6 of the Spookiest Bars in Edinburgh
03 October 2022
Edinburgh is certainly not short of pubs or bars – there’s gin bars, music bars, whisky bars, not to mention some fabulous cocktail bars. But’s it’s not just spirits of the liquid kind that you’ll find in the city’s pubs and bars – some are reputedly the home of spirits of the other kind as well.
Read on to discover the Edinburgh bars where the drinks are definitely served chilled!
The Last Drop
Named after the 14th century practice of using the large enclosed area for agriculture fairs, such as corn, cattle and horse trading, the Grassmarket has also a darker side. Its wide open space made it ideal for public executions, with the last hanging taking place here in 1784.
The Last Drop, takes its name from this grisly part of Edinburgh’s history.
Once home to tenements where many families lived, the pub you see today was rebuilt using the buildings’ original 17th century stone. But it seems that some of the residents are still there – the ghost of a young girl has been seen causing mischief in the bar and cellar….
The White Hart Inn
In the same area can be found The White Hart Inn - one of Edinburgh's oldest pubs, with parts of the building dating back to 1516.
It has seen many notable patrons over the years, including poets Robert Burns in 1791 and later, Dorothy Wordsworth. It is also believed to have been one of the watering holes of murders Burke and Hare who spent much of 1828 enticing several of their fellow drinkers back to their nearby lodgings only to murder them and sell their corpses to the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
Discover more about gruesome 19th century murders Burke and Hare in our guide, Tales from Beyond the Grave in Edinburgh >
Sightings of a dark shadowy figure heading down to the cellar, doors mysteriously slamming shut and barrels in the cellar inexplicably moving around, have been sited over the years.
The Beehive Inn
Completing the trio of spooky Grassmarket pubs is is The Beehive Inn. Original a 16th century coaching inn, it has dark memento from the city’s past.
Leading up the stairs to the second floor can be found the door from the ominously-named Death Cell from Calton Jail, which was demolished in 1935. The cell once held 1820’s murderer William Burke.
The Banshee Labyrinth
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Declaring itself “Scotland’s most haunted pub” The Banshee Labyrinth was once part of Edinburgh’s infamous underground vaults where some of the city’s most unsavoury residents, including thieves and criminals, were to be found.
The neighbours didn’t really fare much better either – the building next door was at one time home to Lord Nicol Edwards. A 16th century aristocrat, he is said to have shared King James VI views on witchcraft, ie that it existed and the only way it could be stopped was to punish and torture suspected women, and so he turned the basement of his house into a dungeon where he interrogated many innocent women. Reports have been cited of a ghost of a woman crying out in fear, could she be the spirit of one of Edward’s victims?
Edward himself is also said to haunt the walls of this ancient building – watch out for drinks thrown from tables as he stalks his old territory!
The Tolbooth Tavern
Built in 1591, The Tolbooth Tavern has seen many uses over the years, including a place for collecting tolls from incoming travellers, as well as a council chamber, police station and a prison. It was in 1820 that it became a tavern, remaining remarkedly unchanged to this day.
With such a varied history, it’s no surprise that there might be one or two spooky sightings here.
One such spectre is a man accused of witchcraft and held prisoner who is said to be seen climbing the stairs to the clock tower; there’s a shadowy figure, who pushes glasses off tables and knocks pictures off walls; and playful children's voices and footsteps have been reported floating through the bar’s ancient walls.
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Housed deep in the South Bridge vaults and open every night ‘til the wee small hours, Whistle Binkies is an Edinburgh institution, providing the city with a host of top quality live music.
But this lively bar is also known for the spooky presence of two ghosts – known as “The Imp” and “The Watcher”.
“The Imp”, as the name suggests, is a mischievous thing that moves things around the bar, locking doors and changing clocks. “The Watcher” is said to be dressed in 17th century clothing and simply watches people from afar, before disappearing into thin air.
Prefer your drinking experience to be less of a spooky affair? When it comes to choice, Edinburgh is spoilt for choice – take a look at some of our favourites in our Guide to Edinburgh’s Bars>