Things to do | Posted 24 Feb 2020

Edinburgh sure packs a punch when it comes to beautiful cities. The winding cobbled streets, the crooked architecture of the Old Town, and of course, the centuries-old castle standing watch over the capital below – it’s safe to say Old Reekie is one of the most fascinating places in the country. And what better way to immerse yourself in the sights, smells, and sounds of the city than by donning your hiking boots and heading off on a walking tour?

Here, we explore some of the best walking and ghost tours Edinburgh has to offer.

Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder, and Legends

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Duration: two hours
Meeting time: 6:30pm

Starting at the edge of Edinburgh’s coveted Old Town, this walking tour is a great choice for anyone interested in the weird, the gruesome, and the glorious. For two hours, you’ll discover some of the city’s darkest secrets, winding your way through chilling cemeteries and murder spots, and learning about the vampires, witches, and other creatures said to roam the city’s streets at night.

The Potter Trail

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Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Meeting time: 12pm, 2pm, or 4pm depending on the season

Edinburgh is often penned as the birthplace of the Harry Potter franchise, and on this unique walking tour, you’ll discover all the magical locations that inspired the series. Step into the café where JK Rowling famously put pen to paper and wrote the first Harry Potter book, take a walk down the real-life Diagon Alley.

Always dreamt of putting on the sorting hat? You’re in luck. Embark on the Potter Trail and you’ll get sorted into Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, right outside the school that inspired Hogwarts. Magic!

Royal Mile Tour

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Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes including Edinburgh Castle, 1 hour 30 minutes excluding Edinburgh Castle
Meeting time: 10am or 2pm

Travel back in time to uncover the secrets of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Perfect for anyone interested in the history of Scotland’s glorious capital, the Royal Mile Tour gets into the nooks and crannies of Auld Reekie, telling tales of royalty, crime, and plague-ridden peasants. Learn all about famous Edinburgh-residents like Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Burns, and skip the line for the most famous Scottish landmark of them all – the magnificent Edinburgh Castle.

Sandemans Free Walking Tour

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Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Meeting time: Daytime. The exact time depends on the language.

Edinburgh’s a big place, so it can be difficult to cram in all those fascinating landmarks into one trip. But Sandemans gives it a good go. The Sandemans free walking tour is a great way to get the most from your trip to Auld Reekie, and the best part is it’s absolutely free (although a tip never goes amiss!).

During the tour, your knowledgeable local guide will show you some of Edinburgh’s greatest landmarks and tell tales of royal families of times gone by (both English and Scottish), the real-life Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, as well as heroic men like William Wallace and his Stone of Destiny. And as if that wasn’t enough, you get a break halfway through to enjoy a coffee at a local charity café.

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard Ghost Tour

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Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
Meeting time: 8:30pm (Halloween to easter), 9pm (easter to Halloween)

Looking to sample a spookier side to Scotland’s eclectic capital? Embark on a ghost tour and discover all the secrets and scandals hiding in the shadows of Auld Reekie… if you dare. Top of the list is the famous City of the Dead Graveyard Tour, where visitors can encounter the Black Mausoleum. Said to be one of the most haunted places in the world, this is the final resting place of the despicable George “Bluidy” MacKenzie, and over 500 sightings have been reported of his Poltergeist wreaking havoc within and the crypt.

It’s rumoured that this is a place so feared, so utterly formidable, that it’s locked at all times, with only the City of the Dead tour guides holding the keys. In fact, the official City of the Dead website gives this warning: “The Mackenzie Poltergeist can cause physical and mental distress. You join the tour at your own risk”. Spooky!

Rebus Tour

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Duration: 2 hours
Meeting time: Midday (Saturdays only)

If you’re a fan of Ian Rankin’s best-selling Rebus novels, you’re going to love this. Embarking from the Rebus pub, The Royal Oak, this literary walking tour explores Rebus’ Edinburgh – in all its dark and mysterious glory. Explore some of Rebus’ most iconic locations, including St Leonard Police Station and The Mortuary, and enjoy a drink at the watering hole once frequented by Rankin himself.  

Ghost and Gore Walking Tour

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