Sat 11 Jun 2016
I was recently invited by City Of Edinburgh Tours to experience one of their underground city tours. My husband and I thought this would be fun and decided on the ‘Double Underground Ghost Tour’, which includes visits to two of Edinburgh’s underground vaults.
The vaults are a series of chambers formed within the arches beneath South Bridge, built in the late 18th century. They were used originally as storage space for neighbouring businesses, but the damp conditions made them unsuitable and they became a hub for criminal activity. They were eventually boarded up and only rediscovered in the 1980s. Now some chambers are now open to the public for underground tours.
There are a number of tour companies along the Royal Mile, offering ghost tours and historical tours. City Of Edinburgh Tours are based at the old police box just outside Tron Kirk in the middle of the Royal Mile. This is the ticket office and meeting point for all their tours. We arrived at 8.45pm for the Double Underground Ghost Tour. Here we met our group of around 10 people and our guide Emma.
The tour started with a short walk above ground, around St Giles Cathedral and along to the first set of vaults. It was nice to see some of the city before going underground and we were told some interesting stories we hadn’t heard before. The two sets of vaults we visited were very dark and damp. The floors were uneven and it was a bit smelly too. Very atmospheric and perfect for ghost stories.
Our guide was brilliant. She said she had only been doing the job for about 2 months, but she was extremely knowledgeable and had certainly done her research. Sometimes on these types of tours, the guide just reels off a script and I find it difficult to take anything in.However, she was very good at delivering the information in an interesting and personal way. I didn’t find myself drifting off at all and I learned some fascinating and very gruesome facts. I was also very pleased to find it was not the kind of tour that uses actors to jump out and frighten you in the dark. It all came across as quite genuine and credible.
Personally I’m not a believer in ghosts and I liked the way the guide didn’t give strong views either way. She wasn’t there to convince us that these vaults were haunted, just to tell us the stories and let us make up our own minds. There were some truly horrible tales of murder and torture. I found the last one very upsetting. Even as a non-believer I was quite relieved to leave the last chamber without seeing a ghost!
We found the tour very interesting and entertaining, but also a reminder of the dark side of our city’s past. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Edinburgh’s history, whether you believe in ghosts or not.