Ella telling a story by candlelight

Doomed, dead and buried

About a week ago the lovely people at Mercat Tours asked me if I would like to try out one of their spooky ghost tours. It was a bit of a no-brainer, as I love a chilling tale or two as much as the next person, so I jumped at the chance to experience their ‘Doomed, Dead and Buried’ tour.

Kim and Ella at the Mercat Cross

We met at 7pm beside the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile (just beside St Giles Cathedral). As we waited for the tour to begin, our tour guides Kim and Ella (pictured above) made their way around the group and introduced themselves, which I thought was a lovely thoughtful touch.

Being a bank holiday weekend, there were a healthy number of people in our group, I would guess around 20 or so, which is the kind of level to expect around the peak summer months. That was no problem though, as we started our tour it was clear that both Kim and Ella could capture the attention of the whole crowd with ease with their captivating storytelling skills.

Alleyway just off Royal Mile

The first part of our tour took place in the back streets just off the Royal Mile, where Kim and Ella took turns in telling stories from Edinburgh’s colourful and ghoulish past.

Even though it was still fairly light outside, huddling around the guide in a narrow alleyway made the tour very atmospheric and brought the stories to life – you could really imagine the tales unfolding in the old cobbled streets around you.

A candle in the Blair Street Underground Vaults

Then, we were taken into the Blair Street vaults, which lie under South Bridge. Edinburgh’s underground used to be the lifeblood of the city, used by tradesmen, taverns and… ahem… as “storage facilities” by the likes of Burke and Hare.

The vaults are a hotbed of paranormal activity, even up to this very day, and our guides were very keen to tell us about the strange happenings they have experienced over the years, such as ghostly visions, sudden bouts of darkness and the odd cold clammy grasp of a hand…

The cold corridors that linked the vaults were lit with sparse flickering candles, and after hearing all these eerie tales, it was really hard not to imagine the occasional ghostly figure in the candlelight.

Canongate graveyard
Image from Mercat Tours

As we resurfaced to ground level, the last of the daylight was sinking below the horizon. Once we reached our next spot in the tour, the Canongate Graveyard, the sky was pitch black. There, Kim and Ella told us even more tales of Edinburgh’s eerie past. The stories about the people who were buried alive – and apparently, in those days, there were plenty – sent a particular shiver up my spine.

The Doomed, Dead and Buried tour costs £15 per adult, £13 for a concession and £8 for a child. It covers a tour that lasts around two hours, and encompasses the back streets of the Old Town, the Underground Vaults and the Canongate Graveyard.

The guides were excellent, bringing each spooky tale to life with their vivid acting and storytelling skills. Despite such a large crowd and relatively long circuit, they managed to keep all of us captivated until the very last story on the tour. It’s a fascinating way to learn about some of Edinburgh’s more unsavoury history.

These tours are a hit with tourists, however even if you’re local, it’s worth doing as you’re bound to uncover something you never knew about Edinburgh – and it’s definitely something a bit different from just another night down the pub!

Doomed, dead and buried is just one of the many tours that Mercat Tours offer. Be sure to head on over to their website to see the range of spooky and historical trails available! 

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