Spooky Attractions in Edinburgh
14 October 2021
(Image Credit: City of Dead Tours)
Considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the UK, Edinburgh’s narrow cobbled streets provide the perfect atmospheric setting for stories of ghosts, folklore and all things that go bump in the night.
Whether you want to be mildly spooked or chilled to the bone – or simply want to learn more about some of the most gory, spooky and curious stories about Edinburgh’s history – there are a variety of attractions in the city to choose from, all guaranteed to leave you with an ever-so-slight shiver down your spine!
So, read on, if you dare………
City of the Dead Tours
If you want professional entertainers, fascinating history and terrifying tales, then a tour by City of the Dead is for you. Offering three tours with access to some of the most haunted places in Edinburgh, it’s sure to be a night to remember!
(These tours are not suitable for under 12’s, pregnant women, anyone with a heart condition or difficulty walking).
The Underground City of the Dead Tour takes you underground into the depths of South Bridge Vaults, also, rather ominously, known as Damnation Alley. Forgotten for centuries and only recently unsealed, it is reputedly stalked by a malevolent spirit known as the South Bridge Entity.
The Haunted Graveyard Tour includes access to Edinburgh’s Covenanter’s Prison and the Black Mausoleum in Greyfriars Graveyard – home of the world famous Mackenzie Poltergeist. Hundreds of people claim to have encountered MacKenzie on this tour. You have been warned!
If you’re still up for more jumps, then maybe their Double Dead Tour is for you. As the name suggests, this tour is doubly frightening, taking you to two of the city’s most haunted locations - the South Bridge Vaults and the Covenanter’s Prison.
In the words of Mercat Tour’s storytellers, History is a damn good story, what it needs is a damn good telling.
Voted one of Scotland's top 11 attractions, this 5-star walking tour company is a great place to start if you want to learn more about Edinburgh’s secrets. Bringing the city’s stories alive in rich and engaging detail, whether you choose from one of their history or ghost tours, you’ll definitely leave with a new understanding of Edinburgh’s history and its residents.
With 5 ghost tours to choose from (including one especially for children) there’s something to suit all fright levels!
The only walking tour company with access to the 18th century Blair Street Underground Vaults, join your guide on their Ghostly Underground Tour and hear tales of mischief-makers, murderers, vagrants and torturers.
With a darker twist, both Doomed, Dead & Buried and Hidden and Haunted are suitable for 18+ ages only. With a focus on horrific true tales from Edinburgh’s dark history, be prepared to hear stories of infamous murderers and cursed souls, hard lives and tragic deaths, that’ll leave a chill down your spine…...
If tales of witchcraft, torture and restless spirits are more to your liking, then An Evening Of Ghosts & Ghouls should captivate you. The evening begins with a stroll through the dark closes and wynds of the Old Town before descending into the eerie Blair Street Underground Vaults. This tour ends with a spirit of a different kind - a dram of Scotch whisky and an intimate evening of ghostly storytelling.
Auld Reekie Tours
Prepare to be shocked, surprised, amused, moved and entertained in a walking tour with Auld Reekie Tours.
Their tours cover many aspects of Edinburgh’s often gory and spooky history, from The Greyfriars Graveyard Tour where you’ll hear intriguing stories of its occupants, to tales of crime, disease and death in the 18th century in The Vaults Tour. Once home to the destitute, prostitutes and criminals, the Niddry Street Vaults are said to be the lair of a poltergeist that scratches its victims! If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even hire the vaults overnight and discover for yourself if things really do go bump in the night!
City of Edinburgh Tours
As you work your way through the cobbled, narrow closes of the Old Town, your guide will regale you with spine-chilling tales connected to the historic streets. From there, its onto Greyfriars Kirkyard, home to the Mackenzie Poltergeist; and as midnight closes in, you’ll go beneath the streets into the unnerving South Bridge vaults. As we said, not one for the faint-hearted!
The Ghost Bus Tours
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If you prefer your ghost tours to have something of a more theatrical feel to them, then be sure to check out The Ghost Bus Tours.
Strap yourself into your seat in this 1960’s black double-decker bus (which incidentally used to be used for funerals) and you’ll soon find yourself in fits of giggles as the creepy conductor treats you to some quirky horror stories, all while travelling through Edinburgh’s historic streets.
A true comedy-horror theatre experience on wheels, this is a unique way to explore Edinburgh’s gory past (and, for Harry Potter fans, it’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to being on the Knight Bus!)
Surgeons' Hall Museums
Once you’ve survived the vaults, witches and ghosts, you may want to take a tour of Surgeons' Hall Museums.
Owned by The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) and consisting of the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection, Surgeons' Hall Museums are home to one of the largest and most historic pathology collections in the UK.
Highly educational, but not one for the squimish (expect to see organs and skulls in jars), this fascinating collection is a packed to the rafters for those interested in all aspects of the human body and medical history.
Open to the public since 1832, it is one of Scotland’s oldest museums.
Hear the story of murders Burke and Hare and see for yourself the rather chilling pocketbook made from the skin of Burke; learn the story of Joseph Lister and the breakthrough discovery of antiseptic, and James Young Simpson and the discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic.
Running every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, their 5 star walking tour, Blood and Guts: The Twists and Turns of Edinburgh's Medical History takes you on a meander through Edinburgh’s Old Town and provides an extraordinary insight into Edinburgh’s world-renowned medical history. Lasting approximately 75 minutes, you’ll hear tales of disease, dissection and curious methods of treatment as your guide leads you through sites where anatomists, surgeons and physicians worked, operated and squabbled in the quest for medical advancement.
Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW
The Edinburgh Dungeon
Using live actors, theatrical sets and hair-raising rides, The Edinburgh Dungeon is the ultimate underground journey through Edinburgh's darkest history.
Be prepared to scream with fright and laugh out loud as you meet some unsavoury characters, all of whom have mischief on their minds. From graverobbers Burke & Hare, who’d just love to get their hands on you; to the Torturer, who’s always on the look out for 'volunteers'’ to test his implements on - a trip here is packed with scary fun!
Top tip: keep an eye open for their special Halloween events – they’re sure to be fright-filled!
31 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen's official residence in Edinburgh and the home of Scottish royal history, The Palace of Holyroodhouse abounds with tales, but one of the most sinister concerns a small room used as a place to relax by Mary Queen of Scots, her ladies in waiting and her secretary, David Rizzio.
It was 1566, Mary was pregnant, but her happy marriage to Lord Darnley had soured, and a child would threaten his path to the throne.
In yet another attack on an unstable Stuart monarchy, Darnley and his men burst into the room, dragged off the terrified Rizzio and stabbed him 56 times in front of the traumatised Mary, dumping his body in the next room. The darkened blood stain of this diabolical murder can still be seen today……
If you’re up for a challenge, give Escape Edinburgh a go. This exciting escape game will find you in a mysterious room with just 60 minutes to get out. Tick tock, tick tock. Can You Escape?........
As a team you must use your powers of observation and problem solving to solve the puzzles, riddles, brain teasers and identify clues in order to escape from the room before your time is up. The challenges are designed to be played by groups of 2 to 5/6 and are suitable for children aged 10 and over.
With everything from a derelict asylum with the spirits of a few residents still remaining, to trying to escape from the clutches of notorious vampire, Nosferatu, there’s some unnerving adventures to keep you on your toes!
1 Fountainbridge Square, Edinburgh, EH3 9QB
So, as you can see, whether you like your spooky attractions to be packed with humour, slightly more on the creepy side, or something to really puzzle over, Edinburgh’s past is certainly not quiet…. The city’s stories and characters are still around, and they’re just dying to share their stories with you…….!