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City of the Dead tour in Edinburgh: Thistles and Coos Review

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

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There is something about “ghost” tours that excites our innate sense of dread and anticipation. Get ready for some scary fun - this is our review of the City of the Dead Tours in Edinburgh.

I (Natalie) want to start out by saying I love all things scary. I enjoy good horror and suspense novels. I love to watch scary movies, preferably in the dark by myself. I grew up in a haunted house, so I am fascinated with the paranormal.

“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” ~ Stephen King, Bag of Bones

Believe it or not, I like to walk through deserted places, or drive down a dark, eerie road.

There is a complete adrenaline rush, sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to scream type of emotion that I experience in these situations.

I have had experiences with hauntings, have captured questionable orbs in photographs, and have had the paranormal reach out to me.

It completely fascinates and scares the hell out of me at the same time.

While planning this latest trip to Scotland, I read that Edinburgh is one of the most haunted places on Earth. Therefore, my goal was to go on a haunted tour. I did worry about one thing: coming face to face with a ghost! I mean, part of me wanted to, but I don’t know if I would faint, scream, run (or perhaps shit my pants). (Probably run, hopefully not the latter). #fightorflight

Time to get scared.

I asked Connie if she would join me. She initially gave me her familiar “kiss my ass” look.

She told me no, but I persisted ad nauseum. I continue my entreaties until she starts to waiver, her walls began to crumble and then I found myself welcoming her to the dark side.

Confession: I made a tour reservation well before she gave in. #iamatruefriend

She wanted to throat punch me, but it was too late; we, with our husbands in tow, were going on this tour. #letsgetscared

The City of the Dead tour is one of a handful of haunted walking tours offered in Edinburgh.

There are several options to choose from: Underground Tour, Double Dead Walking Tour, Graveyard Tour to include private tours. We chose the Graveyard Walking Tour.

The Graveyard Tour “combines the weirdest history with the wildest stories and wickedest humour around. This tour even has a unique gift shop – located in a graveyard funeral parlour!”

It was easy to book online using the company’s website. I used my credit card to book; the price was 13.00 pounds (roughly 17 U.S. dollars) for 1 adult ticket.

The tour meets at 8:30pm in the winter and 9:00pm in the summer at a specific meeting point. We met by the lone tree beside St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile at 8:30pm. There are limited spaces on the tour to keep the tours small so that everyone can be involved and hear the guide’s scary stories. I think our group had a total of about 15.

Prepare yourself for rain. Wear sturdy slip resistant shoes like these. This raincoat was perfect for Scotland. Don't forget to bring a travel umbrella.

Don’t get caught off guard in Scotland or you will be soaked. If it is raining or has been raining, be careful not to slip on the cobblestone streets.

Also, you will be touring in the dark. Keep that in mind. I think the guide was the only one with a flashlight.

The tour runs about an hour and a half. The storytelling part started out at St. Giles Cathedral; our tour leader gave us an intriguing account of all the colorful and scandalous historical persons that lived in Edinburgh. Stories of witches, ambitious royal personages, criminals, underground jails, crypts, tales of torture and haunted cemeteries.

The one thing that is loved about the Scottish people is their storytelling abilities. They are witty and quick on their toes. They tell stories with ease to totally captivate their listeners. The stories, embedded with history and humor, were great for this tour. They take you back to a time when superstition ruled.

The tour guide did a stellar job of explaining the background history. She was enthusiastic about her job and made sure that all the tour participants could ask questions. Since this was a walking tour at night, she made sure everyone was accounted for at all times. Very professional.

Given the tour guide’s efforts, you could visualize these scary bits of history as if they hung thick in the air, the gruesome and disabling diseases that took many people’s lives, the terror of being outed as a witch, and the fears people had of not being able to leave the walled city of Edinburgh. Freedom was defined differently for people who lived during these times. #studyhistory

After relating a few such stories on the Royal Mile, to get the goosebumps going, the tour led us to Greyfriar’s Kirk, a cemetery known for its poltergeist activity.

Despite the gloom, there were a few heartwarming stories woven into the overall presentation that left you feeling happy. One story included the account of the Greyfriar’s Bobby. The owner of a small terrier (also known as a “bobby”) died. His bobby laid on his master’s grave until the terrier died some 10 years later! This dog became somewhat of a mascot for the cemetery. A statue of the Bobby is outside of the Kirk and the headstone is to the right as you enter the Kirk.

About an hour of the tour is spent in the cemetery. Learn all you can about the ghostly activity, the sad history, and the prisoners that were kept there.

I will not give away any of the juicy details. You must experience it yourself. #mymouthisshut

Just some impressions: I felt the continuous feeling on my neck and arms of being poked with something that felt like the tip of a hot needle. We were standing in darkness and we noticed a few times, something black (in the shadows… or it was a shadowy figure) dart from one point to the next. Nothing with flesh and bone could move that fast. Just saying. #ijustsawaghost

I highly recommend this walking tour. The stories, the other-worldly experiences, chills, and the hints that I won’t give away!

The only negative I have for this tour is the area. There was a homeless person coming up to a few of us begging for money.

The tour guide handled it well and the gentleman left. It was a little unnerving, but the situation was diffused easily and we weren’t bothered again.

Have you been on a haunted ghost tour? Tell us! We love to be spooked.

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