Last Updated: 9/13/21 | September 13th, 2021
When it comes to spooky cities, Edinburgh takes the cake. It’s often considered one of the most haunted cities in the entire world — and anyone who has been will be hard-pressed to argue.
When I was there a few years ago, I took part in some of the city’s many ghost tours. Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts or not, these tours take you on an adventure that not only teaches you a part of Edinburgh’s history but also leave you feeling just a little “weird.”
Or, if you are like me, scared shitless.
While I hate horror movies because I always find them too unbelievable, as Alfred Hitchcock said, a good fright comes from what people don’t see or know.
When I finished my ghost tours, I was so spooked that I refused to sleep with the light off that night. The only other time I felt such unease was after I saw The Blair Witch Project.
Whether you’re looking for a fright or just want to learn about this historic city’s spooky past, you’ll definitely want to take a ghost tour during your visit. Here are the best ghost tours in Edinburgh to help you make the most out of your next visit:
1. City of the Dead
City of the Dead is one of the top-rated ghost tours in Edinburgh and it’s the company I went with during my first visit to the vaults.
The underground vaults were built in 1788 and used as storage space and workshops for businesses near the South Bridge. However, the bridge was poorly constructed, and water from the surface would leak down into the vaults. The vaults were then abandoned in 1795 and became slums, turning into a red-light district with countless brothels and pubs.
Additionally, the city’s poor called these vaults home. The rooms were cramped and dark and had poorly circulated air and no sunlight, running water, or sanitation. Crime was widespread, but by 1820, the leaking became so intense that even the squatters left.
The story I remember most is of a girl and her mother. The little girl felt someone grab her hand. Thinking it was her mom, she grabbed back. But the hand, according to the story, “felt weird” and slowly kept squeezing her hand until it hurt. When the girl said, “You’re hurting me,” the mother said, “I’m over here, honey.” The guide, moving the flashlight to the girl, found that she was standing alone. Who held her hand? How did she get separated? I don’t know. Maybe they made the story up. Or all the other stories for that matter. But moving through the vaults in the dark, with your mind in overdrive, creates an atmosphere of unease that you want on a ghost tour.
Of course, the guy jumping out of the corner in the dark doesn’t help at all either!
+44 131-225-9044, cityofthedeadtours.com. There are 4 different tours available daily at 3:30pm, 8pm, 8:30pm, 9pm, 9:30pm and 10pm (hours vary in the winter, check the website for availability). Tours last 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes and are not suitable for children under 12. Tickets are 13-17 GBP per person.
2. Free Ghost Tour
When it comes to free haunted walking tours, this is your best choice in the city. Free Ghost Tours offers daily tours that depart from the Royal Mile, covering all the major sites and stories of the city such as the real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the haunted graveyard, witch trials, and the Westport Murderers.
If you’re not looking for a terrifying experience, this is a good tour for you as it’s suitable for children. Just be sure to tip your guides at the end (the entire tour runs on tips, so be generous!).
+44 772-191-3031, freeghosttour.com. Tours run nightly at 7pm and last 90 minutes. Admission is free — just be sure to tip your guide!
3. Mercat Tours
In addition to their historical walking tours, Mercat Tours also offers 5 different ghost tours, including tours for children as well as tours for adults only as well. They have tours in the haunted vaults, the graveyard, and through the Old Town of the city
This is the only company in the city that offers vault tours during the day, which is a good way to beat the crowds. They also have tours available in French and German too!
+44 131-225-5445, mercattours.com/tours/ghost-tours. Individual tour times range from 11am to 9:30pm. See the website for more details. Tours range from 1-2 hours and tickets start at 17 GBP per person.
4. The Ghost Bus
The Ghost Bus is a ghost tour on wheels, providing a spooky ghost tour with a comedic touch. You’ll be whisked around the city in a black double-decker bus from the 1960s while being informed and entertained along the way. The tour guides are all trained actors, giving this tour a much more theatrical touch.
The buses are decorated too, making it a fully immersive experience. If you’re looking for something more unique than a standard walking tour, this is it!
+44 844-567-8666, theghostbustours.com/edinburgh. Tours are offered daily at 6pm, 7:30pm and 9pm and last 75 minutes. Tickets are 18 GBP.
5. Auld Reekie Tours
Like Mercat, Auld Reekie Tours offers a few different tour choices for anyone looking for a fright. They have vault and graveyard tours, as well as an adult-only tour for anyone looking for an extra scare. If you’re looking for a frightening tour, check out their nightly Terror Tour. It’s only suitable for 18+ and will definitely leave you wishing you had a nightlight when you get home!
Not only do they have the standard vaults tour but you can actually book out the vaults for an overnight stay if you’re feeling like an extra scare (it’s not cheap, but it would definitely be a memorable experience!).
Tours operate daily from 10:30am-10pm. See the website for specific tour dates and times. Tours range from 1-2 hours. Tickets start at 14 GBP.
No matter which tour you choose or whether or not you believe in ghosts, like all good ghost tours, haunted houses, and Halloween exhibits, these tours do a great job of making you feel uncomfortable by playing on your innate fear of the unknown.
Are these places really haunted or is your mind just playing tricks on you?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter — what matters is that you had fun and learned something about Edinburgh and it’s spooky past in the process.
Just keep the light on when you get back home. Trust me.
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Book Your Trip to Edinburgh: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite place to stay in the city is Castle Rock Hostel.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- World Nomads (most comprehensive)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Edinburgh?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Edinburgh for even more planning tips!