Edinburgh’s dark history is a captivating, if chilling, exploration of the city’s grisly past. Guided tours explore the macabre underbelly, from eerie underground labyrinths to notorious execution sites. Along the way, visitors encounter ghastly legends and infamous figures who have cast a shadow over Edinburgh’s history. What secrets do the city’s architectural wonders hold? And what supernatural occurrences have left their mark on this historic place? Those brave enough to embark on the ‘Dark History’ tour are sure to uncover the unsettling truth.

Key Points

  • Edinburgh’s dark history spans centuries, featuring grisly murders, gruesome executions, and supernatural occurrences.
  • Notorious body snatchers Burke and Hare, and the execution of alleged witches at Castlehill, are among the city’s infamous crimes.
  • Haunting attractions like the Real Mary King’s Close and Greyfriars Kirkyard offer chilling glimpses into Edinburgh’s grim past.
  • The city’s buildings conceal a wealth of architectural secrets, revealing its tumultuous history through hidden staircases and mysterious passageways.
  • Renowned figures like Deacon William Brodie and Burke and Hare have cast a dark shadow over Edinburgh’s history, captivating visitors with their macabre secrets.

Tour Overview

Edinburgh - Dark History - Tour Overview

The 2-hour guided ‘Dark History’ tour of Edinburgh takes visitors on a chilling journey through the city’s sinister past, exploring its haunted streets and uncovering tales of murder, witchcraft, and the supernatural.

Led by expert guides, the tour delves into the dark underbelly of Edinburgh’s history, from the infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare to the execution of alleged witches at Castlehill.

With a badge of excellence and over 400 reviews, this tour is a must-do for anyone interested in the macabre and the mysterious.

Along the way, guests will visit key landmarks like Parliament Square and Canongate Kirk, learning about the city’s grim history and the eerie legends that still linger.

Historical Background

Edinburgh’s dark history dates back centuries, with tales of grisly murders, gruesome executions, and supernatural occurrences that have haunted the city for generations. From the notorious body snatchers Burke and Hare to the alleged witches executed at Castlehill, the ‘Dark History’ tour explores the city’s sinister past in chilling detail.

The tour highlights some of Edinburgh’s most notorious sites, including:

  1. The Grassmarket, where public hangings once took place
  2. The Real Mary King’s Close, an underground labyrinth that was once home to the plague
  3. Greyfriars Kirkyard, a haunted graveyard with a dark history of its own
  4. The vaults beneath South Bridge, where criminals and outcasts sought refuge in the 18th century

Haunting Attractions

Edinburgh - Dark History - Haunting Attractions

Among the haunting attractions on the Dark History tour, visitors can explore the eerie underground labyrinth of the Real Mary King’s Close.

This site, once home to the plague, now offers a chilling glimpse into Edinburgh’s grim past, with stories of the poor souls who met their demise within its dark passages. Guides share tales of the ghostly apparitions that have been witnessed, sending shivers down the spines of even the bravest adventurers.

Plus, the tour takes participants to Greyfriars Kirkyard, a historic cemetery renowned for its supernatural sightings, including the famous Mackenzie Poltergeist. These haunting experiences allow visitors to vividly connect with the city’s darkest chapters.

Gruesome Executions

Alongside the haunting tales of the city’s grim past, the Dark History tour also explores Edinburgh’s gruesome history of executions, where the macabre and the morbid come to life.

Visitors will learn about:

  • The notorious Tolbooth Prison, where numerous criminals were hanged in public view.
  • The terrifying ‘Maiden’ – a gruesome guillotine-like device used to behead prisoners.

The Grassmarket was a site of public executions where crowds would gather to witness the gory spectacle.

The last public hanging in Scotland took place in 1868, marking the end of an era of brutality and bloodshed.

These chilling stories offer a glimpse into Edinburgh’s dark underbelly, leaving a lasting impression on those brave enough to explore its grim past.

Architectural Secrets

Edinburgh - Dark History - Architectural Secrets

Beneath Edinburgh’s captivating exterior lies a trove of architectural secrets, waiting to be uncovered by the curious explorer.

From hidden staircases to mysterious passageways, the city’s buildings conceal a wealth of intriguing stories that shed light on its tumultuous past.

Take, for instance, the iconic Mary King’s Close, a network of underground alleys and homes that were sealed off during the plague.

Or explore the vaults beneath the South Bridge, where merchants once stored their wares.

These hidden gems offer a unique glimpse into the city’s history, revealing the ingenuity and resilience of its people in the face of adversity.

For those with a penchant for the extraordinary, Edinburgh’s architectural secrets are a must-discover.

Ghastly Legends

Edinburgh’s dark history is steeped in a tapestry of ghastly legends that have captivated visitors for centuries. Tales of supernatural apparitions, grisly murders, and unspeakable tragedies have long haunted the city’s winding streets and historic landmarks, casting an eerie shadow over its otherwise enchanting facade.

Some of the most chilling tales include:

  1. The ghostly presence of Mary King’s Close, where plague victims were once sealed alive.
  2. The headless drummer of Glamis Castle, whose haunting beats are said to foretell the death of a member of the noble family.
  3. The vengeful spirit of Greyfriars Kirkyard, where the tortured cries of the persecuted can still be heard.
  4. The haunting legacy of the infamous Burke and Hare, whose gruesome murders inspired tales of body snatching and unspeakable horrors.

Renowned Figures

Notorious figures have long cast a dark shadow over Edinburgh’s history, their sinister deeds etching a grim legacy that continues to captivate visitors. One such individual was Deacon William Brodie, a respected cabinet maker by day and a notorious burglar by night. Brodie’s double life came to a dramatic end on the gallows, a fate shared by other infamous Edinburgh residents like John Porteous, a corrupt town guard captain.

The city’s dark past also includes the notorious Burke and Hare, who infamously murdered lodgers to sell their bodies to medical schools. These grisly tales have endured, drawing those curious to uncover Edinburgh’s macabre secrets.

Visitor Information

The dark history of Edinburgh continues to captivate visitors, who can explore the city’s macabre past on a 2-hour guided tour.

This in-person Dark History Tour takes participants through the key sites associated with notorious figures like Deacon William Brodie and Burke and Hare. The tour starts at Parliament Square in front of St. Giles Cathedral and ends at the historic Canongate Kirk.

This tour is:

  1. Wheelchair accessible
  2. Stroller accessible
  3. Near public transportation
  4. Wheelchair accessible transportation

The tour’s cancellation policy allows for full refunds up to 24 hours before the start time, but no refunds are given for cancellations less than 24 hours in advance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Tour Suitable for Children?

The tour may not be suitable for children as it covers dark historical topics and could be frightening or disturbing for young participants. Parents should use discretion in deciding if the content is appropriate for their children.

How Physically Demanding Is the Tour?

The tour is moderately physically demanding, with some walking on uneven surfaces. Participants should be able to stand and walk for up to 2 hours. The tour is wheelchair and stroller accessible, making it suitable for most visitors.

Are Photography and Video Allowed During the Tour?

Photography and video are allowed during the tour. Participants can capture photos and footage throughout the experience to document their dark history exploration, as long as they do not interfere with the guide or other guests.

What Should Visitors Wear for the Tour?

Visitors should wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and shoes for the 2-hour walking tour. Layers are recommended, as the weather can be unpredictable in Edinburgh. Visitors should also bring any necessary personal items like water and snacks.

Are There Any Age Restrictions for the Tour?

There are no age restrictions for the tour. Children are welcome, though the content may not be suitable for very young audiences. Parental discretion is advised for sensitive or disturbing historical details.


Edinburgh’s dark history tour provides a chilling glimpse into the city’s sinister past.

Visitors journey through eerie underground labyrinths, witness notorious execution sites, and uncover architectural secrets that reveal Edinburgh’s tumultuous history.

The tour immerses guests in ghastly legends and infamous figures who’ve cast a dark shadow over the city’s history, offering a haunting exploration of its macabre underbelly.

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