The legend of the ghost playing the bagpipe at Edinburgh Castle
Every self-respecting Scottish castle has its own ghost, whether scary or melancholy, based on the history of each individual manor.
In Edinburgh Castle, the best known in Scotland, a ghost (and maybe even more than one) could not be missing.
As story goes, on a summer night of an unspecified year a few centuries ago, a red-haired boy dressed in a worn kilt probably left by his father, and with even more worn-out shoes, was chosen for a mission that did not seem so dangerous.
The access to numerous tunnels had recently been discovered in the castle, which no one knew where they led, but which apparently seemed to lead to Holyrood Palace, the residence of the Scottish sovereigns (the last to live there was Mary Stuart) which stands at the end of the Royal Mile, a succession of downhill streets that, from the Castle, arrive precisely at Holyrood Palace.
Access to the tunnels was small, but enough to allow a not too strong boy to pass, but who could play the bagpipes. Yes, because the idea was that the sound of the bagpipe acted as a sort of ethereal Ariadne’s thread, not to find their way back, but to allow those outside to follow the underground path of the tunnel from the outside.
And in fact it worked for a while, until, about halfway down the Royal Mile, more or less at the Tron Kirk church, the music stopped.
Someone dared to venture into the tunnel to look for him, but nobody found anything, literally: no trace of the young player’s body or his bagpipe.
The boy’s disappearance led to the closure of the tunnel access, and the sad story could end here.
But not in Edinburgh, where ghosts are the norm. Since then and over the centuries, there are those who have heard the sound of a solitary bagpipe coming from the basement of the Castle and along the Royal Mile, as if it were the lament of an innocent soul that tries in vain to find an exit from its prison.
Every year, in August, an important musical/military event takes place in Edinburgh Castle, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, where, at the end of traditional parades and concerts by bands from all over the world, a boy, alone in the center of the scene, plays a sad music with his bagpipe.
Perhaps the notes of that melody reach the lost boy in the meanders of the underground, and perhaps even the restless souls of all those who, over the centuries, have lost their lives trying to defend or conquer the Castle.
Historically because the fortress, in addition to being the most haunted place in Edinburgh, is also the site with the largest number of sieges in the history of Great Britain. For 23 times the fortress had to resist the attacks of the enemies of the Scottish crown.
And in any case, the history of the site where the Castle stands is very long: the first settlements on Castle Rock, a volcanic formation formed 350 million years ago, dates back to the Iron Age, around 850 BC. Since then, probably thanks to its extraordinary strategic position, the place has never been abandoned and is therefore probably the oldest continuously inhabited area in the country.
So much so that, already at the beginning of the documented history of the Castle, the place was already shrouded in myth, as the site of a sanctuary that would have hosted Morgana, the enchantress of Arthurian legends.
As for the certain history of the Castle, we must go back in time, to the 12th century, when David I had it built where his mother’s residence probably stood, the future St. Catherine, who died of grief a few days after death of her husband, King Malcolm III.
Since then the Castle, always at the center of all conflicts between Scotland and England, has earned the title of “defender of the nation”, besieged and attacked 23 times, especially during the wars of independence between 1296 and 1341. In those years the castle was almost completely destroyed, and today only the Chapel of St. Margaret remains, the oldest building in all of Edinburgh.
The Castle was rebuilt several times and besieged again, until Oliver Cromwell finally managed to conquer it, without too much effort: the governor of the fortress surrendered after only three months of siege.
Since then the Castle has been used as a military headquarters and as a war prison for political and military prisoners from the late 1600s until the end of the First World War.
Perhaps many of them, in the long nights of solitude, heard the melancholy sound of a distant bagpipe…
Images from web – Google Research