Ghost Tours and Walks in Edinburgh
Tours into Edinburgh's haunted past
The Edinburgh ghost tours are among the most popular walking tours of the city. Edinburgh's history spans hundreds of years and the overcrowded Old Town, home of the common and rich alike, became the perfect setting for some of the richest gruesome folklore in Scotland.
Full listing of Ghost Tours in Edinburgh with prices, reviews and availability.
Ghost tour guides, haunted tales and historical facts
Most guides doing Edinburgh ghost walks are masters of their craft. With training in history and storytelling, they set the right mood for the legends and horrific stories they have to tell.
Most historical facts are probably accurate, if not a little dramatised, but ghostly stories are based on local folklore and legends. The hauntings are allegedly backed up by psychic experts and some ghost tour companies keep a detailed record of the hundreds of independent sightings reported by tourists.
Ghost tours times and ticket prices
Historical tours around the Old Town take place during the day, while the really scary tours with ghosts and paranormal activity for adults take place late in the evening. Most tours last from 1 to 2 hours. Prices vary from company to company but expect it to vary between £7 and £9.
The day walking tours are suitable for children although the ones that take you underground or in graveyards may be upsetting to them. When you look for a family ghost walk, choose one with a more historical focus. These are very entertaining and children do enjoy them.
Ghost tour with historic focus
Many real-life historical incidents such as tragedies, executions, murders and stories of body snatchers are associated with the Old Town. Some of them are as eerie and chilling as some of the more paranormal tales.
Legends of witches, pagan rituals, dead and ghosts live to this day and the more interesting ones are included in the walking tours. With such a long and rich history, gruesome characters simply cannot miss from Edinburgh's folklore.
The ghost tours take two formats. The most common one has a strong focus on the real-life historical stories of the Old Town. A trained historian or history student relates the tales and points out buildings or objects of interest -- such as the grave of John Knox, now a simple mark in a city car park.
The storytelling is entertaining and accurate, with occasional ghostly tales and unexplained sightings and mysteries. On these history-ghost tours you also learn of how real life unfolded in an overcrowded 17th century Edinburgh.
The Old Town in Edinburgh had ten storey-high buildings and many underground closes (narrow streets). The stench of the Nor' Loch nearby and human waste made living here hardly bearable. While you would never want to live in those times, learning about them can be enlightening and these ghost walks are a good way to gain insight into the life of Old Edinburgh.
The tours also tell stories from centuries ago of notorious Edinburgh figures like Deacon Brodie, respectable citizen by day and burglar and murderer by night that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write 'Jekyll and Hyde' and who was eventually hung.
Dramatised ghost tours
Some local ghost tour companies put up a complete theatrical show. The tour is led by a 'deceased' guide dressed as a vampire with a flair for the dramatic. The storytelling focuses more on the darker side of spirits and supernatural, bringing to life before your eyes the stories that make Edinburgh, to some, haunted.
The character of the deceased tour guide is also used on Lothian Buses to advertise their Night Bus network so be sure to pay special attention to the words 'When dawn breaks, I catch the Night Bus home'.
An added attraction of these ghost walks are the tour 'jumper-ooters'. A jumper-ooter is someone who intends to scare the living pants out of everyone on tour by jumping out at them at appropriate moments dressed as ghosts, ghouls and other creatures of the supernatural. At night, this can become very scary and the Old Town is known for its occasional screams.
What places are included on the ghost walks?
All ghost tours routes are around the Old Town, particularly around the Royal Mile. Some explore the narrow streets and historical buildings while some go literally underground to explore the haunted Vaults beneath the South Bridge. Mary King's Close is also said to be haunted but the interactive tour presents a well documented view of life in 17th century Edinburgh while adding, perhaps, a hint of supernatural.
Some ghost tours take you to cemeteries like Canongate and Greyfriars and show you graves of famous Scottish people -- like the world's worst poet or Adam Smith, author of 'The Wealth of Nations'. The tour guide then tells stories of body snatching or bones slowly coming out of the damp soil.
Stories of cemeteries and the dead include graveyards being paved over to become parking spaces. Cemeteries in the Old Town Edinburgh were once so crowded that there were more bones than earth in some of them. You simply could not help but step on someone's grave.
One of the best ghost tour spots in Edinburgh is Greyfriars. The Convenanters' Prison in Greyfriars is home of the Black Mausoleum, final resting place of the Bloody MacKenzie poltergeist. MacKenzie was the judge responsible for the execution of the many Covenanters that were once imprisoned, ironically, in this very graveyard.
Whichever ghost walk you take, remember to take every story with a grain of salt and just enjoy the tour.