I took a one day Highland tour was greatly disappointed. I took the tour with Scottish Tours which picked us up from St Andrews bus station at 8am and dropped us off at 8pm - cost of 31 pounds.
It was basically 12 hours on the coach, stopping a small town for a meal break. Constantly threatened that we would left behind if we were not on the coach on time, it got annoying after a while, we're not children (and no one was ever late).
Did not make any stops for pictures in the most beautiful scenic spots, mainly between Callander and Glencoe. Instead we stopped 30mins in Callander to get something to eat, even though we had only been on the bus for less than an 1 hour. Next stop was Glencoe Visitor Centre for 30mins which had a pretty bad view compared to what we saw before. Next stop was Fort Augustus for 45mins for lunch and no stop during the beautiful drive along Loch Ness. Next Inverness for 45mins which was a waste of time, nothing really to do, just another city. Last stop was Pitlochry for 45mins, cute town that was the best stop.
There were so concerned about making time that it was completely unenjoyable. We literally had a 1min stop at Uqhart Castle, barely enough time to get any pictures let alone go down and explore it.
So disappointed...the guide was very informative and very good bus driver.
I had heard alot about the Edinburgh vaults from people who had been there in the past. Feelings of excitement, fear, hot and cold temperatures so i knew i had to make a trip there. It was an enjoyable experience and the story teller kept the crowd interested. A couple of laughs were at my expense when i was picked as a volunteer. Why...? I ask... why?
If you're interested in going, take a look at this webiste for some good information.
Every evening several companies offer walking ghost tours for 8.50 pounds (6.50 for students) which last about an hour or so. It's not scary or riveting but you do learn some history, old wives tales - see the dark, mysterious part of Edinburgh.
I went once with Mercat Tours where the guide basically told ghost stories and took us to underground vaults. http://www.mercattours.com/home.asp
The second I took was with City of the Dead which supposedly has documented cases of physical attacks which are in the hundreds according to them and was on some TV show about real ghost stories so ofcourse i had to go. It was the same thing as the first but instead of underground vaults we went to a locked cemetary/prison where Mackenzie is buried.
Both guides told us they have witness attacks or strange things...something different really.
We took as we were told" only adults tour" the ghost trial at 9.30 pm. Ticket costs £7. Well, it wasnt scary at all, I would say it was more story telling than anything else. We went just to two places: cementary and dungeon. Nothing special
As the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns once wrote: "I'd be mair vauntie o' my hap, Douce hingin' owre my curple, Than ony ermine ever lap, Or proud imperial purple." No clue? All "Scottish" to you? Didn't think anything rhymed with purple? Then this tour is for you! On this tour we translate Edinburgh's colorful history into plain English as we lift the kilt of the city to unveil all the nooks and crannies that make this one of the most intriguing burgs in Europe. Beginning at the boggy banks of Castlehill, this tour takes you through the Medieval Old Town, up the Royal Mile, and onto the Castle as we storm Edinburgh from the bottom up. Och-aye!
There are lots of tours available which go in the various underground vaults and tunnels under Edinburgh which once housed many poor people hundreds of years ago. Some parts of the tunnels have human skeletons in the walls which are from the plague. There are lots of ghosts and poltergeists which reportedly frequent the tunnels and the popular show "Most Haunted" have filmed down in the tunnels. The best time to go is at night or on Halloween when it is really scary. We went down the vaults and my friend was sceptical but I felt dizzy as soon as I entered the vaults. We were told mobile phone memories had been wiped and one of the guides showed us a torch which apparently had been smashed to pieces on the very day. All the guides wear fancy dress and there are mysterious sounds which seem to follow the tour through the streets whereever they go. This was a really enjoyable experience,I loved it and I would like to do the tour on Halloween. We went with Auld Reekie tours, but I think there is also a company called Meercat Tours. You can find out about them at the tourist information office on Princes street.
The best tour you can find in Edinburgh to visit the Highlands is for sure the Scotline Tour. You can find them in 87, High Street (Royal Mile). They have about 10 different fantastic tours. We chose two of them. The first one was the Loch Ness Experience (full day) visiting the wonderful Highlands, the impressive Urquhart Castle and a very enjoyable Loch Ness cruise. The second one was Loch Lomond visiting Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. Every moment was a great excitement for us! SUPERB!
Edinburgh is reputed to be the most haunted city in the British Isles, except possibly York. While I'm a doubting Thomas, the Ghost Walks are immensely entertaining and informative. They teach a great deal of local history, folklore, and a good deal about the customs, architecture, and daily life of times past.
Several ghost walks take you into the passages that run beneath the Old Town. They are definitely eerie and would give anyone "the willies". St Mary's close is said to be the most haunted place. As the Black Death swept through Edinburgh in the 14th century, an entire neighborhood was sealed off and quarantined. Months later, after all had died, the place was cleaned out. This area lies beneath the City Chambers.
Later, these passages housed sweatshops and some of the workers who toiled inside them. There are all kinds of stories about them.
None of my photos have ever revealed any ghosts. Someone please let me know if you see any on this page that I missed.
After taking the Ghost & Ghouls tour with Mercat the night before, I decided to do a 2nd one with them during the daytime, Secrets of the Royal Mile. The crowd was a wee bit smaller for this one (2 of us!) I really enjoyed this one as well, our guide Olive took us into St. Giles pointing out things that I hadn't seen the day before when I visited, Parliament Hall, which is now a Law Court, which I hadn't known you could visit, showed us where John Knox is buried (in a car park behind St. Giles, marked only with a small square), told us the story of half-hangit Maggie and showed us the "peeing" statue of Charles II. The tour ended when we reached the top of the Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle.
Cost was L7.50, you can save L1 if you have done a previous tour with them, bring your ticket with.
There are several different companies offering ghost tours in Edinburgh, something about the mood of the city lends itself very well to this sort of thing, creeping along the dark closes of the city after dark and in the dark, dank vaults under the Royal Mile.
There are several companies that do these tours, I chose Mercat, no advance reservations were needed, just show up near St. Giles on the Royal Mile and look for the guy in the cape.
Mercat's tour wasn't like the cheesy ones we've done in places like New Orleans where you know you've heard the same story set in a different locale, really how many sausage makers ground their wives into sausages? And had a local police man bite into her wedding ring? This tour seemed to be based in fact, the guide enhanced the stories with gruesome sound effects, gory details and much animation which made it both historical and fun.
This tour focused on the area around the Royal Mile so there wasn't a ton of walking involved, after several stops above ground they took us into the vaults under the city. The guide did a really nice job of building up the haunted factor, even me, a huge skeptic, looked around in nervous anticipation of a ghostly spectre. And I may have even seen one in my room later that night ;-)
They offer a premium tour for an extra L1.50 which extends the tour to include a drink in a nearby pub, I didn't take this option because I still hadn't eaten dinner but in retrospect I should have, it would have been fun as I met some nice folks on the tour.
Some other options I've seen recommended:
Blackhart City of the Dead tour
The "Real" Mary King's Close is probably a big tourist trap. The attraction bills itself as follows: "Hidden beneath the Royal Mile lies Edinburgh's deepest secret; a warren of hidden 'closes' where real people lived, worked and died. For centuries they have lain forgotten and abandoned... until now. "
In 1753, the tops of several buildings were knocked down and their lower sections and several alleys ("closes") were used as the foundation for a large new building, the Royal Exchange (now the City Chambers). Over the next two hundred years, rumours grew of abandoned streets, houses, shops, and closes buried beneath Edinburgh.
After years of people nagging the council and asking to go down and see the basement for themselves, the council opened the Real Mary King's Close as a world-class tourist attraction in April 2003.
We made it to the entrance and gift-shop, but didn't actually go down for a tour because you should book in advance for this and our train was leaving in less than 20 minutes. (And the station was about a 10-minute walk.) But the curiosity and ghost stories about this underground close were killing me inside--so I had to at least see the entrance. Did they lock up a whole bunch of people in this alley to die of the black plague or not? It's part of the urban legend of Edinburgh; that there's an older part of the city underneath the current one--where bones still rot, where there are still shops with items in the windows, where ghosts roam freely, where pre-Victorian plague-era apartments still exist intact. How friggin' cool is that!? Even if it is all a fairy tale--it's still an important part of the mythos of the city.
Admission was very expensive if I remember right.
We signed up a week in advance through the Witchery's web site for the "Ghosts & Gore Tour." There was also a "Murder & Mystery" tour offered by this company, but we decided the former would hopefully be scarier. We were mistaken in assuming that it would be scary--nevertheless, we had a great time because it was so humourous. Sometimes the tour came off as slightly amateurish, but that made it even funnier--shopkeepers bristled at us when we walked the alleys, "Would you mind moving away from here please? I'm trying to throw out the garbage!"
The tour started at 7:00 PM. It was informative, they told lots of stories, demonstrated various torture devices, and as we walked around they had several characters jump out and describe different eras of Edinburgh's history. (One of their staff, Rory, ran frantically around town switching costumes and trying to head us off so he could jump out from behind buildings--the poor guy was usually completely winded.) The character, costume, and story of the "The Foule Clenger" was especially interesting.
Our guide, Alexander Clapperton (deceased), identified my girlfriend immediately from the crowd as a witch, and (did what all boyfriends can only secretly dream of) put a pair of thumbscrews on her. "Scream and confess you're a witch!," he told her, "Scream!". But as he tightened them, she held her ground and only muttered a whimpering "Owww..."
So, not scary but kind of fun. Kids would also love it!
The tour was very cheap, ?7. And as part of that admission, you get a book, "Adam Lyal's Witchery Tales," which is worth at least ?4.
Bonus Tip: Flip to the "Ghosts" chapter at the back of the book later and do your own walk of the haunted areas by night. It scared the hell out us!
I believe the best way to explore a new city is to start off with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. The City Sightseeing Edinburgh tour was very good and informative. It went to all the major places in Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle, Princes St., The Royal Mile, Arthur's Seat, Greyfriars, Calton Hill, Holyrood House.
The driver and staff were helpful and friendly. if you had any questions.
The tour is in many languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian and Dutch.
Tickets are valid for 24 hours and you get 10% off the entry to Edinburgh Castle with your ticket.
Adults: GBP 8.50
Concession: GBP 7.50
Child: GBP 2.50
I took this tour in 2004 and 2005. I took it again in 2005 to refresh my memory, but found that I remembered most of the commentary anyway - it really sticks with you!
Take the Tour Bus from Waverly Bridge - a quick and easy way to get around Edinburgh's Old City and get information too !!!.
I am from the area and took some friends on it a few months ago and it was fabulous - very informative and they particularly liked how you can get on and off if they wanted to visit a particular attraction.
Many different languages to hear the tour in, although listening to it in the native accent is perfect as my friend informed me afterwards.
I recently joined a weekend tour to Edinburgh and the Lake District from London. The group was made up of people from all over the world, many of whom were students from English language schools (although I wasn't). Our guides were wonderful, experienced and gave us lots of information. Because the trip was quite cheap I was expecting to stay in a hostel but we had a really nice family run hotel near the centre of Edinburgh. We went out in the evenings and I have made some good friends along the way. Even the way back to London through the Lake District mountains was special. I will never forget this trip and I wish I could be back in Scotland now.
I would recommend this to anybody who wants to go to Scotland from London who hasn't got too much time. The company I went with was called International Friends