The spooky side of Edinburgh

The vaults and Mary Kings Close: A town under the town – could this be true? In fact there is one in Edinburgh directly beside the Royal Mile. The vaults are situated in tunnels built in the 17th century underneath the South Bridge which is in the city centre. In the early days of the […]

The vaults and Mary Kings Close: A town under the town – could this be true? In fact there is one in Edinburgh directly beside the Royal Mile. The vaults are situated in tunnels built in the 17th century underneath the South Bridge which is in the city centre. In the early days of the bridge many businesses grew in these underground spaces. After a while the bridge began to leak and the busi­nesses were forced to move out. The function of the vaults changed and the damp vaults started to be­come home to the extremely poor, especially the Irish immigrants. A place where real people lived, worked and died. But a lack of light, heat, water and air made this area uninhabitable. Today the very dark and still damp vaults are spaces for the public to ex­plore and they haven’t lost their original atmosphere. Some people say with its spooky past it is the most haunted place in Britain. So, are you brave enough to discover what exists down there?
For example at Mary Kings Close or with one of the several tours offered on the Royal Mile: 2 Warristons Close, EH1 1PG Edinburgh

The Grassmarket
With its pubs, second hand shops and restau­rants this place is cur­rently a busy student area. You can enjoy the medieval atmosphere with a brilliant view of the castle while having a pint. But what did this market use to be? In the late 17th Century the Grassmarket was used to conduct public han­gings. In the middle of the market you can still find a circle where the executions took place. It is also known for its mur­derers Burke and Hare who killed numerous people, mainly unk­nown Irish immigrants and sold the bodies to medical schools to pro­vide material for dissec­tion. Another place with a dark and bloody past where nobody exactly knows what else happe­ned behind the curtains. So, let your imagination run wild and get into a medieval mood.

Mackenzie Poltergeist
„Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar!“ the kids used to sing while they played on the street close to Grayfriars Kirkyard. There George Mackenzie, a successful and tough advocate in the 17th century, was buried after his death in 1691. But not only his dead body was laid to rest in this cold ground – also a lot of his victims.
Bloody Mackenzie was known for his strict ver­dicts. Once he killed 100 men on one single day and a lot of people died during their jail term because of the horrible conditions of detention he had ordered. Most of them were also buried in Grayfriars Kirkyard. And so the dead soul of Mackenzie cannot find peace in this place. It sur­vives as the well known Poltergeist and scares all people away who want to disturb or chase him. So come and visit Ma­ckenzie at his dark and frosty grave on Candle­maker Row.

Tours back in time
The best way to feel the spirit of these cree­py places is to join one of the numerous tours around the city. It does not really matter which tour you choose – ghosts, underground, terror, wit­ches – every tour will let you go back in the time when 25,000 people had to live between Ho­lyrood Palace and the Castle and the old town of Edi was more a slum than a quarter. But most of them are not for the faint-hearted. Do not be afraid of not finding an operator. There are a lot of tour vendors on the Royal Mile. You cannot miss them because they will not miss you.

Text by Pamela Kölbl and Janine Glozat
Edinburgh 2010

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