I don’t know if Edinburgh is actually haunted. Unfortunately I didn’t see any ghosts during my trip. And I really looked for one. I even visited Mary’s King Close, one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. I had time only for one of the famous Edinburgh ghost tours, but I will catch up next time for sure.
However the city looks haunted. Maybe it is because of its medieval buildings and tiny closes. Maybe because of the sinister look of the Edinburgh Castle. Or it is because of the numerous graveyards scattered all over the city. When you add the endless rain to the picture, it becomes quite clear why the city has such a reputation.
Continue reading to find out the most famous haunted places in Edinburg and which Edinburgh ghost tours you should not miss.
Every old castle has a ghost or two. Thus you can imagine the number of ghosts that haunt this more than nine centuries old castle. The castle is one of most haunted places in Edinburgh. It stood many sieges and it was a witness of numerous of executions during the centuries. Thousands of people died to defend the castle. Many captured French and colonial soldiers were tortured in the dungeons under the castle.
Probably the most famous castle’s ghost is the one of a piper boy. When some tunnels under the castle were discovered centuries ago, he was sent to explore them. He was playing on his bagpipe along the way. However the boy never returned and his body was never found. They say that he still roams in the tunnels and you can hear him playing on his bagpipe.
Princes Street Gardens
You’d never think that the beautiful park at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle could be a haunted place. However few centuries ago the picture was quite different. A lake, called Nor Loch, occupied the place of the current gardens. It was built in the 15th century during the reign of King James III. Its purpose was to strengthen the castle’s defense.
During the following centuries the lake became a popular spot for executions and suicide attempts. Nor Loch was also used for “witch ducking”. It is a swimming test that identifies if the suspect was practicing witchcraft or not. The innocent person would sink like a stone, but witches would bob on the surface. In the 19th century when the lake was drained, they found two skeletons sealed in a barrel.
Real Mary King’s Close
The Real Mary King’s Close and the Edinburgh castle are the most famous haunted places in Edinburgh. I was dying to see the Mary King’s Close, so I booked a tour (you can visit it only in a guided tour). If you want a glimpse of what was the life in Edinburgh in the 17th century, don’t miss this Edinburgh ghost tour.
The Close was owned and named after Mary King, the daughter of the advocate Alexander King. In the 17th century it was a normal busy street in the heart of Edinburgh. During the Great Plague in 1645 the sick were quarantined in their houses, left in the hands of death. Hundreds of people died on this close.
In the 18th century the abandoned houses and alleys were sealed. New buildings were constructed above the close leaving it in complete darkness.
The most famous ghost in the Mary King’s Close is the little Annie. She was a girl who died from the plague, abandoned by her family. During your visit you will see a pile of toys left there for the little ghost.
This cemetery got his name from a dog, called Greyfriars Bobby. After the death of its owner, the dog guarded his grave day and night until its own death (14 years later). The dog is buried in the cemetery, close to the gates.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is known to be haunted by the ghost of Sir George “Bloody” Mackenzie. He got his nickname by torturing and executing prisoners from the Covenant Prison. The Covenant Prison was part of the Greyfriars Kirkyard. About 1,200 members of the Scottish Presbyterian movement (called Covenanters) were held captured there. Many of them died because of ill treatment, others were executed. After his death Sir George Mackenzie was also buried in the cemetery.
J. K. Rowling got some of the names she used in her books from the gravestones here. You can find the grave of Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort). Keep in mind that there are thousands of graves there, so it is not easy to find it. I almost gave up the searching when it appeared in front of me.
Edinburgh Vaults are a truly horrific place. Hidden under the South Bridge, they represent a labyrinth of spooky chambers. After the construction of the bridge in 1788, these chambers were used for storehouses. Unfortunately soon the vaults began to flood regularly. They were abandoned and a new era started for them. The vaults became a home for criminals, murderers and brothels. The evil flourished down here. The famous body snatchers and murderers Burke and Hare often hunted for victims in the Edinburgh Vaults. Then they used to sell the bodies to Doctor Robert Knox for dissections at his anatomy lectures. You can visit the Edinburgh Vaults only in a guided tour.
The Holyrood Palace situated at the foot of Arthur’s Seat looks too lovely to be haunted. Yet it was a scene of a horrible murder during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. David Rizzio, the personal secretary of Mary was killed by Lord Darnley and his friends. Lord Darnley was the second husband of Mary. He got jealous about the Rizzio having spent so much time with Mary. This led to the terrible murder. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times. You can still see the blood stain in one of Mary’s chambers.
Calton Hill is not only known as a place where witches were put to death by burning them alive. It was also a place where pagan rituals have been held for centuries. The Beltane Fire Festival still takes place every year on 30th of April.
Calton Hill is a popular spot for watching the sunset over Edinburgh, too.
Located between Victoria Street and Grassmarket, West Bow once was the home of Major Thomas Weir. He was also known as the Wizard of West Bow. Seemingly Weir was a well-respected member of the society. However he had a secret life, filled with incest and witchcraft. He worshiped the Devil.
In 1670 he confessed about his evil life. Weir was sentenced to death and burned on the stake. The house where he lived was abandoned. No one wanted to live there, as it seemed haunted. Locals regularly reported seeing the windows lit up and shadows walking in the house.
In 1878 the house was demolished. Yet, later was discovered that its remains were incorporated in a new building on Victoria Street - Quaker Meeting House.
Have you took any Edinburgh ghost tours? Have you heard about any other haunted places in Edinburgh?