It’s well known that Edinburgh is one of the most haunted cities in Europe, with a dark past of witchcraft, murders, tortures, and plague. Living here for the past two years, I assure you that its reputation is well based. Edinburgh is, for sure, a city which combines two sides perfectly: beauty and horror.
Here, you’ll find out the top 10 scary things to do in Edinburgh which promise to offer you some chills. Most importantly, these spooky places have some history behind. But who knows if it’s true or not?
10. Free Ghost tour
This tour will entertain you by listening to ghostly tales and sinister stories that will take you back to the horrifying old Edinburgh. During the tour, which lasts for 1.5 hours, you will learn everything on public executions and body snatchers. You will wander around haunted alleyways, and you will feel followed by spooky shadows.
9. Edinburgh Dark Side Walking tour
In the same spirit as number 10, this tour will take you to the most creepy outdoor places across the city center. During the two hours the tour lasts, you will listen to real-life tales of witches, body snatchers, and cannibals. Your tour guide will tell you all about the dark history of the past, and he will, also, tell you anecdotes of famous people, and stories of Scottish mythology.
8. Surgeons Hall
Have you ever visited a museum different from the rest?
Surgeons Hall is a medical museum, with a vast collection on pathology, anatomy, and surgery. It’s considered to be one of the creepiest museums, as, once you visit it, you will learn not only about the methods doctors used to cure their patients but also, all about forensics and murderers.
This museum will offer you an insight into the medical practices used in Edinburgh in the past, some of which were used for punishment.
7. Burke and Hare murder dolls
There is a special section at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which hosts 12 out of the 17 Burke and Hare “murder dolls.”
The history behind these dolls goes back to the 19th century, when two serial killers, Burke and Hare, murdered their lodgers to provide fresh bodies to the local anatomy professor, Dr. Robert Knox, in exchange of money.
The dolls were found buried in a cave on Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano of Edinburgh. There is a big range of theories on the origins and the purpose of these dolls; at the beginning, people attributed the creation of the dolls to witchcraft, others thought they were children’s toys. But eventually, it was believed that the dolls are effigies for the 17 people they murdered, created to soothe the murderers’ guilty conscience.
6. Auld Reekie tours
Are you ready to uncover past secrets? One of the most popular guided tours in the city takes you both above and below the streets. It’s well known for its unchanged vaults since they were built in the 1700s.
“Auld Reekie” is another name for Edinburgh and means “Old Smokey” in the Scots dialect because, in the past, Edinburgh was overcrowded, resulting in a dense concentration of houses in a small area. The smoke coming out from the houses created a thick, choky fog, which was visible to anyone out of the city.
“Auld Reekie tours” offer a range of underground tours to choose from: the Terror Tour, the Vaults Tour, the Ghost and Torture Tour.
Which one are you going to choose?
5. Ghost bus tour
Hop on Necrobus and join the complete comedy-horror theatre sightseeing experience on wheels. The bus will take you to the top attractions around Edinburgh while learning all about Edinburgh’s spooky history by well-trained actors.
4. City of the Dead
If you visit Edinburgh, you should join their guided tours, because they are professionals in bringing history to life through storytelling. They offer a range of tours for you to choose, but the Haunted Graveyard tour is not to be missed! The tour takes place at Greyfriars Cemetery, where George Mackenzie’s Mausoleum is.
George Mackenzie, also known as Mackenzie Poltergeist, was a lawyer and the Lord Advocate of King Charles II. Back in those days, King Charles applied a new law on using the Common Book of Prayer, but many people protested and signed the National Covenant in 1638. George Mackenzie persecuted all the protesters, imprisoned and tortured them, and eventually, killed them.
Because of his reputation, he is known as “Bluidy Mackenzie” (Bloody Mackenzie), and he is entombed in a mausoleum in the cemetery. The mausoleum has been the focus of local superstition, and people have reported ghostly activity around the tomb.
The Haunted Graveyard tour takes you to the mausoleum, where you might encounter some devious spirits.
Do you dare to join the tour?
3. Gilmerton Cove
Join a guided tour to wander around this hand-carved subterranean cave, and visit its seven rooms. Among the features archaeologists have unearthed, you will find a well, a fireplace, and a blacksmiths forge.
Witches Coven? Knights Templar? Protesters Refuge? Secret Drinking Den? Until nowadays, the origins and use of this cave remain a mystery!
2. Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close is Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th-century street. Spread below the busy streets of Royal Mile, this frozen in time underground city holds some gruesome stories about life at old Edinburgh.
Join a guided tour and follow in the steps of the former residents; discover how it was like to live, work and die on the Close. The Close, with its streets, passageways, and houses, is sure to offer you a real insight of life in the past.
1. Edinburgh Dungeons
Are you ready for some scary fun?
Book a ticket at Edinburgh Dungeons and witness a witch’s trial; get imprisoned in a torturer’s cell; walk in the streets of plagued Edinburgh; kept hostage in cannibal Sawny Bean’s cave and, eventually, be executed for having sinned.
This underground attraction is a live show, with well-trained actors who make sure you feel part of the show and do their best to offer you an original insight into Edinburgh’s life and Scottish history.
Once you come to Edinburgh, make sure to visit some of these haunted places. They will give you chills!
Updated: July 18, 2019