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Edinburgh Culture & history

Our most recommended Edinburgh Culture & history

Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

1. Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

Head for the Highlands, whether in search of the Loch Ness Monster or just a scenic day trip from Edinburgh. After pickup, relax on the bus and listen to the guide’s entertaining commentary. Visit Kilmahog for an introduction to the famous Highland Cows (depending on the time of year) and a cup of coffee. Next, travel up the road to Glencoe and enjoy a 10-minute photo stop in front of the unforgettable Highland views. Have lunch in the Fort William area, where your guide can advise you on where to eat. If you're interested in the mysteries of the kilt, you can even get a ‘wee’ kilt introduction here. Then be whisked to Loch Ness itself. Customize your experience at Loch Ness. Choose to visit the majestic Urquhart Castle, and hop on a boat in search of ‘Nessie’, as the locals call it. Or simply hang out on the pier and grab a coffee with gorgeous views. On the way home, make a short snack stop in Pitlochry, a beautiful village in the heart of the country, before returning to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Underground Vaults Tour

2. Edinburgh: Underground Vaults Tour

This guided walking tour takes you beneath the streets of Edinburgh's Old Town into a dimly lit space that many considered to be haunted. Your tour visits the vaults of the South Bridge that date back to the 1700s. These are the same vaults mentioned on Most Haunted Live as one of the scariest places on earth. Learn how the vaults have been used over the years, the living conditions endured by the poor and homeless residents, and the spirits that are supposed to haunt them. The darker side of Edinburgh's history will unfold as you wander through the candle-lit underground area. From your guide, you'll hear about the Burke and Hare murders and the persecution of witches. Discover the characters who stalked the streets of Edinburgh, and the paranormal stories associated with the vaults. The Haunted Vaults tour option will cover slightly more paranormal and ghost stories. Step into the torture exhibition and explore how and why these items were used.

Edinburgh: Skip-the-Line Walking Tour of Edinburgh Castle

3. Edinburgh: Skip-the-Line Walking Tour of Edinburgh Castle

Discover the home of Mary Queen of Scots on this guided walking tour of Edinburgh Castle. Admire the 16th-century Great Hall where parties and feast took place. Learn about the bloody history of the kings and queens who lived in this castle.  Meet your guide and walk to Edinburgh Castle which dominates the city skyline from its seat on the extinct volcano of Castle Rock. Stroll on the castle's promenade and hear about the the origins and sieges of the castle. View where the Royal Military Tattoo is performed. Enter the castle and make your way to the three museums and two prisons. Go to the National Monument to the fallen of Scotland and a canine cemetery. See the oldest building in the city at the Chapel of Saint Margaret. Be captivated by the grandeur of the Great Hall and a Royal Palace. After the tour you will have time to explore all of the buildings inside the castle until its closure.

Edinburgh: Real Mary King's Close Guided Tour

4. Edinburgh: Real Mary King's Close Guided Tour

Step down into Edinburgh’s hidden history at The Real Mary King’s Close, voted Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience. Discover over 400 years of history and learn about the intriguing stories of Edinburgh’s past residents.  From the deadly plague epidemic to a famous royal visitor, there is a myriad of tales just waiting to be told. Journey through time and find out why the Close, once open to the skies and bustling with trade, came to be underground.  An experience rooted in social history, this 1-hour character-guided tour also includes an immersive walk-through of the city’s uniquely preserved streets and spaces, all located underneath Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. Expect a truly unique glimpse into the city’s past. 

Edinburgh: Haunted Underground Vaults and Graveyard Tour

5. Edinburgh: Haunted Underground Vaults and Graveyard Tour

Join a guided walking tour to Greyfriars Graveyard and learn about one of Edinburgh's most famous canine residents and hear stories about notorious criminals. See Gothic mausoleums and learn about notable burials as you explore the grim history of the cemetery. Continue with a visit to the nearby Edinburgh Vaults, located in the arches of South Bridge. Hear about regular paranormal occurrences and how some of the characters from history have never really left. Discover the former home of the destitute, witches and a hellfire club, and hear how the haunted vault is now possessed by something truly evil.

Edinburgh: Late-Night Underground Vaults Terror Tour

6. Edinburgh: Late-Night Underground Vaults Terror Tour

Join this late-night guided walking tour in English of Edinburgh to discover the city’s darkest and most frightening experience. Hear ghost stories of the city told above and below the ground of the Royal Mile. Walk through the famous wynds and closes of the Royal Mile, learning about the horrific living conditions of the population that once lived in these underground rooms. Listen to stories from your guide about murderers who roamed the streets and snatched bodies to sell to medical schools at the time. Then, hear stories of the scratching hauntress who leaves marks on her victims. Witness torture exhibits and learn how these devices were used in times gone by. Finally, go to the home of “The Watcher” ghost, and see the infamous stone circle vault, still decorated with pentagrams and spiritual symbols.

Edinburgh: Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour

7. Edinburgh: Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour

Explore Edinburgh's ghostly past on a guided tour through the streets of the Old Town and its underground vaults. Listen as your cloaked guide tells you tales of the city's dark and grim past as you are led along the Royal Mile. If you dare, step into the narrow alleyways, which are only a few feet wide. Make your way to the South Bridge, and head underneath, where Edinburgh's Vaults are located. Once storage areas for businesses and shops in the area, the vaults were taken over in the late 1700s and turned into living spaces. Eventually, the area became home to slums and the city's red-light district. As you walk through these now-vacant rooms, you will hear tales of the deplorable living conditions, as well as of the crime that once raged through the vaults. When you emerge from the underground, consider yourself lucky that it isn't in the dead of night.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour w/ Fast-Track Entry

8. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour w/ Fast-Track Entry

Begin your tour by the statue of Adam Smith on the Royal Mile. Walk towards Edinburgh Castle as your guide sets the scene, explaining the significance of the Castle and mentioning some of the key characters who have helped shape it. Once inside, let your guide walk you through the Castle complex. Hear their in-depth knowledge of the Castle's main buildings and attractions, including the Argyle Battery and One O'clock Gun, the Hospital Square and Western Panorama. See the Castle dungeons and military prison, the Black Banquet and Thomas Randolph's daring castle raid. Encounter St Margret's Chapel, Mons Meg, the Crown Square, and The Honors of Scotland. After the tour, enjoy some time at your leisure to explore the castle museums (not accessible during the tour).

From Edinburgh: Full-Day "Outlander" Explorer Tour

9. From Edinburgh: Full-Day "Outlander" Explorer Tour

Departing Edinburgh at 08:45 AM, go on a journey to some of the most famous locations from the hit series such as Doune Castle, the seat of Clan MacKenzie and the historic Linlithgow Palace.  Your guide will give you an insight into the history of each location, making this the perfect trip for those looking for a quick Outlander fix. Leave the capital behind and drive west, view Linlithgow Palace before stopping at Doune Castle, also known as Castle Leoch.  Have time to explore the grounds of this historic castle (please note Doune Castle is currently closed due to structural inspections), which was also featured as Winterfell in Game of Thrones and in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Next, go to the Kingdom of Fife, an area of great historical importance. Make a stop in Culross, where Claire was accused of witchcraft in the village of Cranesmuir. This is the most complete example of a 17th and 18th-century burgh in Scotland today. Your lunch stop will be in the village of Falkland, which was used for filming 1940’s Inverness. With over 28 listed buildings, it gives a good representation of this period. Your final stop is at Midhope Castle, the real-life Lallybroch. Arrive back in Edinburgh at 5:30 PM.

From Edinburgh: 3-Day Isle of Skye, Highlands & Loch Ness

10. From Edinburgh: 3-Day Isle of Skye, Highlands & Loch Ness

Embark on a 3-day guided trip to the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh. See the Glencoe Valley and the Eilean Donan Castle. Admire the rolling pastures of the Isle of Skye and visit lake Loch Ness. Day 1 From Edinburgh, you will head west where your first stop will be at the picturesque conservation village of Luss, on the ‘Bonny, Bonny’ banks of Loch Lomond. Traveling north via Tyndrum you will pass over the atmospheric Rannoch Moor before enjoying time to walk and admire the dramatic Glencoe valley, site of the 1692 massacre of the MacDonald Clan. After lunch in the Fort William area, your tour will pause for photos at Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, then stop to admire Glen Garry and the stunning Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range. Your first day ends in the charming village of Portree, on the Isle of Skye. Day 2 After breakfast, your will depart Portree for a full day’s touring - options include Dunvegan Castle, a trip to Uig, and a visit to Flora MacDonald’s grave and the unique Black Houses, ancient dwellings of the Scottish Highlanders. Other options include viewing Duntulum Castle, enjoying breathtaking views of Kilt Rock, or perhaps a bracing walk at the Lealt Falls. The day will end with the opportunity to admire the Old Man of Storr, before returning to Portree. Day 3 You will commence your final day of the tour via the much-admired Eilean Donan Castle, the backdrop for the movie, ‘Highlander’; (interior closed in winter) then move on to the pretty lochside village of Fort Augustus for lunch and views of Loch Ness. The tour continues south over Laggan and the Grampian mountains with the last stop, for refreshments, in the Victorian resort town of Pitlochry, before returning to Edinburgh, where the tour will end.

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Frequently asked questions about Edinburgh

What are the best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh?

The best day trips and excursions from Edinburgh are:

Loch Ness

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What people are saying about Edinburgh

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 12,976 reviews

Really enjoyed our underground vaults tour with Talia. We ended up being the only people booked on for our specific tour which resulted in a personal guide! The tour was informative and we came away knowing a lot more about Edinburgh's underground vaults and the Royal Mile.

Myself and partner came on this tour, the tour guide was absolutely amazing and he hadn’t worked here that long, he was very knowledgeable, I was outed as a witch and my partner got in the circle ( he was actually very poorly that evening… spooky lol)

The tour was great and had interesting facts bout the past of Edinburgh as well as scary stories in the vaults. Jordan was an excellent guide and we would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting the city.

Great tour! you really get to travel back in time and imagine how this wonderful city was! our tour guide Jordan was great, he made the entire experience magical Totally recommend, a little scary tho!! beware

Brilliant tour with Josh this evening! Great facts and stories - very interesting