The one in the photie (forget his name for a minute there) but he is an official paranormal investigator and spends a lot of time hunting for ghosts, energy balls, flames of energy, the local ghosts and anything else he can find while spending time where no sane mortal would go in the small wee hours of the morning. Kudos mate.
The thing that most tourists come to see and hear about is the wee cairn terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. The shepherd who came to town to trade took ill and died and his little one year old dog didn't know what to do, except sleep on his Master's grave until he died 14 years later.
According to the storyteller, this was a load of pish. The dog is not buried in the graveyard but miles away. The gravestone erected is brand new, visitors leave little doggie toys at the base and no one really knows the truth but it makes a lovely narrative.
The main details of the graveyard go as follows: Many thousands of people were buried here, standing up to create more room. Over the many many years of Edinburgh's existence, the bones rotted, became part of the soil, were scraped up and removed, bones worked their way to the surface and the latest ultrasound of the area reveals a complete indistinguishable mass of human remains. A great black blob many feet deep. Nothing specific. It has been described as being like a layer cake. So many scrapings, burials and covering up.
In the Coventers' Prison, I entered the *cell* which was open to the elements, wind, rain, snow, heat where the prisoners were kept until they died and stood up against the back wall. I felt the walls behind me with my hands, they were *breathing* in that I could feel air on my hands. One German took a movie on his camera and it clearly showed me up against the wall with faces going past me in the wall. All I felt was a slight breeze. I seem to attract the spirits. Myfanwe (VTer) has a couple of pics of me surrounded by a mist. Ask her if you want to see.
The MacKenzie Poltergeist is also famous. He hates women and comes out and attacks them in the Graveyard. He also haunts the Vaults just for fun. Victims find marks on their bodies days and even weeks later. Scratchings, scrapes, bruises, even puncture wounds. The victims have no recollecion how it happened.
I have been to the Vaults many times with visitors and also the Graveyard (funny how they don't want to go without me) and have had unexplained breaks in my skin and scratches. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Visit the vaults and the Graveyard at night. It's pretty good and very scary.
May sound morbid, but many of the graveyards in Edinburgh (at least around the older churches) are fascinating. Old catacombs, sarcophagi, plinths, simple headstones set among the trees are fascinating and deeply atmospheric.
The most interesting is Greyfriars Kirk ().
Greyfriars is said to be haunted - the restless spirit of 'Bloody' George Mackenzie, a 17th century lawyer. But this is not just any 'haunting'. Featured on TV's 'Scariest Places on Earth', there are more than 400 reported 'incidents' since 1990 alone of 'contact' with the restless spirit - including bodily attacks (mainly scratches) and the death of the exorcist a few weeks after carrying out the exorcism in the graveyard in the 1990s.
A pleasent enough place to wander through in the daytime but a forboding place to see in the dark of night. If you do visit at night, be sure to have a flashlight as there are numerous grave stones barely over the grass and it's easy to trip and fall over one.
The cemetery is home to the statue of the Greyfriars Bobby. The little dog that waited on the grave of his dead owner, waiting for him to come back to life for 10 years until he died.
Unfortunatly, the historical record disproves the myth of the Greyfriars Bobby waiting for his owner.