This Halloween, City of Edinburgh Tours are doing something a little bit different. We are running a special Haunted Graveyard Tour. This tour will take you down the Royal Mile to the Canongate Kirkyard and then back up and across the North Bridge to the Old Calton Burial Ground. You will hear gruesome and terrible stories of Edinburgh’s past. Beware though, at Halloween the spirits walk our world with us and some of them have stories they’d much rather were left untold.
Follow your guide through the Old Town’s twists and turns, through the graveyards and the streets and be cast back to a bygone era. This tour however is absolutely not for the faint hearted. These stories are true, and also truly horrifying. There are in-depth descriptions of torture, witchcraft, murder and even a story from the not-so-distant past. Ghosts are not simply a medieval phenomenon.
This tour is for you if you are a bit of a thrill seeker. It’s for you if you’re a ghost hunter, both amateur or pro. It’s for our skeptics out there too! It’ll have you questioning everything you thought you knew, and then some. The hair on the back of your neck might be permanently on end.
Join us at 8.30pm and 10.30pm on the 26th, 27th 31st October and the 2nd and 3rd of November at our starting point, the Old Police Box on the Royal Mile. It’s located outside Starbucks and the Tron Kirk. This tour is for 18+ and lasts for 90 minutes. Purchase tickets at the link below. This event is certainly not to be missed. If you’re brave enough, of course.
Some people make the trip to Edinburgh just to experience it, while others unknowingly book an August holiday only to be thrown in the whirlwind that is Edinburgh Festival Fringe. With over 3,000 shows to choose from, there is surely something for everyone, be it a comedy night, a concert or a theatrical performance. Regardless of what you go for, there are a few useful things to know about this Scottish cultural phenomenon.
The Fringe, as it is known for short, was first established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival. This is, in fact, the origin of its name: this other festival was on the outside, on the outskirts – the “fringe” – of the official one. It started with just eight theatre companies showing off their best work in smaller, alternative venues. Over the years, it grew into a month-long, world-famous celebration of the arts, one that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every time.
In fact, the population of Edinburgh is said to double during August – so don’t be offended if you encounter some grumbling locals! The Old Town in particular, a hub of activity throughout the year, is even busier for the whole festival period. The Royal Mile is the place to be for street performances, arts and crafts vendors, and emerging artists eager to offer you a flyer for their show. But what to do if you want to escape all the hubbub? Why, descend into the underground vaults, of course. Since access is limited to guides tours, it will just be you, your knowledgeable guide…and perhaps the spirits.
City of Edinburgh Tours is a proud participant in the yearly Festival celebrations. For the month of August, our old and trusted Police Box doubles as Venue 157, the starting point of all the old favourites along with Fringe specials. From the children’s show running every day at 12 and 1, to the Real Fear scare fest at 8:45, you are bound to find a tour suitable for your taste. Check out the full offer here, and please drop by to say hi!
Every so often an iconic novel, film or indeed television series draws the rest of the World’s attention towards Scotland. In 1995 Braveheart and the story of William Wallace’s fight for FREEDOM gripped millions of viewers who were totally unfamiliar with the Medieval Wars of Scottish Independence. While in 2012 Pixar’s Brave showcased Scotland’s beauties to a whole new generation, through Princess Merida’s individuality and incredible animation. More recently Outlander has captured the imaginations of audiences across the Globe. Since the publication of her first novel in 1998, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been delighting fans across the world. Outlander’s tremendously loyal following has only hugely increased following the première of the wildly successful television series in 2014, starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.
If, amazingly, you don’t happen to know your Outlander from your Zoolander here’s a short précis. In 1945 Claire and Frank Randall, who had served as a nurse and intelligence officer during the war, travel to Inverness for a second honeymoon. When Claire visits a standing stone circle, to her astonishment, she finds herself transported back in time to the Highlands of the 1740s. There she meets Jamie Fraser a soldier and outlaw with whom, unexpectedly, she falls in love and marries. The books (as well as the TV series) relate the adventures of Claire and Jamie as they grapple with the tumultuous events of this period, including the dramatic Jacobite uprising of 1745-6.
Each of the plots of the 8 Outlander novels, published so far, are certainly enthralling and the descriptions of the beauty of the Scottish Highlands are richly evocative. However what distinguishes Outlander from other works of fantasy or science-fiction is a strong degree of historical realism, based on a commendable amount of research. For the most part the books feel very faithful to the period, even more impressive is the depiction of real individuals from Scotland’s past. For instance the very human frailties of the leader of the last Jacobite revolt “Bonnie Prince Charlie” are laid bare. Within the Outlander stories Charles Stuart is at times accurately portrayed as an idiotic fop but one who is also trapped by an unrealistic expectation to right the mistakes of his grandfather and retake the British throne for his family. This stands in favourable contrast to other works of literature that depict Charles, most glaringly Walter Scott’s Waverley, which overwhelmingly show him as a two dimensional romantic hero.
At the same time Highland Scots are represented in a sympathetic light but not as mere victims of aggression from the might of the British Empire. Characters on both sides of the Jacobite/Hanoverian divide can behave honourably or dishonourably, as heroes or villains. Of course the central antagonist of the first two Outlander books is Captain “Black Jack” Randall, a British army officer, and violent sociopath, who is also an ancestor of Claire’s first husband Frank (played with chilling intensity by Tobias Menzies in the TV series). However Captain Randall’s barbarous actions are clearly demonstrated to be abnormal and not representative of his fellow officers. Another villain (as well as real-life Highland chieftain) is Jamie’s grandfather Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. Lovat is rightfully portrayed as a dishonest, cruel monster, whose dynastic and personal loyalties are dependent on which side offers him more.
Although the majesty and unique culture of the Scottish Highlands form perhaps the soul of Outlander the books take place in a number of different places. Events bring Claire and Jamie to the court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XV, the American colonies in the lead up to the Revolutionary War but also to Scotland’s ancient capital – Edinburgh. Edinburgh features prominently within the second and third Outlander books, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, firstly in the year 1745 at the time of the Jacobite army’s occupation of the city and again in 1765 when Claire returns following a twenty year absence to find Jamie. The wild and open spaces of the Highlands stand in stark contrast to the crowded, cramped and incredibly unsanitary conditions of the Old Town. Yet Voyager especially also conveys a city on the cusp of great change with construction on the New Town about to begin.
It’s been amazing to see the extent to which Outlander has not only struck a chord with so many people but encouraged some to find out more about this fascinating period and visit Scotland. At City of Edinburgh Tours we’re immensely proud to offer our new Outlander & Jacobite Tour. Our tour (led by a guide in full Highland dress playing a Fraser clansman) takes you to filming locations for series three of Outlander including where scenes for Carfax Close were shot, historical sites referenced in the novels as well as some of the jails, closes and dining houses visited by Claire and Jamie. Beyond Outlander itself, this excursion will delve into the history of the Jacobite cause, what eighteenth-century Edinburgh was really like and find out what it was like to live and fight as a Highlander. Discover your inner Highlander with us!
Our Outlander and Jacobite Tours take place every Friday and Saturday at 11 AM. Book here.
Gains Murdoch (Alexander Fraser on Friday and Saturday mornings)