Haunted Edinburgh…Tricks and Treats in Scotland’s Spooky Capital
October is upon us and that can only mean one thing…Hallowe’en. If you fancy a spine-tingling weekend away this month and can’t make up your mind on where to go for the biggest fright, try Edinburgh. It’s spooky as Hell.
Sure, there are some stunning places to visit in this cosmopolitan, lively city but beneath all the beauty, glitz and glamour, there is a darker, murkier side to Edinburgh.
With a history of grave robbers, plagues, murderers, witches and cannibals, this is a city that doesn’t need gimmicks or clever marketing to lure blood-thirsty visitors. It’s steeped in tales of guts and gore and many of them true!
If you want the wits scared out of you, I’ll give you the lowdown on the spookiest places to visit in Edinburgh where you can discover the shady secrets of the city and it’s bloody, murky past.
I spent almost seven years working in this magnificent place and every day I would notice something new or something odd…the whole city is just so atmospheric and slightly creepy, especially the Old Town. I may have just been walking from the Waverley Station to my office at the bottom of Holyrood Road but there was always a feeling came over me as I made that journey – especially on the darker wintry mornings. Every day I would pass turrets, cobbled lanes and old houses that I just knew had seen gruesome or underhand occurrences. One of my favourite things was looking up dark, moody closes, sometimes cutting through them if time was tight and wondering what might have gone on in them in years gone by, not knowing what or who might be lurking in the shadows. I must have been a nervous wreck by the time I got to work. It was early in the morning and there weren’t too many people around, just me and my (vivid) imagination. For the record, I never came to any harm and I grew to love the place very much.
If you’ve never been to Edinburgh before, now’s the time to go and delve into the macabre myths and mysteries of the city.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Q: What room does a ghost not need?
A: A living room!
Ok, there are loads of amazing hotels in Edinburgh and I could recommend so many wonderful places but if you’re a bit of a ghost hunter, you might want to lay your hat in a hotel that is rumoured to have other ‘special’ guests and things that go bump in the night.
Even five-star luxury can house a restless spirit. This opulent residence was once the HQ of The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News and is rumoured to be visited by a phantom printer from the papers’ early days. He probably means no harm – just looking for a final edition to get onto the hot metal!
This is a beautiful hotel and in a top location – perfect for exploring all of Edinburgh, not just the grizzly stuff.
This historic building on the Royal Mile may be a top quality modern day hotel now but rumour has it, it was the site of an old close, home to notorious character Bloody Mackenzie. Guests have reported strange noises, voices, TVs changing channel by themselves and belongings being moved around the room. Probably a tall tale but you never know…
Ok, so the name suggests a whole load of hocus pocus but this is without doubt one of the most enchanting and atmospheric places to stay in all of Edinburgh. I’ve not actually heard of any spectres around The Witchery but stay here on Hallowe’en and anything could happen. If you’re planning a bit of seduction and romance on your ghost-hunting weekend, you simply must stay here.
Places to visit in Edinburgh that will send shivers down your spine…
Q: Where do ghosts like to go trick or treating?
A: DEAD ends!
Buried beneath the Royal Mile lies Edinburgh’s deepest secret; a time capsule of hidden streets under the City Chambers. In the company of a tour guide, visitors will be thrilled with the fascinating twists and turns of the underground closes and the dark tales of what happened there.
One of Edinburgh’s scariest visitor attractions that’s sure to get your heart rate pounding. On your journey, you’ll come face to face with some of Scotland’s most notorious killers such as Burke and Hare as well as the famous cannibal, Sawney Bean.
Venture into dark vaults and tunnels that were forgotten for centuries but are now open to fearless souls who dare take the journey into this eerie underworld. If you’re up for it, you can also take the Double Dead Walking Tour which takes in both the South Bridge Vaults and Greyfriars Graveyard. Are you brave enough? Do it at your own risk.
As well as entertaining ghost-hunters on their tours of Edinburgh’s Old Town and its grisly past, The Cadies & Witchery Tours shop is a fascinating wee place packed with fantasy horror souvenirs and occult bric-a-brac. After your tour, you can stock up on cool but slightly ghoulish knick-knacks as a memento of your visit. Great gifts for the witch in your family.
The Cadies & Witchery Tours operate two walks – The Witchery Ghosts and Gore Tour (summer only) and The Witchery Murder and Mystery Tour which runs all year round.
Last but by no means least, the world-famous castle is supposedly haunted and there’s been many reports of spooky goings on. It’s been said that former prisoners roam the dungeons as well as ghostly piper. Edinburgh Castle has been the site of many gruesome and dark occurrences and some visitors have given chilling accounts of eerie presences and sudden drops in temperature.
Spooky pubs in Edinburgh
Two ghosts walk into a bar, the barman said “Sorry, but we don’t serve spirits”
You might only be popping in for a quick pint or a wee dram to settle your nerves after visiting all those scary places but you might not be as safe from the ghosts and ghouls as you think. As welcoming as these pubs may seem, and they are great places to stop for a drink, these too have dark tales of supernatural activity. You might find more than beer, wines and er, ‘spirits’ lurking behind the gantry.
The Tolbooth Tavern (Canongate)
This quaint watering hole became a pub in 1820 and there have been stories of restless spirits making their presence felt. The building itself dates back to the 16th century serving as a court house and prison and where tolls were taken from passing travellers into the burgh.
This pub was once part of the old tenements that housed some of Edinburgh’s poorest souls and the Grassmarket area was the site of many public executions. The Last Drop sits next to where the gallows were and took its name from the last hanging to take place there. Allegedly the spirit of a young girl haunts the bar and the cellar and someone once told me that she has been known to whisper the names of the bar staff when they’re alone. How creepy is that?
The White Hart Inn (Grassmarket)
One of the city’s oldest boozers, it’s been said that the evil duo Burke and Hare allegedly lured some of their victims from this pub. Patrons have also reported ghostly images popping up in photographs they’ve taken on the premises. Do you think that’s true? Perhaps a wee shandy too many? Who knows?
Described as Scotland’s most haunted pub, this underground watering hole and live music venue is rumoured to be rife with paranormal energy and tales abound of drinks flying off tables and smashing against the walls. Sounds like a few pubs I’ve been in but maybe this is down to an angry spirit who can’t cross over or is it just tanked up revellers. Nobody knows.
Visiting Edinburgh at anytime of year is worth doing. There’s some amazing things to see and do in this majestic city that don’t need involve witches and warlocks but if things that go bump in the night is your bag, this is the place for you this Hallowe’en. Go on; get into the spirit of things…
I love travel. I’ve been fascinated by other countries and cultures since my first foreign trip in 1985 and I’ve had serious wanderlust ever since.I also love to write about where I’ve been and tripsology lets me indulge that passion. I’m thrilled to be a regular contributor and editor. When I’m not writing I also run my own PR and publicity company.