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Edinburgh Ghosts and Mystery Tours

Edinburgh is a city surrounded by mysteries and legends. If you want to walk through its streets knowing its best kept secrets, join one of these tours.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

6 min read

Edinburgh Ghosts and Mystery Tours

Edinburgh's gloomy vision | ©Adam Wilson

Legend has it that Edinburgh is full of stories about ghostly apparitions and paranormal phenomena. A city with a reputation for haunted where there have been all kinds of supernatural episodes related to ghosts, witches and other dark characters capable of giving you goosebumps.

Its gothic profile immersed in the fog has inspired numerous horror stories, some real and some legendary, occurred between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that you can discover during a guided tour of the most enigmatic and gloomy corners of the city. Do you dare to take a ghost tour of Edinburgh?

1. Edinburgh's dark side walking tour: mysteries, murders and legends

Lonely walk through the streets of Edinburgh| ©Roan Lavery
Lonely walk through the streets of Edinburgh| ©Roan Lavery

Although it may seem like it, good horror stories are not only for Halloween. That's why doing one of these ghostly tours around Edinburgh is always a good idea to discover the most mysterious side of the city and make a different and fun plan during your vacation. Especially in a city that is so famous for paranormal events.

There are many types of ghost tours out there but the one I did and I recommend you is the Edinburgh Dark Side Walking Tour, where in a 2-hour walking route you will learn about the creepiest stories of the Scottish capital told by a very friendly local guide who was always attentive to the questions of the group. I had a great time!

Information of interest

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Languages: English, Spanish and German
  • Professional guide

2. What will you see on this ghost tour of Edinburgh?

Views of Edinburgh| ©Adi Wahid
Views of Edinburgh| ©Adi Wahid

The adventure begins in Edinburgh's Old Town at 6:30 PM, when the group meets the guide at the Royal Mile (the main street of the Old Town) to begin the walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Old Town of Edinburgh is characterized by its medieval street layout where narrow streets and alleys abound and lead to some of the iconic sights of the capital such as the castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, St. Giles Cathedral or the Scottish Parliament building.

During the tour you will discover why the castle is said to be haunted and who is the troubled spirit of the Green Lady that inhabits it, which is the bloodiest bridge in the city, what was done with witches in Edinburgh during the sixteenth century or who was Mr. Chisley and why the Edinburghers were afraid of his right arm, among many other gruesome stories. You will freeze!

Itinerary

  • Royal Mile
  • North Bridge
  • Calton Hill
  • Old Calton Burial Ground
  • Canongate Kirk Cemetery

On the way to North Bridge, the "bridge of the dead"

Walking through the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh and through the occasional shady passageway we came to North Bridge, a bridge linking Old Town and New Town, nicknamed "The Bridge of the Dead".

The story has a somewhat disturbing background and is that many years ago, in the nineteenth century, to celebrate the opening of the bridge the oldest old woman in Edinburgh was chosen to cross it, with the misfortune that the day before the opening the woman died.

The authorities did not want this tragic event to tarnish the grand opening so it is said that they prepared the old woman's corpse and put it in a carriage to cross North Bridge anyway. This was considered a bad omen and fear quickly spread among the citizens, who viewed this bridge with some suspicion. From this anecdote came its peculiar nickname!

Although this anecdote may give some bad feeling, do not worry because today it is one of the busiest places and during the afternoon offers beautiful views of the city and especially of Calton Hill.

Calton Hill, the cursed hill

Crossing North Bridge we arrived at Calton Hill, a hill where stand several neoclassical monuments such as the National Monument, the monument to Nelson and Dugald Stewart or the Observatory of the city, among others.

Considered a World Heritage Site, from the architectural complex of Calton Hill there are spectacular panoramic views of the city and you can take lots of pictures. In addition, in this ghost tour of Edinburgh you will discover why this hill was considered cursed and how the witch trials were held here.

One way or another, Calton Hill is a place connected with the supernatural. For some people it was a cursed hill but for others it was a sacred place where even Celtic pagan rituals are still celebrated such as the "Beltane Fire Festival" in Edinburgh, which marks the beginning of summer.

Walking through Old Calton Burial Ground

This Edinburgh ghost tour continues to Old Calton Burial Ground, one of the most impressive cemeteries in the city located at the foot of Calton Hill.

It is a space surrounded by silence, where the melancholic tombstones of the deceased mingle with nature, which introduces us into that gloomy atmosphere so conducive to continue listening to mysterious and ghostly stories.

For example, you will see the tomb of the philosopher David Hume, who is said to have made a pact with the devil. You will learn his story and that of the infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare, who amassed a fortune by selling them to the Edinburgh medical school.

During the walk you can see some honorary monuments erected in this cemetery as the "monument to the Scottish and American Soldiers" related to the American Civil War or the "monument to the Political Martyrs" in memory of five men who were accused in the eighteenth century of wanting to expand the French revolutionary ideals.

Other famous people who are buried next to David Hume in this cemetery are the clergyman Dr Robert Candlish and the publisher William Blackwood.

Getting to know the Canongate Kirkyard cemetery

Another stop on this ghost tour of Edinburgh is the Canongate Kirkyard cemetery, which dates from the seventeenth century and is one of the oldest in the city.

This cemetery houses the tombs of some of the most prominent personalities of Scottish history as the poet Robert Fergusson, the economist Adam Smith, the philosopher Dugald Stewart or the grave that inspired Charles Dickens to create the protagonist of his novel "A Christmas Carol", which was the result of a curious confusion. Ask the guide! You will be surprised...

The end is here!

At the end of the walking tour through the dark side of Edinburgh we returned to the Old Town and before leaving several people in the group went into a Scottish pub to take a break and have some local food.

3. Why I recommend this tour of the dark side of Edinburgh

Views from Calton Hill| ©Roman Akash
Views from Calton Hill| ©Roman Akash

As I said, there are many ghost tours in Edinburgh, but if there is one thing I would highlight about this one is the excellent work of the local guide, who in an entertaining and dynamic way condenses a lot of legends and stories of mystery, witches, ghosts or vampires in great detail, in just 2 hours of tour through the capital of Scotland. It is super entertaining!

Strolling through the narrow streets of Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town, we were told several of these horror stories to put us in context before seeing some of the highlights such as North Bridge, Calton Hill or the cemeteries. I liked the guide's perfect balance of informative and entertaining narration.

In addition, he told us about a lot of places of interest, we saw several monuments with which we took pictures and answered any questions we had on the subject, so we were very happy with the experience.

At the end of the tour we returned to the Old Town and went into a local pub near the Royal Mile to have a snack and rest after the walk. It is not included in the price of the tour but we wanted to eat a little and so we took the opportunity to see the photos we took during the tour remembering the best moments of the afternoon. I would definitely repeat!

4. If you enjoyed this ghost tour of Edinburgh, you might be interested in

Touring Edinburgh has a special charm. Its castle, its cathedral, its medieval streets that seem to be taken out of a fairy tale? If this is the first time you visit the capital of Scotland and you don't know where to start, I recommend you read the post The best things to see and do in Edinburgh to get inspired.

And if what you want is to soak up the Scottish history and culture where a local guide will show you in detail the city and its surroundings, do not miss the article The best tours and excursions from Edinburgh. There is something for everyone!