Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Spooky adventures in Edinburgh for kids

06 June 2017

From Harry Potter and the Worst Witch to Doctor Who and Wolfblood, kids have always embraced the magical, historical and often dark themes. So why should an action packed day in Edinburgh be any different?! If your kids love the unknown, unusual or downright bizarre then here are the spots you need to visit to keep the younger members of your family entertained.

Ghosts, Gore and Grime with Mercat Tours

Begin your day with a walking tour of some of Edinburgh’s most horrible haunts including the Blair Street Underground Vaults on Ghosts, Gore and Grime. First you’ll hear how to spot a witch, you may even find you could be guilty if you talk to yourself, have any kind of birthmark, are left-handed or you like to talk to your pet!

You’ll hear all about the creepy characters lurking in the past and the hideous real history of how people lived in 19th century Edinburgh. You would have had to dodge cholera, dysentery, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhus, scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles and rickets and if you did make it through childhood you may have had to contend with one of the many jobs children endured; rat catcher, chimney sweep and factory hand. And all this is before you head underground to the candle lit vaults.

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Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum

Once you’ve survived the underground you may want to take a tour of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum. Dating back to 1798, the museum feels like it could be a behind the scenes in Night at the Museum.

You’ll see lots of exhibits related to the stories you’ve just been told on your walking tour; such as the fate of murderers Burke and Hare, there are even unique mementos of these infamous Edinburgh residents. You’ll see the skull of historian and poet, a 3D Hologram of the human body and two Asian elephant skeletons.

Edinburgh Alphabet Exhibition

Spooky Alphabet

There are six floors to keep the kids busy inside the City Art Centre. Visit before October and there are some gruesome finds to be had at their latest exhibition, Edinburgh Alphabet.

See the spooky games that Edinburgh children used to play in years gone by. Or, come face to face with an 18th Century resident, now as a life-like reconstruction based on the skull of a skeleton. The remains of the reconstructed Edinburgh woman were discovered at Infirmary Street over 20 years ago. It is believed the woman was a patient buried in a plot for the ‘unclaimed’ by the Old Royal Infirmary. You can see part of her story and the churlish reason as to why her teeth were missing...

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Death at the National Museum of Scotland

Spooky NMS Coffins

Next walk over to Edinburgh’s bustling National Museum of Scotland, here you will find lots to fascinate from the Mercedes Benz Coffin to the mystery of the miniature coffins. Two enthralling objects that are worlds and centuries apart. The Mercedes Benz Coffin is both a car and a coffin that represents the Ghana tradition of bright, colourful funerals.

In the same museum you can view the miniature coffins discovered at Arthur’s Seat over 200 years ago. The coffins have remained a mystery since they were discovered. Though there are no shortages of theories as to what the coffins were for or what they represented, from withcraft to burials. You can see 8 of the original coffins and fashion your own backstory!

Discover the Arthur's Seat Coffins as part of Edinburgh's 101 Objects >

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard


Taking us right back to the magical and unknown, you can’t escape Harry Potter in Edinburgh! Fans of the book and film franchise will recognise some familiar names. The most popular headstones belong to Thomas Riddell Esquire and William McGonagall. Thomas Riddle’s name is said to be the inspiration behind Potter villain, Voldemont. Poet and “Tragedian” William McGonagall is the supposed inspiration behind Professor McGonagall, the head of Gryffindor.

Whilst visiting the kirkyard you’ll want to take a peek over the wall at George Heriot’s School, which many believe to have inspired the fictional Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Read our guide to Harry Potter in Edinburgh >

Astronomy Evenings

After a full day in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the final stop in our guide to Edinburgh’s dark side is at the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh. Opened in 1896, and located at Blackford Hill, the site hosts public astronomy evenings throughout the year. Instruments built on site are used to search for life on other planets and distant objects in the universe. Depending on when you visit you may be able to witness a dome demonstration, watching the night sky with a pocket star chart and get your hands on real rocks from space. Enjoy!

See the schedule >

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