Some of my close friends will know, Halloween is my favourite holiday! It’s the one time of year that the majority of people dress up as something ‘scary’ and in a way celebrate the dead and all things weird yet wonderful. Why do I like this? Well, only a select few will know that not only have I got a few ghost stories of my own, as well as been able to predict a few things, but I have a fascination with parapsychology.
For those who don’t know, or probably think they know but are a little misinformed, parapsychology is a study of paranormal psychological phenomena (such as telephathy, psychokinesis and clairvoyance). It’s not to be confused with paranormal investigators! (But ghosts and spirits can be a part of it). And, as far as I am concerned, parapsychology is a little more ‘science’ based than paranormal investigators. There are even legitimate research laboratories set up around the world for the study, one of my favourites is the Koestler Parapsychology Unit based here in Scotland, at Edinburgh University (link at the bottom of the blog post). I am interested in one day completing at least the online course for interest, but have also been considering a PhD and conducting real research (plus, wouldn’t it be a cool talking point to say that my PhD was in parapsychology? I’ll call myself Dr Spooks!)
Continue reading and there might be a few spooky stories of my own!
Where did Halloween Originate from?
Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. This year it falls on a Thursday. Many people around the world celebrate it; United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, even China and Japan.
Some people believe Halloween originated from the pagan religious festival ‘Samhain’, others, however, believe that Halloween is a solely Christian celebration.
Samhain (pronouced “sow-in”), is a Gaelic word for “summer’s end”. It is a typically ancient Celtic spiritual tradition, possibly originating in Ireland 2,000 years ago (the Celts also lived all over the United Kingdom and parts of northern France), celebrated from the 31st October to 1st November (the mid point between autumn equinox and winter solstice) to usher the “dark half of the year” and to welcome the harvest. The Celtic New Year was November 1.
After the harvest, the community began celebrations around a wheel that, due to friction, would create sparks and flames. This is said to represent the sun. Cattle were sacrificed and people would take a flame back to relight their fire in their own homes.
The Celts also believed that a barrier between worlds was breachable during Samhain, believing that this time of year was associated with death and also believed the dead would cross over during this time.
By 43 A.D., the Celtic territories were conquered by the Roman Empire, and over 400 years, two Roman festivals (Feralia, a day in late October for commemorating the dead and day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees – probably where the tradition of bobbing for apples came from) were combined with Samhain.
It’s possible that Samhain was merged with these two days to eradicate the original pagan festival, as there was a Persecution of paganism under Theodosius I in 381 A.D., who reigned as co-emperor of the Roman Empire. Theodosian created “Theodosian decrees” which meant practicing paganism was banned, visits to temples forbidden, and remaining pagan holidays were abolished, among others. He also declared that pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones to now be workdays.
The name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ eve”, which, “hallows” means saints. November the 1st was a day to celebrate all the saints and martyrs, originally called All Saints’ Day. October the 31st just so happened to be the eve, which, of course, was also important day of celebration.
But, All Saints’ Day was originally on the 13th of May, originally to celebrate Martyrs, but Pope Boniface IV changed it to the 1st of November and incorporated a celebration for all saints.
In 1000 A.D. the church also made November the 2nd “All Souls’ Day” a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain.
All three days are collectively called Allhallowtide.
On Halloween, pumpkin carving is a tradition, sometimes called Jack O’Lanterns in America. This is where a pumpkin is hollowed out, a face calved into it’s side and then a candle being placed inside to light it up.
This tradition originated from Ireland, but it wasn’t pumpkins that were originally used, as they weren’t native. Originally turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables were used, it wasn’t until Halloween made it’s way to America that pumpkins were used, as it was found they were easier to calve than root vegetables.
The name ‘Jack O’Lantern’ is also from an Irish folktale. According to the story, a man called Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could use to buy their drinks. But Jack decided to keep the money and put it in his pocket, next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing.
The Devil was eventually freed, under the condition he would leave Jack alone for one year, and should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.
The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing a tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree so the Devil could not come down until he promised Jack he would not bother him for another ten years.
When Jack died, God didn’t allow Jack into heaven for his actions, but the Devil also didn’t allow him into Hell. Instead, Jack was sentenced to roam Earth with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and became a ghostly figure called ‘Jack of the Lantern’, which eventually was shortened to ‘Jack O’Lantern’.
Trick or Treating
It is suggested that the practice of trick or treating originated from the custom of “Souling”, baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collect soul cakes in return for a prayer for the dead.
Soul cakes, or soulmass cakes, were often market with a cross, much like the Easter/Lenten hot cross buns.
Of course, the phrase ‘Trick or treat’ wasn’t used back then, the first mention of this phrase can be dated back to 1951 from a Peanut Comic Strip, but the actual origins are unclear.
Now, trick or treating has become a tradition for children to go knocking on local doors in exchange for sweets, usually dressed up as something scary!
The act of dressing up on Halloween can probably be dated back to Samhain, where villagers would disguise themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away unwanted visitors/spirits.
It was also a tradition shared with Christians, who believed Allhallowtide was the last day for the dead to seek vengeance on their enemies before moving on. People would dress up to avoid being recognised from being a target of this vengeance.
Now, the act of dressing up is left to parties and children who take part in trick-or-treating.
My Own Spooky Experiences
Something doesn’t feel right
A few years ago, probably around 2013, I took a trip to Conwy, Northern Wales (home to the smallest house in Britain) with my partner at the time. We both lived in Warrington so getting to Northern Wales was easy.
It was a cold day, which made for a good day exploring as there weren’t many people about, and so we took a trip to have a look around Conwy Castle.
At first, it was great, hardly any tourists, because it was the wrong time of year, it was cold but dry and I always love my little days out visiting new sites, so I’m happy exploring too. We had just seen the smallest house in Britain and now we were having a wander around the castle, I was snap happy with my camera. As always.
But as I got closer to one of the towers, I had a very unsettling feeling towards it. I hadn’t had that feeling anywhere else so far in the castle except that one tower. I told my partner I couldn’t go near it and he just looked at me oddly. He was a sceptic (I didn’t hold it against him, but I did hate the looks he used to give me). But he started to read out the board next to the tower, and told me why couldn’t go near…
…it was the prison tower.
This is a story that I will be turning into a book eventually, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will explain a little about it.
My experiences with all things paranormal started when I was a child. When I was very young, probably still at primary school (ages 5 to 7), my brother and I had an imaginary friend; Sammy.
I don’t remember much about this because I was still quite young, so most of my memories have gone, the only memories I do have was remembering telling my mum that my missing hairbands were probably lost because Sammy hid them.
My mum told me that this imaginary friend, Sammy, used to live in the corner of our ceiling and would hide things for fun.
My mother at the time was a sceptic, and she believed my brother and I were just blaming things going missing on an imaginary friend, not wanting us to get into trouble. My brother also had a very vivid imagination when he was young, mum would get teachers from school worried about some of the stories he used to tell. Mum still to this day remembers the story about the Tiger in the backgarden. I’m suprised my brother never followed in my footsteps and became a writer!
But her scepticism quickly vanished after what she thought my brother and I had outgrown our imaginary friend became a lot more than just an imaginary friend…
She used to work at the primary school my brother and I went to, and because of such, became friendly with a few of the other mothers. One lady had approached my mum asking her for advice, asking if my brother and I ever had imaginary friends. After my mum gave her advice that “don’t worry, they grow out of it.” The mother proceeded to tell my mum that her son had an imaginary friend…
…who lives in the ceiling…
…and hides things.
My mum told me this a few years ago, and I can’t say I was surprised, after all the other things that had happened to me over the years… she also explained that the other mother’s son told her that Sammy was looking for his parents. Somehow we figured out that Sammy had died in an accident, car accident or something similar.
But I have tried to search for information on such an accident in the area I grew up (near Laws Woods/Park, in Swindon, Wiltshire) and I couldn’t find anything in any records. Although, a lot of locals have had ghostly encounters in Lawns Woods, my mother and I have heard a few stories in the area, a woman in white searching for something, ghost animals, even amature ghost hunters went to the area and believe they saw a woman in white being carried.
Lawns Woods used to be home to the Goddard Family, with remains of an old church and graveyard apparently for the family’s pets, an old ice house up on the hill, remains of an old sunken garden, a site where Tutor Mansion used to sit, then an 18th Century Mansion, both no longer there. But with so much history in the area, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few ghostly goings on in the area. Including the ghost of Sammy that used to haunt the children in the area. I just wish I could find more information about it.
Here are a few links if you’re interested in reading more about some sites I mentioned in this blog post:
On one of my previous travel blogs, I talk about the best sites in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. One of them, I talk about the hidden gem that is the village of Douglas. I feel that this needs it’s own blog post as I have a fair bit to say about it and that short insert wasn’t enough.
Read on to learn about Douglas, with ties to the Douglas Clan, including Black Douglas, their links with Robert the Bruce, the Cameronian Regiment, PM Alec Douglas-Home, Sir Walter Scott, the Polish Army, even a little gem of a man James Gavin a local tailor.
Plus, it’s a hidden gem that I feel needs to be recognised more. But I also will be telling you both the positives and the negatives of the place.
Douglas, South Lanarkshire
Remains of the 17th Century Tower, Douglas Castle, South Lanarkshire. (c) Penny Hooper.
Douglas is situated just off the M74, 40 minutes South East of Glasgow with a population of approximately 1600. It’s a small village many people drive through on their way to Ayrshire, usually without a second glance. A thorn you pass on Ayr Road, but without realising that thorn belongs to a rose (well, in some respects). Douglas has it’s name for a reason, which, if you keep reading, you’ll find out why.
Douglas is one of those villages where you will be greeted with a mix of emotions. If you’re driving through in the summer, before you get into the heart of Douglas, Ayr road will give you a view of the Douglas Estate ‘Ponds’ to your right (if you’ve just come off junction 12 on the motorway). A little further you will be greeted with outstretched branches of trees as if high-fiving you into the village. But when you get into Douglas, you will be greeted with old dark buildings on your left, stepping back into an industrial era, with an old crumbling hotel that has been left derelict for years on your right.
You’ll be partly right, at one point in it’s life, Douglas was a mining town. But we’ll get to that.
If you turn off Ayr road on the right onto Main Street, before the petrol garage, following the brown signs that signal tourist destinations, you’ll be swallowed by more industrial buildings.
However, catch Douglas at the wrong time of year, and it can be cold, dark, wet and miserable. And, unfortunately, due to where Douglas is situated, in-land and not far from the Borders, this can be a majority of the year. But, we’re not here for the weather, are we?
First stop, on the Main Street, just opposite the local shop there is a round monument dedicated to James Gavin. Gavin wasn’t a very well known person, at least not outside of Douglas. He was a local tailor, but when he refused to renounce his presbytarian religion he had his ears cut off with his own tailoring scissors before suffering a life of slavery in the West Indies.
Gavin was finally able to return back to Douglas and the monument was erected on the spot where the ruins of his house stood until 1968. The monument holds an engraved lintel with a pair of tailor’s scissors. It’s said the monument stands where Gavin’s backgarden would have been.
But if you keep going up Main Street there’s a little hidden secret waiting to be found, a little secret that upon first glance looks like an average site in Scotland, but this little secret has more than you think.
After finally escaping the burden of the old buildings, the road opens up. The buildings in front of you, a large Georgian stone building with a painted house one end and a smaller house with large windows is hiding a little church. This little church is St Bride’s Church.
St Bride’s Church
Remains of St. Bride’s Church, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
This little hidden gem doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. St Bride’s Church is one of the oldest, probably arguably the oldest building in the village, having been built in the late 1300s.
But the interesting thing about this church is that it is the mausoleum for the Black Douglases or Clan Douglas, who were friends with Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas in particular.
That’s because Douglas Village was the home of the Douglas Clan!
Most people would have heard of Robert the Bruce, even if you’re not a Scottish History buff. He was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329, a month shy of his 55th birthday, and led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England.
Sir James Douglas was one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, and a friend to Robert the Bruce, so much so that on Robert the Bruce’s death bed he asked James Douglas to carry his heart to the Holy Land in Jerusalem to be presented before God. However, James Douglas was called to fight against the Moors and the heart went with him.
Robert the Bruce’s heart was eventually laid to rest in Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, his bones in Dunfermline Abbey in Fife, and his internal organs buried where he died in Cardross, Dumbarton (which, I believe, was the practice after a death in battle).
Sir James Douglas and his company joined King Alfonso XI of Castile to siege the Kingdom of Granada, which was where James Douglas died. His heart was brought back to the mausoleum for the Black Douglases; St Bride’s Church.
Today, the grounds of the church are open and free to roam, nestled in between houses which were built around it over the years. But to gain access to see Sir James Douglas’s heart and inside the chancel, you will need to ask for a key. Unfortunately this rests on whether the keyholder is available when you are in the village.
It’s also rumoured that the clock face on the tower was a gift from Mary, Queen of Scots and is the oldest working clock in Scotland. Supposedly to chime three minutes before the hour, a reference to the Clan Douglas motto “never behind”. It still chimes every hour, although quieter than it used to, so as to not upset the locals, and it’s not always three minutes before the hour as the clock has to be continuious wound. It also still rings on Sundays to call the locals in the village to church, although service isn’t held in the old St. Bride’s anymore, but instead in the newer church up on Colonels Entry.
Continuing our historic journey through Douglas, right next to the church, on Bell’s Wynd is another hidden gem, an old Chapel; St Sophia’s Chapel, which is now a museum.
St Sophia’s Chapel / Douglas Heritage Museum
Douglas Heritage Museum, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
Originally, this building was the Dower House of the Douglas Estate (a large house available for the widow of the previous owner of the estate, who is called the “dowager”, she usually moves to the Dower House after the heir of the estate marries).
The building has had many uses over the years, in 1706 it was a Parish School, a century later it was used as a poor house for vagrants (beggers/homeless people), then it was reverted to being a house until 1961 when it was an Episcopal Church to replace the chaple in Douglas Castle. Now, since 1993, it has been converted into a museum which displays various aspects of village life, the Douglas family and Castle, and the Cameronian Regiment (more on that later). Exhibitions are said to change annually.
It’s located on Bell’s Wynd, with the front door opposite St Bride’s Graveyard. However, it is only open from 1st Saturday of April and closes the last Sunday of September between 2pm and 5pm. Weekends only. Or by special arrangement, much like St Bride’s Church.
There is an inscription above the entrace of the building, which was from when the building was converted as a school. It is in Latin, but translated reads; “This building is restored for the foster children of the muses under the auspices of the high and noble Duke of Douglas for the perpetual use of the School and Schoolmaster 1706”.
If you continue past the Museum, further up Bell’s Wynd, you will be greeted with a beautiful view; a view of a football field, the Douglas Water river and the woods up on the hill. To the left there is an interesting statue pointing up over the panaroma.
James Douglas, Earl of Angus Statue and Cameronian Regiment memorial
James, Earl of Angus Memorial in Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper
For any history buffs, you may have heard of the Cameronian Regiment. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the Cameronian regiment so I can’t give you much background (and probably not enough scope for this blog to delve too much into it anyway), but from what I have found with researching this, the Cameronian Regiment was founded in 1688-1689 by the Earl of Angus, James Douglas, originally called the Cameronian Guard or The Earl of Angus’s Regiment, which, of course, was raised near Douglas Village.
It’s worth pointing out here that James Douglas, Earl of Angus shouldn’t be confused with James Douglas the Black Douglas as these were two very different people. (I hate to admit it, but it confused me at first! Clearly James was a popular name!) James the Black Douglas was born 1286 and died 1330, not quite an Earl of Douglas as the title was created for William Douglas (the 1st Earl, of course) in 1358. James Douglas The Earl of Angus was born 1671 and died 1692, he was from the Stewart family line (the Red Douglases) who inherited Douglas Estate after the fall of The Earls of Douglas. Ironically the 1st Earl of Angus was George Douglas (c. 1380-1403) who’s father was William Douglas, he had an affair with Margaret Stewart, Countess of Mar and Angus (he was married to the sister of her husband).
The name ‘Cameronian’ was originally given to the faction of Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterian movement) who followed Richard Cameron (leader of the Covenanters). Richard Cameron was killed in the Battle of Aird’s Moss, Ayrshire, in 1680.
The begining of the regiment actually began in 1688 when William of Orange landed in England to seize the throne from his father-in-law, King James II. James Douglas gave his support to William of Orange. Ten companies were raised from the supporters of Richard Cameron to form the ‘Cameronian Guard’. The Cameronian Guard, however, disbanded in March 1689.
But in May of the same year, it was re-formed under James, Earl of Angus, in Douglas. It was thus known as The Earl of Angus’s Regiment or the Lord Angus Regiment.
Around 1749, the Regiment was described as ‘The 26th Cameronians’. But in 1786, the titled was officially changed to ‘The 26th (or Cameronian) Regiment of Foot’.
In 1881 under the Childers Reform (reoganisation of the infantry regiments) the regiment was amalgamated with the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) to form the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).
In 1968, it was disbanded due to Government defence cuts.
The statue of James Douglas, or the Earl of Angus, in Douglas is to commemorate the raising of the regiment in 1689. It was build in 1892 to mark the regiment’s two-hundred anniversary.
A little further down the road, on the grounds of the estate there is also a memorial to commemorate the disbandment of the regiment.
Cameronian Regiment memorial (Disbandment memorial)
If you travel out of the Douglas Village and towards the lakes (or Ponds, known by the locals), just past Stable Lake (which used to see curling many years ago, a few curling stones can be seen in the village if you’re looking for them) towards the Castle remains there is a little memorial sat up on the hill with a view of the river cutting through the land – the river that has a permanent cold wind following it!
This memorial compliments the previous memorial, with one commemorating the founding and this one commemorating the disbandment. The reason for it’s location is because the Cameronians was disbanded at Douglas Castle on the 14th May 1968 by the 14th Duke of Hamilton, and the then Earl of Angus, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton.
On the 13-14th of May 2018 (50 years to the date), the village held a 50th Anniversary for the disbandment of the Cameronian regiment, with an afternoon parade, buffet and more.
For more information on the Cameronian regiment and links to the Anniversary Parades (including YouTube videos), click here: www.cameronians.org
Cameronian Regiment Memorial (for the disbandment of), Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
Douglas Castle, you may have already figured out, was owned by the Douglas family. Again, my history isn’t great, so again this is information I have researched myself. Also, this will be limited to the Castle’s history, rather than the Douglas family line.
The first Castle was erected in the 13th century and may have been wooden or stone. But it was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years.
During the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured by the English, and given to Lord Clifford. However, Sir James Douglas recaptured it on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel attending mass. The surviving English were dragged back to the Castle’s cellar and beheaded, put atop a heap of broken wine casks and food stores and set alight. Douglas then had the wells salted and poisoned with the bodies of dead horses and the Castle burned. The massacre became to be known at ‘The Douglas Larder’.
By the 15th century, the Steward monarchy was threatened by the ‘Black’ Douglases and the Battle of Arkinholm began in 1455. Douglas’s forces were defeated, Douglas himself fled to England the Douglas Castle went to the ‘Red’ Douglases (The ‘Red’ Douglases of Angus and Fife). The Black Douglases had ended. It is believed the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455.
In 1703/1707, when Archibald Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, the Castle was rebuilt again as a tower house and encloused courtyard with a corner tower. In 1745 the Castle saw damage after a rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) and the Highlanders in Charles’ army, after spending two ‘wild days’ around Christmas. The Castle was later destroyed by a fire in 1755, with the exception of the corner tower (which can still be seen today).
In 1757 the castle was again scheduled to be rebuilt by the great architect Robert Adam into a grand palace, which would have been the largest in Scotland. However, Douglas died before it was completed. The Castle would have been a five story building with round towers to the front and square towers to the rear, standing in an extensive park that would have spanned the valley of the Douglas Water.
The estate was eventually passed to his nephew Archibald Douglas the 1st Baron Douglas after the ‘Douglas Cause’ (a legal dispute between the 1st Baron and the Duke of Hamilton).
In the 1930s, Charles Douglas-Home, the 13th Earl of Home, (the family line of the Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home) allowed mining of coal in the park, adjacent to the Castle, to help with the local unemployment. But this unfortunately lead to the castle’s demolishment in 1938 due to dangerous subsidence.
Today, what remains of the Castle is the 17th century corner tower, remains of a cellar block underneath and raised earth that could potentially be from the old road into the castle. A little further out, right next to the Cairn Lodge Services is the remains of the Douglas Estate Gatehouse.
In 1831/2, Sir Walter Scott published the 4th in his series “Tales of My Landlord” called “Castle Dangerous”, the last of his novels. This novel was inspired by Douglas Castle. The Castle sometimes is now refered to as “Castle Dangerous”.
Here are some old photos I managed to find of the old Douglas Castle:
Collection of photos sourced from multiple web sources, including Douglasdale Real Group Facebook Page.
It’s also worth noting that the reason why the first lake is called “Stable Lake” is because this used to be where the Douglas’s Stable used to be, which can be seen on one of the photos above. Unfortunately the Stable was also demolished, I wasn’t able to find any information on when or how, but I imagine they were either destroyed at the same time the castle was in the 1930s, or years before during the many rise and falls of the castle.
Polish Memorial Garden
On the 11th June 1940, the Polish Government signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. Douglas was one site in which the Polish soldiers (around 17,000) were housed temporarily in camps along with Crawford and Biggar (nearby villages) before being more permanently based in Fife, Angus and Perthshire.
Three memorials were erected to commemorate the Polish Army, one square memorial pillar was presented to Douglas by General Stanislaw Maczek, Commander of all Polish forces in the UK.
In 2002 the other two monuments were moved to Douglas to create a Polish Army Memorial Garden.
Polish War Memorial Garden, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
If you’re an avid walker/hiker like I am, there are many walks around Douglas, from the obvious walks around the Lakes (Ponds) and the river Douglas Water, to longer wooded walks up on the hills either side of Douglas. Of course, bring your decent walking shoes and a warm waterproof coat, Douglas can unfortunately be rather wet, windy and cold almost all year round. If you’re going for a walk up in the woods, you might even want to bring your wellies!
For any dog walkers, please be careful around the Douglas Estate, it is now managed by the Douglas and Angus Estate and there are many farm animals around. Sometimes the farm animals escape! On certain times of the year, Royals have been known to go shooting in the grounds too and there is a house up past the red bridge. There are a few signs up near Stable lake that ask you to keep your dog on the lead. If you walk up on the wooded walks either side of Douglas, which can be a lot quieter, dogs are welcome off-lead, but be weary of farm animals in farm land near and the occasional horse rider and motorbike/push bike. Also be aware that these woodlands are usually logging sites.
Of course, you can’t avoid at least a small walk around the lakes if you’re visiting Douglas, it’s where some of the historical sites are! Up past the Main Street and towards the grounds of the Douglas Estate, you will go past the Polish Memorial Garden on your right and over a cattle grid. Stable Lake will be on your left, and if you continue up towards the end of the lake there is a small and rather muddy car park (if you can call it that). Follow the tarmac path around the hill and you will see both the Cameronian Regiment memorial of when it was disbanded and the remains of Douglas Castle.
When you get to Douglas Castle you can either go left towards the red bridge or right following the path around. You can follow the latter path towards the lake behind Castle Douglas which will mostly lead to farm land or double back towards Stable Lake.
The path left at Castle Douglas, over the red bridge, will lead to a house, but if you continue past it you will get to two gates. The gate straight ahead will lead you through farm land, which you are welcome to walk through just be weary of the farm animals and the gate on the left (which is usually quite muddy) will lead up through the woods. The walk up through the woods, if you follow the path at the top to the right, can eventually circle back round (past the M74 motorway), but the path to the left will follow along the hill at the top which you can follow all the way to Douglas West.
Somewhere up on the walk through the woods there is a small circular stone monument of sorts, it looks like an old sundial or henge, but I wasn’t able to find any information on it.
Not far from Douglas West is the old Railway tracks that used to be for the coal mining in the 1900s, the tracks are no longer there, but you can see where the line used to be, with the odd old bridge across it. This line appears to follow Douglas Water and past Glespin where it curves off.
Up round this way, there is a large windmill farm too, which I’ve heard is open to the public to walk around and has some spectacular views over Douglas and the surrounding areas.
On the other side of Douglas, crossing Ayr road, there is also another wooded hill which is suitable for general walkers/hikers, dog walkers and bikes. Known by the locals as Paigie Hill.
Paigie Hill is famous with the locals, as it’s a Douglas tradition to walk up the hill on the 2nd of January, usually just the men (although the women have their own walk, free of the men). It started 30 years ago when just a few men from the village decided to ‘blow away the New Year celebrations cobwebs’. But in 2013 68 men took part.
You can get there by walking down Springhill Road, which leads up a track past a farm as loose stones guide you up. When you get to the tree line, you have a choice of continuing on or turning right.
The path up will lead you past the treeline and up on the hill. As Scotland has a law called “Right to Roam” you are welcome to wander on this barren hill, which has a few views around the landscape where you can see for miles.
The path on the right will follow the hill through the trees, the majority of this is usually fairly clear of mud until you decide to wander off the track. Along the way there are little tracks that you can explore which I believe are for push bikes, but can be explored on foot, some are labled with yellow painted carvings in the trees or beer cans that have been cut and stapled to the trees. The path does eventually lead down the hill towards the A70, if you follow the path a little way past the tree line you can follow it to the right towards a farm house, and down towards the local cemetary, the road right will lead past the local School and back into Douglas.
It is also possible to turn off left when you get to the top of Springhill Road, one grassy/muddy path will eventually lead to an area which has a large tent made up and a very basic swing seat that looks over the view of the hill, but be careful if you have a dog, last time I was there there there was a little bit of broken glass.
There is also word that Mainshill near Douglas will also be redeveloped, it’s an old coal site and will eventually have a woodland including paths for pedestrians and cyclists and a carpark.
Collection of photographs of walks around Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
As well as the usual farm animal (mostly sheep, but some beef cows and of course the Highland cow just outside the village!) and horses that lives in the village, there have been many wildlife spotted in the area, from the common birds like Jackdaws, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Robins, to the more uncommon such as Oyster Catchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Sandmartins and Whooper Swans. I also have heard a Tawny owl calling one evening.
Buzzards are also pretty common in Douglas, as they are in most parts of Scotland, having been dubbed the ‘Scottish Pidgeon’ for a reason. Even Sparrowhawks have been sited, in areas around Douglas Red Kites and Peregrine Falcon’s have been residents. It was also even rumoured that the very rare Osprey has been spotted in the area.
Other animals, as well as birds have been spotted, such as mice, badgers, foxes, deer and even weasles. I also wouldn’t be surprised if pine martins also live in the area and maybe even wildcats since they were introduced to Scotland.
A collection of animals photos, (c) Penny Hooper. (c) Adrian Hooper.
Douglas is a film set!
Only a few years ago, in the Summer of 2017, a film crew decended upon Douglas which was received with mixed emotions from the locals.
This film crew, Mammoth Screen, closed off roads, mainly the Main Street, to film part of the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence three-part drama, aired, eventually, in April 2018.
Ordeal by Innocence had a cast of Bill Nighy, Catherine Keener, Matthew Goode, Eleanor Tomlinson, Anthony Boyle, Ed Westwick (although due to sexual assault accusations, his character Mickey Argyll was replaced by Christian Cooke), Luke Treadaway, Morven Christie, Crystal Clarke, Ella Purnell and Alice Eve.
The filming saw a small facelift to the Main Street of Douglas, with the Cross Key’s Pub been given a new lick of paint, two flats being turned into temporary shops complete with boxes of vegetables and homeware tools outside and a number of old vintage cars parked along the road. Of course, the temporary shops were dismantled and the cars disappeared, but the paint on the old pub remained (with a few minor tweeks for the landlord).
Not all the cast of the three-part series was seen in Douglas, unfortunately Bill Nighy wasn’t spotted, however, Luke Treadaway and Crystal Clarke were prominent stars on the Main Street.
The mixed reception with the locals was split between those in favour of Douglas gaining popularity (especially the local busineses such as The Cross Keys who got a new face-lift and The Scrib Tree), and those who had to endure the filming going on into the early hours of the morning – luckily it was on a weekend!
The three-part series was originally scheduled to air at Christmas, but due to the sexual assault accusations surrounding Ed Westwick at the time, the release date was pushed back and eventually aired at Easter in April 2018 with Ed Westwick’s scenes redone. Due to insufficient evidence, the case against Westwick was dropped.
Recently, another film crew decended upon Douglas once more, filming a few shorts in the St. Bride’s Graveyard and a small alleyway on Main Street leading to garages. Luckily the film crew had packed up just after night fall, but clearly the area is picking up popularity between the film industry! However, not much was said of this film crew, it’s unsure what the filming was for.
Collection of Photos from the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence filming. (c) Penny Hooper.
Where to eat and drink?
Douglas has a few places to drink, from the two pubs on the Main Street, The Cross Keys Inn and The Countryside Inn and a cafe which has just been granted a licence to sell wines and spirits; The Scrib Tree up on the Ayr Road.
On Ayr Road, there is also a recently opened Bakery where the old Post Office used to be, up by the entrance to Main Street is a local Indian takeaway and behind the Crossburn Services there is another little cafe; Crossburn Kitchen Cafe & Take-away. There are also a few other shops, including a local newsagents, which sells everything from your newspaper, milk, to cool drinks in the fridges.
Unfortunately the old Douglas Arms Hotel has been closed for many years now, after having been driven to dispare. There had been rumours that it had been bought in the last few years, but so far it has been left untouched. Which is a huge shame, as if this hotel could be brought back up to scratch and with the right marketing, the area could have a huge boost in tourism.
The Cross Keys Inn (known as ‘The Keys’ by the locals) is an old pub on the Main Street. It sells many drinks, from beers, ales, wines and spirits, and has a few TVs which air Sky Sports, At The Races and BT Sports, all can be watched by the old crackling open fire or a round of pool on the pool table near the back.
They occasionally have live music (TheWORDS, Billy Crawford, Midtown Riot, Hooch Hounds, Bracken and Losferwords), which can be very busy with the locals of Douglas and the nearby villages.
Unfortuantely, however, the pub doesn’t sell hot food as there is no kitchen available, but it does offer the odd crisps or pork scratchings!
The Countryside Inn is the other pub in Douglas, having been taken over by new management in the last few years, which not only is a place to drink, but also has a restaurant which can seat up to 50 people. The Inn also has a large function room for parties and weddings.
The Scrib Tree is another nice little place, selling mostly coffees, cakes and small things for breakfast and lunch. However, there have been a number of great reviews for their food. With freshly made soups and speciality sausage rolls and scotch eggs!
I was also able to find one property on lastminute-cottages.com, but it doesn’t seem to be available to book at the moment.
Otherwise, I would recommend staying somewhere outside of Douglas, such as the New Lanark Mill Hotel (another great area to visit in South Lanarkshire) or possibly somewhere in the Borders, such as Biggar.
Douglas is one of those areas that is ideal if you drive. If you don’t drive, and you’re relying on public transport, be prepared for very limited means of travel around the area, especially getting to Douglas!
Unforutnately there is only two bus services that goes to Douglas. There is a Whitelaws bus that goes to Douglas from Lanark, the number 259 (to Glespin) which goes through Rigside, Sandilands (occasionally) and Kirkfieldbank (occasionally), which can be caught from Lanark Bus Station. It takes approximately 40 minutes, depending on what route it takes (whether it goes through Sandilands and Kirkfieldbank or not).
There is aslo a number 9 bus (Stuarts Coaches) which does the same route but runs on weekends and week day evenings when Whitelaws doesn’t run.
Here are a few useful references to websites for more information:
I’ve had the lovely experience living in South Lanarkshire for a while, also recently having to move back to the area, and I figured I’d write about what the best places are in the area.
New Lanark is definately one of my favourites. A UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it’s 18th-century village built up around an old cotton mill and next to the River Clyde. Definitely a lovely place to go if you’re a keen photographer.
If you’re a history buff too, or just generally like a day out, it’s not a bad site, not only can you walk around the area and soak up the buildings and the working old mill, but there is also a number of attractions to see, from the roof garden, Robert Owen’s School for children, Millworker’s House and Robert Owen’s House to name a few.
There is also a cafe and shop on site, the New Lanark Mill Shop. Although the cafe isn’t exactly the most comfortable, as it looks more functional than anything, it still does some half-decent hot foods, cold foods and drinks. During the summer months, they also have New Lanark Ice Cream in the usual flavours, but some not to usual, such as Irn Bru (I’d recommend!)
The shop is also large and has a variety of items being sold, of course there is a huge section dedicated to Wool and Textiles, but they also sell clothes, books, jewelry, home wear and foods!
New Lanark also has it’s own Hotel, the New Lanark Mill Hotel, if you’d like to stay in the area, which also has it’s own bar and restaurant. I’ve had the pleasure of both eating and drinking there, it has a beautiful bar area, although it can get busy during the summer months as it doesn’t have a lot of seating. And I can’t comment on the dining, as I went there for Christmas dinner one year, and unfortunately wasn’t that impressed, hopefully a typical evening meal would be more enjoyable.
But aside from the odd negatives, I still enjoy going back frequently.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Falls of Clyde
If you visit New Lanark, I’d also recommend the walk along the river to see the Falls of Clyde. Autumn is my favourite time of year to go, as the leaves on the trees are turning all types of beautiful colours and if you go just after a decent rain fall, the falls will be spectacular! Remember to charge up your camera!
It’s a bit of a walk, so it’s not ideal for those who aren’t very able-bodied, and there are a few steps. It can also get a little muddy in places, so I’d take some shoes you don’t mind getting a little dirty and take a decent coat with you just in case the weather turns. It is roughly about an hour and a half to Corra Linn and back.
There are four Linns in total. Corra Linn (Linn is Scottish Gaelic for Waterfall) is the tallest, and I’d recommend seeing this one at least. But you also have Bonnington Linn, Dundaff Linn (closest to New Lanark) and Stonebyres Linn (lower falls).
If you’re adventurous enough, like I am, I’d recommend walking all the way to the bridge/Weir (Bonnington Weir) and walk across the other side and along to the right, following the river. Here you can see Bonnington Linn. You can even walk as far as Corra Castle, although it’s not a huge castle, it is hidden away in the undergrowth (apparently home to some rare bats!)
Alongside the Falls, if you’re an animal and/or nature fan, the Falls of Clyde have a Wildlife Reserve. They have regular evening badger watches, wildlife themed events and even interactive toys and games for children. For more information check out the Scottish Wildlife Trust website: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/falls-of-clyde/ They claim to have a Peregrine watch site a third of the way up, but I have a feeling there are no Peregrine Falcons nesting in the area anymore.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Going the other way, towards the Scottish Borders, is a little town called Biggar (ironically). It’s a medival town built in 1451 and has a wealth of attractions for such a small town. The only downside I can personally comment, is unlike it’s cousins towns and villages in the Scottish Borders, it doesn’t have the beautiful backdrop of hills and mountains around it.
However, there are lots of things to do. From the world famous Victorian puppet theatre, Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum and Biggar Gasworks Museum (the only preserved gas works in Scotland).
Biggar is also home to a number of festivals and events, with the famous Biggar Little Festival which is held in October each year, which celebrates arts, dance, crafts, drama and literature. If you stay around until New Year, you may also catch the Hogmanay bonfire and torch-lit procession through the town. It also hosts argricultural shows and vintage car rallies.
Chatelherault Country Park
Going away from The Scottish Borders and past Lanark and New Lanark, closer to Glasgow is a town called Hamilton and just on the outskirts is Chaterherault Country Park.
A 18th century hunting lodge with 500 acres of countryside and woodland. In the summer it’s a great place to go with children, with picnic facilities and a large adventure play ground. Also a great place to go for dog walkers and adventurers alike.
The house and grounds are all free admission, which makes a great cheap day out, with a few of the rooms being open to the public to see, and a small museum inside of what life used to be like there. There is a Cafe inside and a Gift Shop and it is even a great place to hold a Wedding or Private Event.
The grounds offer many trails, the main reason why I go there, as the trails take you through a varity of walks, through woods, across/under bridges (i.e. The Duke’s Bridge) and along a river (River Avon). There is even a small castle ruins called Cadzow Castle (although the last time I saw it, the small castle was trapped within a maze of scaffolding!) and keep your eyes out for the Cadzow Cattle or White Park Cattle a rare breed of ancient horned cattle that live in a field right next to the lodge.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
On the other side of Hamilton, if Cadzow Castle wasn’t enough castle for you, there is 13th Century Bothwell Castle. Another cheap day out, at £3.00 each for an adult, £2.40 concession, £1.80 child (free for Children until 5) or if you’re a Young Scot Card Holder, it’s only £1.00!
There is a fair amount of Bothwell Castle still standing, but what is striking about the Castle is it’s reddish colour and the large tower (or donjon).
The land originally was owned by Walter of Moray who began the construction of the castle in the mid 1200s. But by the late 1200s, was the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence, and Bothwell was unfortunately in the line of fire.
There is a lot of history around Bothwell, more than a simple Blog post can explain, and which I will leave you guys to find out. But one last thing I will note is that Bothwell passed to the Black Douglases, which pops up again later in this blog post, so keep your eye out!
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Heading away from Glasgow and Hamilton, back past New Lanark, but the other side of the motorway from Biggar, is a little village called Douglas.
This is a little village hidden away, not many people know of, mainly because there aren’t many attractions here, yet it is steeped in history!
Douglas is where the Douglas family took their name, originally where the stronghold; Douglas Castle was built, as early as the 13th century. The original castle was destroyed and replaced a number of times, until the last building to stand on the site was a large 18th century mansion. Unfortunately this too was demolished in 1938 due to mining in the area, but a single 17th century corner tower still remains.
Douglas and Douglas Castle was also in the line of fire from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the early 1300s, having been captured by Lord Clifford, but Sir James Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s friend, recaptured his family seat. It was because of this, and the loyalty of the Douglases, Robert the Bruce rewarded the Douglases by creating the title Earl of Douglas.
For any literacy fans, like myself, the Castle itself was also where Walter Scott got his inspiration for his novel “Castle Dangerous”.
Although the remaining Castle tower is 17th century, this isn’t the oldest building in the village. St. Bride’s Church is 14th century and became the mausoleum of the Douglases. The church yard and a part of the old church is free to wander, to gain access inside you need prior arrangement.
There is a long story about Robert the Bruce, his heart and James Douglas, one that will require a seperate blog post, but a long story short, Robert the Bruce wished to go on a crusade, but Robert was unfortunately dying. He entrusted James Douglas to take his heart on a crusade. Douglas died in battle, his bones taken back to St. Bride’s Church and Bruce’s heart was eventually buried at Melrose Abbey (his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey close to his wife’s).
There is a small museum (The Douglas Heritage Museum) which originally was St Sophia’s Chapel, located next to the church yard, but only opens at the weekends between 14:00 and 17:00 (although I am sure it’s usually during the summer months) or by special arrangement.
Douglas has a small claim to fame in recent years too, having been a site for filming of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, or have seen the series, you might recognise “The Cross Keys”, located on the High Street.
There are also lots of hidden places to walk around Douglas, up in the wooded hills around the area.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
I have posted a lot about my writing, giving you a few chapters, even given the new improved updated version, I have posted about my struggles with WordPress and the issues of being an author. But there is two other things I am interested in that I have not yet blogged about here and that it; travel and photography.
I love travelling and photography. I don’t always get to go to exciting and exotic places, but I do try to get out to new places in and around the area in which I live; Scotland.
Here is an idea of where I have been recently; Drumlanrig Castle (the “Pink Palace”).
It’s a beautiful Castle located in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It is/was the home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. The castle has 120 rooms, 17 turrets and four towers. Constructed between 1679 and 1689 from distinctive pink sandstone.
I haven’t been inside, as it was winter and it wasn’t open, but it is certainly somewhere I want to go back.