There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween

If you’ve exhausted Netflix’s collection of horror films and feel you’re a little too old for trick or treating, there’s a grown-up way to enjoy Halloween.

And no, it’s not just sinking so many drinks that you feel like a ghoul in the morning.

Edinburgh now has a Walking Dead themed bar

Tourists after a spooky city break can ditch the embarrassing set-up ghost encounters and zombie walks to get a taster of the very real dark and twisted past of Edinburgh.

The Scottish capital is steeped in rich and bloody history and now the darkest stains on the brutal and colourful tapestry have been collated into a tour in time for Halloween.

On The Dark Side features a flowering brass monument in remembrance of more than 300 women who were burned at the stake after accusations they were partaking in witchcraft or dark magic.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
The Witches Well sits by the entrance to Edinburgh Castle (Picture: Edinburgh 101)

The Witches’ Well is just a stone’s throw from the iconic landmark Edinburgh castle and is free to view.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
The prison door features etchings from inmates made hundreds of years ago (Picture: Edinburgh 101)

Inside the surviving castle grounds, visitors can take a walk around the old prison, where the musings and graffiti etched by inmates is still visible after hundreds of years.

A graffiti-scarred prison door on display tells the tales of prisoners locked up in the Edinburgh castle vault as early as the 1700s.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
The book was created with the skin of serial killer Burke (Picture: Edinburgh 101)

Tourists brave enough to take the On The Dark Side tour will see a portable guillotine and a book created using the skin of a 19th century serial killer.

After his corpse was publicly dissected at the University of Edinburgh, the skin of William Burke was used to create a pocketbook.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
A 19th century engraving depicting William Burke getting victims drunk, then strangling them (Picture: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Burke and his accomplice William Hare were notorious body snatchers turned mass murderers.

The gruesome pair started stealing cadavers from graves, though soon escalated to slaughtering people in order to sell corpses to line their pockets.

The fleshy pocketbook, a fitting but grim moment to the 19th century killer, is on display in the Surgeons’ Hall Museums in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
The ancient book was a guide to Edinburgh’s sex workers (Picture: Edinburgh 101)

The macabre tour offers a different side to the city’s tourist hot spot the Royal Mile, by revealing Ranger’s Impartial List of Ladies: the (unsurprisingly) anonymously published ‘gentleman’s’ review of 66 sex workers from 1775, which includes rather intimate details and reviews of the women’s, erm, skills.

Think of it as an early and X-rated TripAdvisor.

Taking a walk up to the picturesque Arthur’s Seat, the tour unveils a grim discovery made by a group of schoolboys back in 1836.

Eight tiny coffins containing human effigies were stumbled upon by children in the beauty spot.

The bleak finding remains just one of the puzzling unsolved and very real mysteries to which Edinburgh is home.

The tour also offers a peek at apparent evidence of one of Edinburgh’s most brutal murders.

The Bloodstain Of Rizzio marks the spot where Mary Queen of Scots’ secretary was brutally murdered.

In 1566, royal secretary David Rizzio was stabbed 56 times in front of the petrified and pregnant queen by men sent on the orders of her husband, Lord Darnley.

There’s a tour of Edinburgh’s dark history and it’s perfect for Halloween
The Bloodstain of Rizzio is still visible centuries later (Picture: Edinburgh 101)

A bloodstain purportedly showing evidence of the diabolical murder is still visible in the oldest part of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, along with a knee-high plaque which marks the ancient crime scene.

Each attraction which features in the On The Dark Side trail highlights an alternative and sometimes ghastly reality of Edinburgh’s past, while allowing people to uncover often-untold stories that have left an indelible stain on Scotland’s tapestry and connect with the city’s past around October 31.

The tour sweeps away the stateside-style pomp of Halloween and offers a look at the haunting reality of Scotland’s past, on a trail which is just a small section of a year-long city campaign called Edinburgh’s 101 Objects.

If you’re not feeling particularly goth, the Edinburgh 101 Objects tour also features nods to iconic moments and presences in the city’s past, including; a bronze Sherlock Holmes statue outside 11 Picardy Place to mark the birthplace of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and The Oxford Bar, which is a pub with an emergency entrance, because we’ve all had days when that feels absolutely necessary.

If the bloodcurdling history of Edinburgh doesn’t turn your stomach, walking around the hilly city will cause you to develop quite the hunger.

The streets of Scotland’s capital city are, of course, dotted with all of the major restaurant chains, but if you’re looking for something unique to the city there are plenty of options.