Imagine you are leisurely strolling along the grey cobbled streets of Edinburgh, a Scottish city with a history of 1,000 years. A light drizzle taps your shoulders, a breeze rustles the nearby trees, and the haunting echoes of long-lost souls whisper in your ear. Spooky, huh?
This city may be well-known for its festivals, New Year’s Eve celebrations, lively culture, and enchanting Old Town, but have you heard of the famous Edinburgh ghost stories? The capital of Scotland may undoubtedly be the most haunted city in the world. Follow along this guide for some hauntingly mysterious Edinburgh murder mysteries and ghost stories.
An unexplainable disappearance…
The Edinburgh Castle rests on a prominent hill, making its presence well-known over the city. As a royal castle since the early 12th century, it has had plenty of time to conjure up a murder mystery and ghost story or two.
In particular, generations have passed down the stories of the vanishing piper boy who disappeared most mysteriously. When ancient tunnels were discovered beneath the castle, the boy was sent down, as the entrance was only large enough for a small, young man.
The ghost of the missing piper boy…
He joyfully played his bagpipes from beneath as Scots above ground mapped out the tunnel’s path by listening along to his songs. The piper was continuing his tunes for some time, loud and happily when abruptly the sound stopped, mid-note.
The city searched the tunnels for the young boy, but he was never seen again. However, it’s believed that the faint sound of his bagpipes can still be heard within the castle grounds and along the Royal Mile. If you do find yourself near the castle late at night, you might just hear the young boy and the eerie echoes of his bagpipes.
Murders in the shadows…
Descend the castle hill and navigate along the captivating Royal Mile for another Edinburgh ghost story. This one takes you to South Bridge Street – underground. Beneath this bustling street, you’ll find one of the most haunted places in all of the UK: eerie vaulted chambers and the horrors that permeate its damp walls.
Edinburgh has been a busy city for quite some time. However, in the 18th and 19th centuries, there weren’t enough shelters for the influx of residents. Over-cramped buildings and poor sanitary conditions led to diseases, which were often fatal.
Grave robbers and murderers…
Those poor, desperate, and healthy enough ran off to seek shelter elsewhere, where they ended up at the Edinburgh Vaults. First built in 1788, the vaults had served as a marketplace, distillery, and later a storage unit, but suffering from floods and poor ventilation, they were eventually abandoned.
With nowhere else to go, the abandoned vaults eventually became the homes for the poorest of Edinburgh. Along with them came serial killers like Edinburgh’s infamous murder duo Burke and Hare. Many residents were gruesomely murdered while clueless pedestrians right above them went on their merry way.
Now reports of past residents, like the angry Mr. Boots and little Abandoned Annie, reaching out and touching visitors of the vaults have turned up. Listen closely for the sounds of lost souls as you stroll beneath this Edinburgh murder mystery site.
Tour Edinburgh murder mystery locations and discover more shocking Edinburgh ghost stories, like the tales of the witch trials at Calton Hill or Scotland’s most haunted graveyard.
How to explore Edinburgh with murder mysteries?
Edinburgh Castle 5*
Built on the Castle Rock, the castle stands as the most visible reminder of the ages, stretching back to Bronze Age. Its fascinating history is so tremendous. From home to kings and queens for many centuries, significant military base and fortress to tourist attraction, admitting over 2M tourists every year.
The most visited attraction at Edinburgh Castle is the Honours of Scotland, the oldest Crown Jewels in Britain. Since 1950, Edinburgh’s Castle Esplanade also host (every year in August) a spectacular military show: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Edinburgh Vaults 5*
The secret Edinburgh’s underworld is located just under Tron Bar at Blair Street. Now, you can visit vaults with award-winning storytellers of Mercat Tours. They are the only walking company with exclusive access to the vaults. A storyteller guide leads this walking tour called ’Historic Underground’ and tells the story rooted in Edinburgh’s Georgian past.
The story, about a place that is dark and hidden, attracted not only ordinary criminals and the ones who wished to take a part in an immoral act. But also famous body-snatchers Burke and Hare were hiding their bodies here.
Even though the underground passages are empty now, the guide, who is also a professional entertainer, brings the history to life and sets the scenes for each part of the tour, making it unique and individual. This Edinburgh’s murder mysteries tour is highly recommended by Tripadvisor.
The Real Mary King's Close 5*
A reputation for a most haunted place in Scotland has given Mary King Close a major boost as a tourist attraction. The Great Plague of 1645, the most devastating epidemic, killed nearly half of the population.
The Edinburgh Authorities wanted to separate the healthy from dying and so there is a local legend that they bricked 300 victims into the underground of Mary King Close and left them to die. Wrapped in myths and legends, this incredible place offers authentic experience.
But there are also other acclaimed residents to live here, including Abandoned Annie. Japanese psychic visited one of the creepy rooms where she saw a little girl crying and dressed in rags. Annie, as was her name, was abandoned by her parents during the great plaque.
The psychic returned to the vaults with the doll and since then people from all around the world bring their mascots to Annie’s creepy room (all dolls and mascots go to charity after all).
- 2 Warriston’s Close, High Street,Edinburgh EH1 1PG
- tel. +44 (0) 131 225 0672
- Booking recommended
- Duration 1h
Accessibility is impossible by wheelchair, for more info visit Accessibility Guide for The Real Mary King’s Close
Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends 5*
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Edinburgh was one of Europe’s most vibrant centres for witch killing. The time of fear and panic where thousands of innocent men and women were prosecuted and flew into flames.
Scotland’s King James VI believed witchcraft was a form of Satanism and anyone actually could be accused of witchcraft (herbalist or mentally ill most often). As a result, more women were murdered here than anywhere else in Scotland (around 4.000). The local guide conducts the tour of Edinburgh murder mysteries.
Booking: Booking recommended, book here
Accessibility: Do not advise guests in wheelchairs to join the Dark Side Tour due to the narrow stairways and steep hills
Scotland’s most haunted graveyard with City of Dead tours 5*
Named by Lonely Planet Edinburgh’s Best Ghost Tour and acclaimed several other awards, these tours are a combination of history, hair- raising horror and humour.
Guides are professional entertainers, so if you dare to visit the most haunted graveyard that tour is your best choice. Please keep in mind that the tour can cause distress, so you join it at your own risk.
16th-century walled cemetery is the hiding place of the famous ‘McKenzie Poltergeist’ – the best-documented paranormal case in history.
The tour tells history through storytelling, and the stories are written and researched by a historical author and award-winning novelist, J A Henderson.
Address: Greyfriars Funeral Bothy. 26A Candlemaker Row (inside the graveyard entrance). Edinburgh EH1 2QE
Phone number: +44 131 225 9044
Duration: 1h 20 min
Booking: Booking recommended
Accessibility: Not suitable for pregnant women, those with a heart condition or people who have difficulty walking.
The Ghost Bus Tours 4*
If you prefer to sit comfortably rather than walking, then this haunted history bus tour is perfect for you. With this tour, you’ll be exploring Edinburgh’s murder mysteries, locations in this macabre theatrical journey around the city of Edinburgh.
On these horror fun evening tours in a voltage bus, you’ll hear tales too, including Burke and Hare murders as well about the paranormal side of Edinburgh.