Is Edinburgh haunted – the ultimate guide to the scariest and most haunted places in Edinburgh (including the best ghost tours to take).
I don’t know if the city 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.
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 ghost tours you should not miss.
The 8 creepiest and most haunted places in Edinburgh
Princes Street Gardens
Mary King’s Close
Every old castle has a ghost or two. Thus you can imagine the number of ghosts that haunt this nine centuries-old castle. The castle is one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. It stood many sieges and it was a witness of numerous 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.
You can explore the castle on your own or book a guided tour. In any case buy tickets in advance, as the queues are huge.
Princes Street Gardens
You’d never think that the beautiful park at the foot of the castle could be a haunted place. However a 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 defence.
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 practising 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.
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 of Rizzio having spent so much time with Mary. This led to a terrible murder. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times. You can still see the blood stain in one of Mary’s chambers.
The vaults are a truly horrific place. In fact, they are one of the scariest attractions in Edinburgh. 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 Vaults only on a guided tour.
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.
You can explore the cemetery on your own or take a ghost tour.
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.
Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close and the castle are the most famous haunted places in Edinburgh. I was dying to see Mary King’s Close, so I booked a tour. If you want a glimpse of what was the life in Edinburgh in the 17th century, don’t miss this tour.
The Close was named after Mary King, a merchant burgess who once lived on the Close which later took her name. In the 17th century, it was a normally busy street in the heart of the city. During the Great Plague in 1645, the sick were treated in their houses, where they would await the help of plague doctor George Rae.
In the 18th century, the houses and alleys were sealed. Residents paid large sums of money to move out so that the Royal Exchange could be built above. New buildings were constructed above the close leaving it in complete darkness for many years.
You can visit you can visit the Close only on a guided tour.
The most famous ghost in Mary King’s Close is the little Annie. In the 1990’s Mary King’s Close was visited by a Japanese psychic. She could barely step inside for the feelings she sensed great pain and misery. The psychic could feel the almost physical presence of people around her, huddled in blankets – sad and ill. As she turned away, she felt a tug on her trouser leg. There, standing in front of the window, was a small girl dressed in rags, with long, dirty, matted hair crying. The spirit was searching for her mother, who had left her there, during the plague.
The psychic went out and bought the ghost a doll, which comforted the spirit. During your visit, you will see a pile of toys left there for the little ghost, and you are welcomed to leave your own.
Calton Hill is not only known as a place where witches were put to death by burning them alive. It was also a spot where pagan rituals have been held for centuries. The Beltane Fire Festival still takes place every year on the 30th of April.
Calton Hill is a popular spot for watching the sunset over the city, 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 worshipped the Devil.
In 1670 he confessed about his evil life. Weir was sentenced to death and burned at 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. West Bow was one of the most haunted houses in Edinburgh.
In 1878 the house was demolished. Yet, later was discovered that its remains were incorporated into a new building on Victoria Street – Quaker Meeting House.
Take a day tour to Loch Ness and Highlands, the most picturesque region of Scotland.
Visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen’s floating palace.
Take a guided tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience and see the world’s largest collection of whisky.
Radisson Blu Hotel – Best for families
Located right on the Royal Mile, the hotel is a great base to explore both the New and the Old Town.
9.0/10 Rating – See hotel images and 4,420+ guest reviews
Apex City Hotel – Best for couples
This lovely hotel has one of the best locations in the city, right next to the castle.
8.9/10 Rating – See hotel images and 3,340+ guest reviews
Apartment – Old Town Chambers
Luxury serviced apartments offering a home-from-home experience.
9.3/10 Rating – See apartment images and 1,420+ guest reviews
Don’t know in what area to book a hotel? Find out the best location to stay in Edinburgh.
Find self-guided walking tours and historical insights in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Scotland.
Don’t know what Scottish food to taste? Check out this Edinburgh food guide.
Interested in dark tourism? Then find out why Vienna is haunted.