Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. On the night of October 31st they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, then celebrated their new year on November 1st.
Today, October 31st, I sit in London on Halloween and I quickly realize the attention and revelry I have become accustomed to in the US is non-existent here. Even though I my grandparents were strict and very religious they never opposed us dressing up, watching scary movies, and Trick or Treating. The public schools and businesses celebrated. Even as an adult I have been to Halloween bar crawls and a masquerade ball at an Opera House. Speaking with my Brit friends they explain that Halloween has never been a "thing" here. However due to social media and movies, US influences are beginning to trickle across the pond.
The UK would be the perfect backdrop for this holiday and not just because it is the birthplace! There are places such as the Tower of London with hundreds of years of gory history. Iconic fictional tales such as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde were birthed here. The entire murder mystery genre has the English to thank. Last time I was in London I hopped on a highly entertaining Jack The Ripper walking tour. Now that I reflect this may be the reason Halloween is not as popular in the UK. The essence of the holiday is everywhere.
Though I have been to the UK and Ireland several times I regretfully never traveled to Scotland. I was pleasantly surprised that the Goth scene is not only alive and well, but also highly celebrated. In the Old Town you can walk on cobblestone streets, see buildings hundreds of years old, and a castle.
Things To Do
Greyfriars Kirkyard - Harry Potter enthusiasts may homage to several of the gravestones because this is the place that J.K. Rowling drew the inspiration for some of the characters. Plus you can learn more about Greyfriars Bobby or go on a City of the Dead tour.
Where to Stay
The YOTEL Edinburgh recently opened in July 2019 and I had the pleasure of staying there. The hotel is within walking distance of most major attractions, houses a bar and restaurant, and currently rates are extremely reasonable. Being that the hotel opened less than three months before my stay everything was in mint condition. The fitness center is impressive, the Wi-Fi fast, the bed comfy, and the service great.
For the Harry Potter fans the historic 5-star Balmoral hotel is where J.K. Rowling wrote her last novel of the series, The Deathly Hallows.
Where to Eat & Drink
The Witchery at The Castle is one the best restaurants in the city, while also being a hotel. I enjoyed the Afternoon Tea in the Secret Garden, plus a quick photo shoot in the baroque decor in the main dining room where you can Dine with The Devil. Another benefit is the restaurant stays open very late compared to others in the city (11:30pm last seating).
Not far from the Witchery is an overlooked landmark, the Witches Well, where hundreds of accused witches were burned at the stake. Plus a stones throw away is the world famous Edinburgh Castle, home to the Scottish crown jewels.
Scotland is known for its whiskey and gin and there is not a short supply of watering holes to quench your thirst. My favorite is the Bramble Bar & Lounge, followed by Badger & Co., Tonic, and Copper Blossom. Though the Voodoo Room and The Devil's Advocate would have been more appropriate given their great reviews and the fact Halloween was just around the corner. I will definitely return to explore more of the top-notch bars.
I did not scratch the service of all that Scotland has to offer and I am already planning my return. This will include a visit to the Highlands and the grand Whiskey estates. I enjoyed everything about my stay. The people, the history, and the drinks!