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Edinburgh's Cóiste Bodhar (Death Coach)

Firstly, a big hello to everyone reading this! I must set the scene for you all before I ramble. I am no writer. I plan to contribute to our new blog on a regular basis and hope that you enjoy some of my tales and thoughts!

I wanted to write today about a place very close to our hearts. Edinburgh. Almost every dark close and wynd has its own macabre tale. You can just believe the stories of the ashen-faced deceased in their grave clothes wandering the streets, peering through the windows and scaring the living half-witless. Little wonder that ghost tours are so popular here. There is such a timeless, terrifying attraction about the "City of the Dead" and each time we visit we learn a new ghost story or tale of mysticism and intrigue and this particular legend is one not often told.

The legend of the Death Coach (cóiste bodhar) is an ancient one that occurs in many traditions, especially those of Ireland.

The Coach is a malevolent horse-drawn carriage which is usually described as being driverless. This eerie vehicle is said to travel around a specific area collecting souls as it goes. Sometimes the Death Coachwill arrive ina location simply to collect the souls of the recently departed, however in other, more disturbing versions of the legend the coach is more proactive in the way it aquires it's cargo, and legend has it that when it travels at night it abducts and carries away anyone foolish enough to get to close, thus becoming the owner of that unfortunate persons soul. These souls are then said to be transported directly to Hell.

In Edinburgh, there have been alledged sightings of a Death Coach driving along the Royal Mile, close to St Giles Cathedral, usually on dark and wet evenings when the streets are quiet, however detailed descriptions are few and far between, perhaps because those who see it rarely live to tell the tale. Usually it is described as a ghostly, glowing coach drawn by black horses. Sometimes the horses are said to be headless, at others as having fiery eyes or flashes of fire coming from their nostrils. If there is a driver, it is claimed that they are shrouded in black, faceless and unmoving.

Sightings of the Death Coach in Edinburgh - charging along the Royal Mile between Holyrood and the castle - are said to precede a disaster in the city. There were several reports of the Death Coach being seen in the weeks before the 2002 Cowgate fire.

St Giles Cathedral

So if you do find yourself in Edinburghs old town in the dead of night, alone and walking in the rain. Listen out for the thundering of hooves and the rattle of the coach over the cobbled stones. You may need to get out of the way pretty quickly!

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