Lang Meg the Foul Clenger at Mary Kings Close

The Dark Truth at The Real Mary King’s Close

As the crowds gather in Edinburgh for the festival season, lots of the city’s favourite attractions like to offer something a little bit special for the peak time of year. The Real Mary Kings Close have been quick to get in on the action, with their special addition recently launched for summer 2015: The Dark Truth Tour.

Running every night in July and August at 9pm, 9.20pm, 9.40pm and 10pm, this tour is a real ‘after-hours’ experience that tells the sinister truth behind some of the better known myths and legends of Edinburgh. This isn’t an attraction for the young or faint hearted – so be prepared to hear macabre tales of torture, body-snatching, gory diseases and supernatural happenings.

Our tour started innocently enough. We were met by the ‘Foul Clenger’ (pictured above) who took us into the depths of the close. As we walked down the steps we were transported back to the 17th century, where plague was rife and people were hired by the council to clean out houses affected by the disease. These workers became to be known as – you guessed it – ‘Foul Clengers’.

A room in Mary King's Close

It wasn’t long before our tour took a sinister turn. We were swiftly abandoned by the Foul Clenger, and were thrust into the belly of The Close to meet a range of characters. Some were good, ordinary citizens of Edinburgh, while others… perhaps not so much.

Along the way we met the creepy looking but well-meaning Plague Doctor, whose  menacing get-up was only worn to ward off the disease and nasty spirits, and we were given an enthusiastic demonstration by a witch-torturer who seemed to enjoy his job a little too much. We spoke to Maggie Dickson, who narrowly avoided being buried alive, and heard the harrowing tale of a maid who witnessed a supernatural terror that drove her mad.

Finally, we came face-to-face with local ‘businessman’ William Burke, one half of the infamous grave-snatching duo Burke and Hare. I must admit the actor who played him was fantastic at the part, and every time he stared at me… it sent a shiver down my spine. And that was even before he started going into graphic depth about how he really got those medical cadavers…

Mary Kings Close Pavement
Image courtesy of The Real Mary Kings Close

The Dark Truth Tour really lifts the lid on what went on in Old Edinburgh. The underground labyrinth of The Real Mary Kings Close makes a fascinating and atmospheric backdrop, and combined with the talented actors and tour guides, it really brings Edinburgh’s dark past to life. So, if you want to find out what really went on in the city during the plague, be sure to check this macabre evening out… if you dare…

The Dark Truth tour will run every night until the 31st August. Tickets cost £14.95 and you can book your ticket on the The Real Mary Kings Close website. You can find The Real Mary Kings Close beside the City Chambers on the Royal Mile, opposite St Giles Cathedral.

Many thanks to The Real Mary Kings Close for providing the tickets for this visit. Featured image of Meg the Foul Clenger also provided by The Real Mary Kings Close. 

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