Gail Porter’s Guide to the Spooky Side of Edinburgh.
14 February 2022
- things to do
For those who find Valentine’s Day a frightening experience, television personality Gail Porter, who was born and raised in Edinburgh, has teamed up with Forever Edinburgh to encourage more people to explore the lesser-known darker and spooky side of the city’s spooky and darkly decadent side.
With its hidden underground streets, stories of ghosts and bodysnatchers and eerie graveyards, Edinburgh is believed to be as one of the most haunted places in Europe. Add in bars frequented by ghosts, restaurants with magical candle-lit atmospheres and hotels with dark and decadent decor, and Edinburgh has a spellbinding new story to tell.
Paranormal fan Gail, who previously starred in the Dead Famous: Ghostly Encounters series, has put together a shortlist of her favourite darker delights in Edinburgh…..
1. Visit: New Calton Burial Ground
It doesn’t get much more atmospheric than this secret treasure that is New Calton Burial Ground.
This walled cemetery has stunning views out to Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish Parliament. Take a wander round and explore the last resting places of many interesting characters such as Andrew Fyfe who was the leading body dissector at Edinburgh University in the late 18th century. Apparently during this period, bodies for anatomical study were in short supply and it’s said that researchers often relied on corpses sold by ‘bodysnatchers’ – the grisly entrepreneurs of the era who dug up and sold bodies.
It could be considered somewhat macabre, but wandering around Edinburgh’s historic graveyards are a great way to uncover more about the city’s past and its people. Discover more in Tales from Beyond the Grave in Edinburgh >
2. Explore: Spooky Streets Beneath the City
I love getting off the beaten track and there’s no better way to do that in Edinburgh than heading underground.
Not many visitors know this but lying deep below the shadowy closes and tourist shots of the city’s famous Royal Mile lies a network of narrow alleyways, spooky vaults and abandoned houses. Adventurous spirits like me will love descending into this dimly-lit netherworld with a tour guide and hearing chilling tales of Edinburgh’s ghostly past, which includes many dark and sinister stories of bodysnatchers, hangings and dark deeds.
3. Enchanting Eating: The Witchery by the Castle
If you’re looking for a dark and decadent dining experience with a spooky twist, The Witchery by the Castle is a real treat.
A short stroll from Edinburgh Castle, this opulent oak-panelled candle-lit restaurant is spectacularly atmospheric. While its renowned for its legendary food, you may not know that it takes its name from the hundreds of women and men burned at the stake as witches on nearby Castlehill during the 16th and 17th centuries.
4. Darkly Decadent Accommodation: The House of Gods hotel
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I love staying at The House of Gods, it’s really dark and debauched.
Located in Edinburgh’s Cowgate, the city’s’ second oldest street, the hotel offers an unapologetically extravagant interior with boutique rooms and exquisite food.
For something a bit spookier, the brave enough can stay the night in Edinburgh’s most haunted hotel - Borthwick Castle. Built in 1430, this castle has been turned into a lavish getaway with incredible interiors. The castle is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots who wonders the halls at night. If that wasn’t enough, spend the night in the Red Room – inhabited by the spirits of a murdered mother and her child!
5. Discover: Arthur Seat Coffins
This is a spooky story. A set of miniature coffins were discovered over 200 years ago in a secluded spot on Arthur’s Seat in the heart of Edinburgh. No one is quite sure of the story behind them but they are believed to be linked to ancient witchery and demonology.
If you fancy finding out more, take a hike up Arthur’s seat and seek out the spot on the north-east side of the hill where the coffins were first found. At the top you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and beyond. Or you could visit the 8 remaining coffins which are exhibited in The National Museum of Scotland to uncover the dark conspiracy theories that aim to explain how and why the coffins appeared.
6. Drinks: Scary Spirits
You might need a stiff drink during your exploration of Edinburgh’s spooky and darker side! The good news is that Edinburgh has plenty of pubs or bars – some of which are reputedly the home of spirits of the other kind as well!
I’d recommend The Banshee Labyrinth which was once part of Edinburgh’s infamous underground vaults and is apparently Scotland’s most haunted pub. Or you could you try The Last Drop in the Grassmarket, which is named after the hangings which used to take place in the area. Just watch out for the ghost of a young girl who has been seen causing mischief in the bar and cellar….
For more about Edinburgh's haunted past, terrifying tours and attractions with a high fright factor, see Edinburgh's Haunted Past >