Spooky reasons to visit Edinburgh

Last updated: Thursday, 19 October 2023

Let’s be bold: no city has a Halloween pedigree quite like Edinburgh’s.

The capital’s history is blood-soaked and populated with a gruesome cast of ghosts, ghouls, body snatchers and the occasional cannibal. From the dark wynds of the Old Town to the depths of the city’s underground vaults, there’s no better place to experience the spooky festivities this October.

And there’s no shortage of ways to experience it either: book your Off-Peak or Advance ticket and take the train to Edinburgh, where you can scare yourself silly at some great attractions such as The Edinburgh Dungeon and Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tours. Then there are the walking tours with costumed guides – pick one that you think you can handle, and prepare for spooks and thrills.

Don’t forget if you’re travelling with your own little guys and ghouls, up to four of them can travel for just £1 return each with a Kids for a Quid ticket. Simply purchase your Kids for a Quid ticket from a spooking, ahem sorry, booking office before you travel.

Here’s our roundup of the best things to do in Edinburgh to get spooked this October.

Edinburgh Dungeon

The Edinburgh Dungeon

The first place to start is the darkest of the lot: the Edinburgh Dungeon. And this year, they’re asking "Will you escape The Death Cell?" Included in your admission ticket between 7 – 31 October 2023, you’re invited to travel back 100 years to meet the vile souls of Edinburgh's notorious Carlton Jail. Certainly not one for the faint-hearted! Tickets must be booked in advance through the Edinburgh Dungeon website here . The experience is recommended for ghosts and ghouls over eight years old.

The Ghost Bus Tour Edinburgh

Board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus for a comedy-horror theatrical sightseeing tour of Edinburgh. Your conductor will point out the city’s most famous sights, and tell the stories of grave robbers, murders and executions that took place at each one. There’s a reason Edinburgh is known as the most haunted city in Europe. Be sure to book in advance to secure your spook-tacular tour!

City of Edinburgh Tours

City of Edinburgh Tours has a variety of tours available depending on your desired horror level. For a less fearsome option, take an afternoon ghost tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town and underground vaults, with a local guide in full period costume. You’ll hear stories of Edinburgh’s dark past, plus a few bad jokes on the side. If your kids like a spooky tale or two, there are tours suitable for ages five and up. For the hardened ghost hunter, the adults-only Extreme Paranormal Ghost Tour could be the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit. Pre-booking your tour is essential - check their website for info . Plus, if you do end up taking your little ghouls with you don’t forget they travel for £1 return with a Kids for a Quid ticket on any ScotRail service.

Mercat Tours

With four spooktacular tours to choose from this Halloween, Mercat Tours have something for everyone over the age of five, whatever your scare threshold! To really get the spine tingling, opt for the adults only 'Haunted Halloween' or 'Raising the dead' tours - both are bound to leave even the bravest of souls suitably terrified as you explore the famous Blair Street Underground Vaults in these immersive tours. Tours run from Friday 27 until Tuesday 31 October 2023. All the information you need to plan your spine-chilling Halloween is on the Mercat Tours website here.

Edinburgh Zoo Spooktacular. credit: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS)

The Real Mary King’s Close

This Halloween, experience the historic Close like never before on an atmospheric lantern-led tour between 13 - 31 October. Step below the streets of Edinburgh to discover what life was like, as told by one of the former residents. What sort of characters will you encounter as you descend the steps onto Mary King's Close?

For a more chilling experience, the 18+ True Crime Tours will reveal the terrifying truths about the murders and horrors that took place in the Close and the surrounding areas. Feeling brave? These tours run from 13 until 31 October. Book now if you dare ...

Edinburgh Zoo

Take your ghosts and ghouls to the zoo this Halloween for some wonderfully spooky fun before and after hours. From Friday 27 – Tuesday 31 October, join the zoo rangers for an eerie "Halloween Hoots" tour when the main gates close. Or if you like your scares first thing, enjoy an early morning "Zoo Boo!" tour and breakfast on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 October between 9 – 11am. Over the Halloween weekend you can also carve a spooky pumpkin and learn about behavioural enrichment for the creatures of the zoo.

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the zoo for Halloween. Remember, one child gets free entry to Edinburgh Zoo with a paying adult when you show a Kids for a Quid ticket.

Still got an appetite? Try Edinburgh’s oldest pub

According to some, The Sheep’s Heid Inn was built in 1360, making it Edinburgh’s oldest pub. Where better to go for a bite to eat after, or during, your ghost-hunting exploits?

It’s old enough to have witnessed anything you’ll hear about on a ghost tour of the city – and a whole lot more besides. The most recent claim to fame? The Queen dropped in on her way home from the races in 2016. Rumour has it Her Majesty had the lamb.

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Or eat at The Witchery

With its oak panels, aged leather and candlelight, The Witchery is a lavish place to eat this Halloween. There’s nothing frightening about the food: just a legendary beef tartare and sumptuous seafood platters. Just the thing.

Find it in a collection of old buildings by the gate of Edinburgh Castle – deeply atmospheric at this time of year.

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Forget broomsticks. Get there by train.

Catch the train to Edinburgh - the most haunted city in Europe - this October to take in all the spooky festivities. Book an Off-Peak ticket to Edinburgh and experience the capital at its most ghoulish.

Take the ghost train to the capital
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