Have a Freaky & Fun Halloween in Edinburgh
05 October 2021
Halloween is fast approaching and where better to celebrate than Edinburgh, one of Europe’s most haunted cities.
We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in the city this Halloween to ensure you have a frightfully good time!
The Origins of Halloween
Hugely popular in the United States and celebrated to a lesser degree in the UK, Halloween, or Hallowe’en, has strong Scottish connections.
Taking its name from All Hallows’ Eve, the night before the Christian festival of All Hallows or All Saints Day, it’s possible to trace its origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, held on 1 November, which marked the end of summer and harvest period with the beginning of winter when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
Scottish Halloween Traditions
Looking for ways to celebrate Halloween this year? Why not give these traditional customs a go?
[Image credit: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh]
The Scots tradition of guising involves children going door to door dressed up as spooky characters so that they can venture out safely without being detected by wicked spirits. Traditionally, guisers were given gifts that warded off evil – nowadays, they are given a much more pleasant gift of sweets in return for reciting a song, poem or joke.
A job that required a strong pair of arms – scary faces were carved into neeps (turnips) and placed outside houses to deter evil spirits. Today, thanks to America’s influence, you’re more likely to see pumpkins decorating doors and porches (and they’re much easier to carve!)
[Image credit: Jackie]
Dookin’ for apples – a traditional game at Halloween parties across Scotland, the aim is to grab apples floating in a tub of water using your mouth, but with the added complication of having your hands tied behind your back. If you want to up the ante, you can try catching them with a fork.
Potentially very messy, the fun but sticky game of Treacle Scones involves again having your hands tied, while trying to take a bite out of treacle-covered scones dangling from a rope.
Who will you marry? According to folklore, if you peel an apple in a continuous strip and throw it over your shoulder, the shape of the apple skin when it lands will reveal the first letter of your future spouse’s name.
Frighteningly Fun Halloween Events
Take a look at some of the most spooktastic things to do for Halloween in Edinburgh & The Lothians, if you dare...
Samhuinn Fire Festival
Telling the story of the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, with a dramatic stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings, Samhuinn Fire Festival is a contemporary revival of the ancient Celtic celebration of the new year, told through a spectacular performance of music, dance and immersive theatre.
This year’s performance will be performed as a parade through Edinburgh’s Old Town. Tickets should be purchased in advance (tickets will be by donation, with a limited number available) and spectators will be informed where and when they must be in order to watch the parade pass by. It will not be permitted to follow the parade down the road. For those unable to attend in person, the event will also be livestreamed.
Sunday 31 October.
Edinburgh Zoo Spooktacular
This Halloween, Edinburgh Zoo Spooktacular opens its gates after dark for a family-friendly spooktacular trail through the zoo. Gather family and friends together as you make your way through a magical illuminated trail – just keep an eye open for rustling among the trees and peeping eyes!
The trail follows a one-mile long route, takes approximately an hour and a half to complete and is suitable for all ages. A variety of food and drink offers will be available throughout the event, including hot & cold food, drinks and snacks.
Friday 08 – Sunday 31 October.
Explore ghosts, ghouls and all things that go bump in the night in the work of literary giant Sir Walter Scott in Haunted Scott.
Most widely known for his historical novels, Edinburgh-born Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) also frequently featured supernatural themes in his novels and poems.
This Hallowe’en, join Penny Fielding, Grierson Professor of English at the University of Edinburgh, and project director of Scottish Writing in the Nineteenth Century as she explores ghosts, visions and prophecies in Scott’s work. This event will take place on Microsoft Teams. It is free to attend, but booking is essential.
Friday 29 October.
Edinburgh Horror Festival
Prepared to have a horror-filled time as Edinburgh Horror Festival returns with theatre, storytelling, cabaret, comedy and film!
With a mix of live, in-person shows and digital events, EHF 2021 will be taking over the Banshee Labyrinth for the Hallowe'en weekend with a unique mix of events, including theatre, comedy, magic, spoken word, movies, games, improv, workshops and interactive shows.
Running from Friday 22 - Sunday 31 October, the digital component will run throughout these dates and the live shows will take place from Thursday 28 to Sunday 31 October inclusive.
In-person shows will take place at the Banshee Labyrinth and Edinburgh Dungeon, the latter of which will also involve a unique walking tour.
Conifox Adventure Park’s Big Halloween Hoolie
Get spooked this Halloween with Conifox Adventure Park and some spooky adventures for all the family!
Wicked Halloween Bash, Halloween Hunt, Post Your Pumpkin, Halloween Disco, Pumpkin Nights… this Halloween, Conifox Adventure Park’s is fully geared up for the excitement of Halloween!
Saturday 16 - Sunday 31 October.
After-Dark in the Witches' Wood
The fields, woods and green spaces of Almond Valley are the perfect location for those brave enough to explore the night-time charms of Witches' Wood.
Witches, weird happenings & black magic. Get ready for some silly scary fun as you journey through a magical twilight world.
Friday 29 – Sunday 31 October
Lantern Led Tour & Spirited Dinner
Step beneath the Royal Mile and shine a light onto Edinburgh's past with an atmospheric Lantern Led Tour followed by a sumptuous seasonal meal.
This Halloween, The Real Mary King’s Close are opening their doors after dark and inviting you to descend down their historic steps with one of The Close’s former residents and into complete darkness – the only light source is the flicker of your lanterns. Then why not finish your evening off at the Amber Restaurant within The Scotch Whisky Experience, where you’ll discover tales of Scotland’s other spirit, Scotch whisky, with haunting stories from Scotland’s historic distilleries.
Friday 29 to Sunday 31 October.
(Image Credit: Children’s Classic Concerts)
Enjoy creepy classics and spooky sound waves as Owen and his crew of ghostly pirates from the RSNO sail the seven seas in search of musical bounty in The Ghost Ship.
Featuring music from Pirates of the Caribbean, Hook and Jaws, this family-friendly nautical show sets sell for one night only at Edinburgh Usher’s Hall.
Sunday 31 October
Join Mercat Tours to hear some exceedingly scary tales about Edinburgh’s haunted past.
With a packed schedule of walking tours to choose from, you can descend into the Blair Street Underground Vaults, described by some as the most haunted site in Britain; or hear tales of plots, treason and torture as your guide takes you through some of the lesser-known closes & wynds of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Or how about a walk between the gravestones at Canongate Graveyard – tread carefully as nothing truly rests at this time of year!
See the full schedule of tours on their website. Places are going fast, so book soon to avoid disappointment.
Friday 29 - Saturday 30 October.
If you fancy settling down with the popcorn and enjoying a scary film, there's a variety of jump-out-your-seat screenings taking place across Edinburgh this Halloween.
Check out our guide to Scary Halloween Screenings in Edinburgh >
Halloween Trail at the Botanics
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Halloween Trail returns this year with another fun-packed adventure through the gardens. Buy your £2 booklet on arrival at the John Hope Gateway and set off on the trail.
Daily, Thursday 14 to Sunday 31 October.
Get your hands dirty this Halloween season – they are several places in the Lothians offering pumpkin picking. Choose your favourite, take it home and create a scary creation, then use the rest to make a tasty seasonal dish!
Producing a wide range of pick your own fruit & veg throughout the year, this autumn come and visit Craigies Farm and Deli’s pumpkin patch at South Queensferry and choose your own perfect produce.
Just 30 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh, Kilduff Farm’s Pumpkin Festival runs from 16 to 31 October. For only £6.00 per car, all passengers get access to The Patch for up to 2 hours.
As part of Conifox Adventure Park’s Big Halloween Hoolie (16 – 31 October) pumpkin picking is just one of the Halloween activities on offer. Once you’ve created the perfect pumpkin masterpiece, follow the clues around the Adventure Park and win a goodie bag packed full of lots of treats. Tickets cost £13 per child and £6 per adult and include a pumpkin, the Halloween Hunt and entry into the Adventure Park.
Not only do Balgone Estate at North Berwick have a PYO Pumpkin Patch, there’s also a maize maze, haunted trail with Crooked Cauldron and a selection of food and drink – perfect for a family-friendly spooktacular day-out!
For inspiring ideas on what to do with your left-over pumpkin, have a look at these tasty suggestions. From warming soups to sweet treats, there's something for everyone!
Looking for more things to do in Edinburgh this month? Check out our What's On Guide >