VisitScotland is celebrating Scotland’s surprising links to Dracula and its famed author Bram Stoker on the iconic book’s 125th anniversary. Scotland is said to have played a crucial role in the creation of the classic story with Stoker holidaying north of the border as he wrote it. Visitors and locals alike are being encouraged to indulge in some literary tourism, whereby people are inspired to visit the locations depicted in literature, and delve into the country’s connections to Dracula, following in Stoker’s footsteps.
Locations in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Glasgow all have links to Stoker, but it is perhaps the striking cliff top castle in Aberdeenshire that is best known for its links to the story. Slains Castle, near Cruden Bay, is believed to have inspired Dracula’s castle – specifically a unique octagon-shaped room described in the book, which Slains boasts. Stoker began writing Dracula – which was published in 1897 – while staying at the nearby Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, with his signatures from its guestbook in 1894 and 1895 surviving to this day. Now in ruins, the castle is best admired from nearby and should not be entered due to safety reasons.
The 125th anniversary of Dracula is fittingly marked during Scotland’s Year of Stories which celebrates and promotes the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Recently, the national tourism organisation co-hosted a special event with Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh to mark the anniversary attended by Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, who took part in a Q&A and book signing attended by fans of Dracula and horror literature. Jenni Steele, VisitScotland Film and Creative Industries Manager, said: “This anniversary is a fantastic opportunity to highlight Scotland’s connections to this world-renowned book and character. Dracula holds such a sense of intrigue and mystery, so it is not surprising that Bram Stoker’s writing is said to have been influenced by the country’s magical landscapes and locations while on his travels. It was pleasure to co-host the special event in Edinburgh and have Dacre involved in sharing his passion and knowledge about Dracula in Scotland. 2022 also marks Scotland’s Year of Stories – so this anniversary is a perfect fit to celebrate our links to this world-famous tale. And we hope that by shining a light on those ties, people will come and see the inspirational places that arguably helped created one of the most famous pieces of literature ever written.”
Scotland’s literary tradition
Dacre Stoker, great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, said: “It is a great privilege to part of this special anniversary, and even more so to be celebrating it in what is arguably the birthplace of Dracula; Scotland. The rich culture and heritage clearly left its impact on Bram; from the ruins of Slains Castle clearly inspiring the gothic setting of Dracula’s castle, to the vast landscape of Aberdeenshire’s coast to his links to Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, including his friendships with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers that make up the fabric of Scotland’s literary tradition. Scotland has inspired many writers and artists for centuries and its stories and landscapes hopefully will continue to inspire many more to come.”
Scotland has world-class literary links. Our landscapes, history and people have inspired writers for centuries, helping to bring to life enduring characters that capture the imagination. From Dracula to Outlander, Harry Potter to Sunset Song, Scotland has inspired some of the world’s best-loved literary creations. Pre-Covid19 there were over three million visits to literary attractions across Scotland (2013-2019). Figures released by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University detail visitor numbers to places with literature links including Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the Grassic Gibbon Centre, the Writers’ Museum, JM Barrie’s Birthplace, Scott Monument and Burns Monument Centre.
And there are several Scottish locations with Dracula and vampire ties for visitors to discover:
Renfield Street, Glasgow – It is believed Bram Stoker supported the staging of plays at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and that the name of RM Renfield, the character featured in the novel, was taken from Glasgow’s Renfield Street.
Edinburgh – Before writing Dracula, Bram Stoker worked as a theatre manager, which saw him heavily involved in the opening night of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in 1883.
Glamis Castle, Angus – There is said to be a ‘vampire child’ who was born in the castle and kept in a secret room. Another vampire legend tells of a woman who worked in the castle and was caught drinking blood from a body and was punished by being walled up alive in a secret room, where she remains to this day.
Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders – Reportedly, during the 12th century an unpopular priest lived at the abbey. He was a rule-breaker and nicknamed Hunderprest because he preferred hunting with dogs rather than serving God. After he died and was buried on the grounds, it’s alleged Hunderprest rose from his tomb, wailing and drinking the blood of the nuns. One night, as the undead priest rose again, the other priests beheaded him, cremated him and scattered his ashes to the wind.
Blair Atholl, Perthshire – A local tale describes how two poachers were attacked by a blood sucking creature while they slept in a bothy near Glen Tilt. The pair fought the creature off after which it flew away into the night or accounts claim it simply vanished.
Another interesting Dracula connection is through Emily Gerard, an author born in Jedburgh, Scottish Borders and lived in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire. She was the first person to bring the word “nosferatu” or “vampire” into use in western Europe. She studied and wrote about Transylvanian folklore having married an Austro-Hungarian chevalier, who was stationed in a small town there. Gerard’s collection of Transylvanian myths and legends are known to have influenced Stoker’s Dracula.
Text and images courtesy of VisitScotland. For more information about Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 visit: www.visitscotland.com/about/themed-years/stories
Main photo: Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire is said to have inspired Dracula author Bram Stoker.