Do you believe in ghosts? Actually, it doesn’t matter. Ghosts are real whether you believe in them or not. If you don’t think they exist, you can always go for the historical tour instead of a ghost tour. But I dare you to spend the night in the monthly overnight vigil in the crypts. Go ahead, prove me wrong!
There are many ghost tours in Edinburgh. At 7 PM, you can get a free one outside Starbucks on the Royal Mile, The City of the Dead Tours meet beside St Giles Cathedral, and Auld Reekie have tours during the daytime. I picked Mercat Tours partially because I had been told by numerous sources that they were the best, and partially because they had the latest tour in the day. Okay, so maybe you don’t have to do an underground tour at night, but isn’t night the best time for a ghost tour?
Mercat Tours offer over a dozen different tours, not including those in other languages or the overnight vigil. Some specialize in Edinburgh’s history, some are private tours, and the rest are about Edinburgh’s darker side. The Hidden and Haunted Tour, and the Most Hidden and Haunted Tour that I did, are a blend of the darker history in Edinburgh, followed by a visit to the South Bridge vaults. The difference between these two tours is the latter includes 10 minutes where you can roam through the crypts on your own, after the guide finishes their part.
So what does the tour cover? What, do you think I’m going to spoil it for you? Suffice to say, the tour covers a lot, and you just might get a little scared. After all, this is an adult-only tour, and not because it’s X-rated.
The Most Hidden and Haunted Tour starts at the Mercat Cross behind St Giles Cathedral at 10:00 PM (or 9 and 9:30 for the Hidden and Haunted Tour). It then proceeds down a couple of the closes off the Royal Mile. By the way, this tour finally gave me the true meaning of “close!” After several stories of Edinburgh’s sordid past, we move down to the Cowgate and then into the South Bridge Vaults.
The South Bridge vaults were constructed beneath the bridge when it was built in 1788 with 120 rooms of various sizes. I won’t give you the history or details of those rooms, but they are currently all excavated, and Mercat Tours owns 20 of them for exploring. They have the largest portion of the vaults between the ghost tours of Edinburgh.
And if you’re really brave, or just naive, I dare you to take their Vaults Vigil, held on special occasions such as Friday the 13th. But if you really are too scared for a ghost tour, just join them for their history tours. Those ones are family friendly.
Whichever tour you pick, make sure you take at least one. I’ve always said that the walking tours in town are the first activity to do in any city you visit. Edinburgh is no exception to this, but the city has more to offer than just the streets and nice architecture. Oh, and if you do happen to come into contact with…something, feel free to comment on it below.
Ps: The cover photo is not Photoshopped or altered in anyway from how the camera captured it. But that’s not exactly how I remember the tour guide looked.