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Edinburgh Vaults – ghost tours, tickets, prices, graveyard visits, what to expect


Edinburgh Vaults are the most extensive underground caverns in the city and offer the most popular ghost tours.

Known by many names such as South Bridge Vaults, Blair Street Vaults, Edinburgh Underground Vaults, etc., this city under city offers a fascinating peep into the poor man’s life in 18th century Edinburgh.

Many believe Edinburgh Vaults to be a hotbed of paranormal activity.

This article shares everything you must know before booking your tour tickets for the Edinburgh Vaults.

What to expect at Edinburgh Vaults

The Edinburgh Vaults, also known as the South Bridge Vaults, are a series of chambers formed in the nineteen arches of the South Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland.

These vaults were constructed in the late 18th century and used for various purposes, including storage spaces, workshops, and even living quarters for the city’s poorer residents.

Edinburgh’s haunted vaults are a popular tourist attraction today, and visitors can expect a unique and somewhat eerie experience.

Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the dimly lit chambers, sharing stories about the history of the vaults and the people who lived and worked there.

The vaults are known for their dark and atmospheric ambiance. The lighting is usually kept low to enhance the historical and sometimes spooky atmosphere.

Some tours focus on the paranormal aspect, sharing tales of supposed hauntings and encounters. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, these stories intrigue the experience.

The vaults can be cool, damp, and sometimes a bit musty. It’s advisable to dress appropriately and wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking on uneven surfaces.

Edinburgh Vaults Tickets Ticket Prices
Ghostly Underground Tour £20
Edinburgh Vaults + Canongate Graveyard £25
Underground Vaults Ghost Tour with Whisky £25

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Where to book tickets for Edinburgh Vaults

Tickets for Edinburgh Vaults are available online or at Mercat Tours office.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper.

You also get your preferred time slot when you buy online and book early.

Because some tours sell limited tickets, they may sell out during peak days. Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Once you purchase Edinburgh Vaults tickets, they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket.

On the day of your visit, meet at the Mercat Cross monument on the High Street in Edinburgh, show the e-ticket on your smartphone, and join the group.

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Edinburgh Vaults ticket prices

The ticket for the Ghostly Underground Tour is priced at £20 for all visitors aged 16 to 64 years. 

Children between five and 15 years pay a discounted price of £15 to take the tour.

Seniors above 65 years and students (16+ years with valid ID) pay £18 for the tour.

Infants aged four years and below are not permitted.

The Edinburgh Vaults + Canongate Graveyard ticket is priced at £25 for all visitors aged 18 to 64 years. 

Seniors above 65 years and students (18+ years with valid ID) pay £23 for the tour.

Infants aged 17 and younger are not permitted.

The Underground Vaults Ghost Tour with Whisky ticket is priced at £25 for all visitors aged 16 to 64. 

Children between five and 15 years pay a discounted price of £17 to take the tour.

Seniors above 65 years and students (16+ years with valid ID) pay £23 for the tour.

Infants aged four years and below are not permitted.

Edinburgh Vaults tour tickets

Edinburgh Underground Vaults tours do not have any manufactured frights or jump scares. 

Instead, during these tours, visitors are taken to the perfect ‘atmosphere’ (vaults and graveyards), where the costumed guide narrates historical facts with the refined art of storytelling. 

Children under five years aren’t allowed in any Edinburgh Vaults ghost tours for health and safety reasons.

Since these are walking tours, it is better to wear appropriate footwear. And because you will be both outdoors and indoors, you must dress up according to the weather. 

Unless you have booked a private tour of Edinburgh Underground Vaults, you will be exploring as a group, and that’s why it is crucial to reach Mercat Cross on The Royal Mile 15 minutes before the start of your tour.

Arriving early gives you enough time to check in with Mercat Tour’s representative at the meeting point. 

There are four kinds of Edinburgh Underground Vaults tours you can opt for, and we explain all of them below – 

Best Edinburgh Vaults tour

Ghostly Underground Tour is the most popular daytime walking tour of Edinburgh’s most haunted vaults.

You meet your Mercat Tours guide at Mercat Cross and get a walking tour of the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town. 

Then you get down into the depths of the city – the underground Edinburgh Vaults – and hear horror stories of torture, murder, hangings, body snatchers, etc.

Starting Point: Mercat Cross
Tour starting time: 1 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm
Duration: 75 minutes
Cancellation: 24 hours before tour date for a full refund

Ticket Price

Adult Ticket (16 to 64 years): £20
Child Ticket (5 to 15 years): £15
Student Ticket (16+ with valid ID): £18
Senior Ticket (65+ years): £18

Edinburgh Vaults + Canongate Graveyard

The tour where you explore the Edinburgh Vaults and Canongate Graveyard is called the Doomed, Dead, and Buried tour.

There are three parts to this tour.

After meeting your guide at Mercat Cross, you take a walking tour of Edinburgh’s darker closes and wynds before journeying into the haunted Blair Street Underground Vaults.

Once the ghosts below the surface get handled, the group walks the dark streets of Canongate Graveyard.

Even as you see the graves of famous Scots, you hear many tales of dastardly deeds and ghostly sightings.

Starting Point: Mercat Cross
Tour starting time: 6.30 pm
Duration: 105 minutes
Cancellation: 24 hours before tour date for a full refund

Ticket Price

Adult Ticket (18 to 64 years): £25
Senior Ticket (65+ years): £23
Student Ticket (18+ years with valid ID): £23

If you want to combine your Edinburgh Vaults visit with Greyfriars Kirkyard graveyard instead, check out this tour.

Underground Vaults Ghost Tour with Whisky

This customized vaults tour, where you also get to sip on some of the finest Whisky, has two names – the Edinburgh underground tour and the Evening of Ghosts and Ghouls.

The tour starts with a leisurely walk along Edinburgh Old Town’s cobbled streets, even as the guide prepares you for what’s to come.

You then step into Blair Street’s Underground Vaults for your share of Edinburgh’s ghost experience. 

The tour ends in a candlelit cellar with a Scottish whiskey in your hand and many scary stories.

If you don’t prefer a whiskey, there is always a glass of lager or soft drink.

Starting Point: Mercat Cross
Tour starting time: 7 pm
Duration: 2 hours
Cancellation: 24 hours before tour date for a full refund

Ticket Price

Adult Ticket (16 to 64 years): £25
Child Ticket (5 to 15 years): £17
Student Ticket (16+ years with valid ID): £23
Senior Ticket (65+ years): £23

Edinburgh Vaults night tour

The night tours are also known as the Mercat’s Hidden and haunted tours

This Edinburgh Vaults ghost tour is so chilling that only visitors 18 years and above can join in.

Stories of sinister misdeeds and terrible consequences start above the ground even as you explore the Old Town. 

But soon enough, you are in the Edinburgh South Bridge Vaults and hear of bloody plots that led to treason, torture, horrific deaths, and tormented souls.

Starting Point: Mercat Cross
Tour starting time: 8 pm
Duration: 1 hour
Cancellation: 24 hours before tour date for a full refund

Ticket Price

Adult Ticket (18 to 64 years): £20
Student Ticket (18+ years with ID): £18
Senior Ticket (65+ years): £18

If you prefer an Edinburgh Ghost tour that starts even later, check out this Extreme Paranormal Underground tour that begins at 9.15 pm

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How to reach Edinburgh Vaults 

Since Edinburgh Vaults are under Blair Street, they are also known as the Blair Street Vaults.

And since these Vaults are also part of South Bridge, they also get referred to as South Bridge vaults.

Address: Mercat Tours 28 Blair Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1QR, United Kingdom. Get Directions

Tours start from Mercat Cross

All Edinburgh Underground tours start with a quick walk through the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

That’s why all tours start from Mercat Cross, which is .3 km (.2 miles) from the Mercat Tours office. 

Mercat Tours to Mercat Cross

Mercat Tours’ staff are available at Mercat Cross from 10 am to 12.15 pm, 1.15 pm to 6.15 pm, and 6.45 pm to 10.15 pm to welcome the guests.

Mercat tour guides at Mercat Cross
You can spot Mercat Tours’ guides by their Mercat branded black jackets and badges. Image: Mercat Tours

You can reach the meeting point by car or public transport.

By Train

Edinburgh Waverly is the closest railway station to Mercat Cross. Available trains are Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Caledonian Sleeper, LNER, ScotRail, lumo,

Once you get down from the train, walk the .3 Kms (.2 Miles) to Mercat Cross or take a taxi from outside the station on Market Street and Waverly Bridge.

By Bus

Many buses can take you to Mercat Cross.

Board bus numbers 9, 23, or 27 and get down at Victoria Street. Take a three minute walk to reach the meeting point.

You can also get onto bus numbers 35 or 45 and get down at National Museum or Scotland bus station. Take a seven minute walk via George IV Bridge to the meeting point.

Another bus stop with seven minutes walk to Mercat Cross is Princes Street (Stop PR) with available buses 10, 11, 15, 16, 101, 101A, 102, N11, N16, N37, N43, N107, N113, X54, X55, X56, X58, X58A, X59, X59A, X60, and X61.

For more on bus routes and timings, check out Lothian Buses

By Tram

The tram stop closest to Mercat Cross is St Andrew’s Square

This tram stop is also where people get down to go to the Waverly Station. 

By Car

You can reach the meeting point by car, turn on Google Maps and get started.

There are numerous parking garages around Mercat Cross.

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Edinburgh Vaults hours

Edinburgh's underground vaults
Edinburgh’s underground vaults. Image: GetYourGuide

Edinburgh Vaults are open all through the week. 

Only Mercat Tours has exclusive rights to allow visitors inside Edinburgh Vaults for exploration. Their first tour starts at 10 am, and the day’s last tour begins at 9.15 pm. 

These Vaults are open all through the year, except for three days during Christmas, 24 December, 25 December, and 26 December

On New Year’s Eve, the Blair Street Underground Vaults tours finish early – by 5 pm. 

Mercat tours office timings

Mercat Tours office is open from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 6 pm on weekends. 

But if you book your Edinburgh Vaults tickets online, you don’t need to visit their office. 

How long does Edinburgh Vaults tour take

The duration of a tour of the Edinburgh Vaults can vary depending on your specific tour package.

Most standard guided tours of the vaults last around 1 to 2 hours.

This time frame allows for a comprehensive exploration of the chamber’s explanations of the historical context and anecdotes about using the vaults over the years.

The duration might be adjusted if you opt for a more specialized tour, such as one focused on paranormal activity or historical details.

Remember that the atmospheric conditions in the vaults and the historical information provided during the tour contribute to a unique and engaging experience.

Best time to go on tour

Some tours of the Edinburgh Vaults are conducted during the day, while others occur in the evening or at night.

Nighttime tours, especially those focused on the paranormal, can enhance the atmospheric experience.

Daytime tours may offer a different perspective and allow you to see the architectural details more clearly.

If you prefer a more intimate experience with smaller crowds, consider visiting on a weekday.

The summer months (June to August) generally have milder temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it a popular time for tourists.

However, this could also mean larger crowds.

If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) or autumn (September to October).

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Edinburgh Vaults tour reviews

Mercat Tours to the Edinburgh Vaults are highly-rated on Tripadvisor.

We share two of Edinburgh Vaults Tripadvisor reviews, which give you an idea of what to expect.

Most Interesting Tour

I was uninterested, but my wife was all for it, so off we went. How wrong my original thoughts were. It is A FASCINATING AND INTERESTING TOUR with many historical stories of doom and gloom and how the people lived and endured squalor in those ancient times. Take this tour. It is fantastic and made even better by the most interesting and knowledgeable guide, Nicky. Well worth it. – Nick, Penarth, UK

Doomed, Dead & Buried

We had a fabulous guide called Helena. She gave a lot of information and made it fun. The vaults and the graveyard were cool. You felt all included, and it was interactive, but only a little. I highly recommend it; make sure you are prepared to walk a little, not massively far, but still walking. – Anna P, Sheen, UK

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Edinburgh Vaults history – story of underground ghosts

We must first understand the city’s history to understand the Edinburgh Vaults or South Bridge Vaults.

Impact of Flodden Wall on the city

The English kept invading the Scots regularly; the biggest battle was the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

After this battle, Edinburgh decided to build the Flodden Wall. 

Edinburgh map with Flodden Wall
This is the map of Central Edinburgh, showing the locations of the town walls, overlaid on the present day streets. Map Courtesy: Jonathan Oldenbuck

Key to the map above:

A: Edinburgh Castle
B: Flodden Tower
C: Greyfriars Kirkyard
D: Netherbow Port
E: Waverley station

Orange line: King’s Wall (1450-1475)
Red line: Flodden Wall (1514-1560)
Purple line: Telfer Wall (1620)
Blue overlap: Approximate spread of the former Nor Loch

With the Nor Loch swamp forming one line of defense and Edinburgh Castle forming the next, the city decided to build a wall (the red line in the map above) to protect them from surprise attacks.

While the Flodden Wall and the region’s natural geography helped protect the city from English attacks, they didn’t allow it to expand with time.

As a result, the residents started living on top of one another.

In a way, the birth of modern skyscrapers can be attributed to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh’s lay out

Edinburgh is built amongst seven major hills, of which only two are visible today – Castle Hill (Edinburgh Castle is on this hill) and Calton Hill.

The other five hills of this fortified city are now masked by five bridges, which even out the metropolitan (well, almost) and cover up the valleys. 

Eight of Edinburgh’s hidden tunnels and vaults, built around the Old Town over centuries, lie under these bridges.

  1. South Bridge Vaults
  2. Mary King’s Close
  3. Gilmerton Cove
  4. Waverley Vaults
  5. Scotland Street Tunnel
  6. The Crawley Tunnel
  7. Innocent Railway Tunnel

Of these eight, South Bridge Vaults and Mary King’s Close are the most popular from a tourism perspective.

South Bridge Vaults 

South Bridge was built to cover the Cowgate Gorge and link the Old Town’s High Street with the University buildings in the South of Edinburgh. 

The Bridge was proposed in 1775, but work didn’t start till 1785. 

Three Closes – Marlin’s Wynd, Peebles Wynd, and Niddry’s Wynd – were demolished in the city’s Cowgate area to make way for the Bridge.

Back in the day, these Closes were the city’s poorest neighborhoods. 

Once the construction began in August 1785, it was quick, and the Bridge was ready for the public in 1788. 

The South Bridge consists of 19 arches spanning around 305 meters (1000 feet), out of which only one arch was visible – the Cowgate arch.

At its highest point, the Bridge stands 9.5 meters (31 feet) above the ground, and in some places, the foundations are up to 6.7 meters (22 feet) into the ground. 

South Bridge gets jinxed

One of the elderly residents of the city was to inaugurate the South Bridge when its construction was finally over in 1788. 

She was the wife of a well-known and respected Judge, so everyone was excited. 

But as fate would have it, a few days before the grand opening, the lady passed away. 

Edinburgh’s superstitious people saw this as a bad sign but didn’t know it would worsen.

The city authorities decided to continue with the plan – and instead of the elderly lady walking across the Bridge, her coffin ‘crossed’ the South Bridge.

Most city people believed the South Bridge was cursed and refused to use it for many years. 

With time, Edinburgh’s South Bridge started to see traffic, and now merchants wanted to build shops along the top of the Bridge to capitalize on the crowd.

To accommodate these shop fronts, they built tenement houses on both sides of 18 of the 19 arches of the South Bridge. 

They also used up the hollow in the Bridge’s arches to create more space for rent or personal use, constructing dark, airless, vaulted chambers.

Initially, these underground vaults were used for workshops, storage, warehousing, etc., but the poverty-stricken moved in with time.

There is enough proof that these vaults were used for criminal activities such as gambling and illegal whiskey distilling as well. 

Even serial killers Burke and Hare got linked to South Bridge Vaults, but there is no proof that they used the vaults to store the bodies of people they killed. 

Within just 30 years of being inaugurated, the South Bridge Underground Vaults became unusable. 

The lack of light, ventilation, heat, plumbing, sanitation, and water seepage made it an unlivable space, even for the poorest poor. 

By 1820, the City of Edinburgh had decided that nobody should live in these underground spaces and closed them.

However, South Bridge is still in use – 230 years after its inauguration.

Discovery of Edinburgh’s underground vaults

The Edinburgh Vaults were rediscovered more than 150 years after they had been closed by the city council. 

In the 1980s, former Scottish rugby internationalist Norrie Rowan found a tunnel leading to the vaults. 

Soon enough, Des Brogan, a history teacher, joined hands with three other history teachers and started offering ghost tours. 

The first tour of South Bridge’s Edinburgh Vaults took place on 1 July 1985. 

Des Brogan would go on to found Mercat Tours, which holds the exclusive rights to organize Edinburgh Vaults tours today.

FAQs about Edinburgh Vaults

Here are some frequently asked questions about Edinburgh Vaults:

Do I have to book the Edinburgh Vaults tour?

The tour operator sells limited tickets to ensure the best small group experience. Remember to book your tour in advance to avoid last-minute disappointment. Book in advance to guarantee your place on the tour of your choice.

Where does the Edinburgh Vaults tour start?

All vault tours start at the Mercat Cross, an octagonal stone monument on the Royal Mile opposite the City Chambers. You can also find it by using the postcode EH1 1RF.

Can I turn up and pay cash before the Edinburgh Vaults tour?

The tour takes place in small groups. Small groups mean tickets are limited, so we recommend booking your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. There may be tickets available at the Mercat Cross office, and they accept card payments, depending on availability.

What should I wear for the tour?

The vaults can be cool and damp, so wearing comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes is recommended. Dressing in layers is a good idea.

Are the vaults wheelchair accessible?

The Edinburgh Vaults have limited accessibility due to the site’s historic nature, with uneven surfaces and stairs. Thus, the tour is not suitable for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments.

# Visitscotland.com
# Mercattours.com
# Wikipedia.org
# Historic-uk.com

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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