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Auld Reekie Terror Tour (Edinburgh)

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5 Reviews

Address: 45 Niddry St / Edinburgh / EH1 1LG / Scotland

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      19.04.2011 06:36
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      A tour of some of Edinburgh's allegedly haunted underground vaults

      I took this tour back in March while on a short trip to Edinburgh. I took just the short tour, which encompassed just the vaults under the city rather than the full tour, which included a walk around some haunted streets. Our tour lasted 45 minutes and cost 8.50. A full tour lasted 1.5 hours and cost 11.50. There were about three tours daily, although the above ground tour only happened after dark.

      Basically, below Edinburgh's most famous street, the Royal Mile, there are hundreds and hundreds of vaults and cellars originally intended to be used for storage. However, due the porosity of the rock above, everything stored in them got wet and so they were abandoned. As a result, hundreds of homeless and street people moved in, to escape from rigid city laws forbidding anyone to sleep on the streets.

      After choosing a tour and meeting at the arranged time, we went down into the tour's office to pay. There, were told what the tour entailed, that we would go to a torture museum first and then into the vaults under the city. The guide was quick to point out that it was pretty scary, and that if we freaked out and wanted to leave it would be possible at any time but there would be no refund. Fair enough, I thought.

      So, paid up, off we went. The "torture museum" turned out to be just a private collection of rusty torture tools owned by the tour owner, hung from the wall of a single small room. I've been to actual torture museums before (miserable places!) filled with racks and other nasty machines, so I was expecting a little more. In addition, the guide only explained the use of a couple of items and we weren't given time to look around.

      Next, we moved down into the vaults. They were poorly lit, damp and creepy places, which immediately made you feel a little spooked. I thought we'd do a decent walking tour of the vaults but in actual fact we only looked inside three of them. Each one looked exactly the same except for one which had a stone circle inside.

      The guide proceeded to tell us a creepy story in each one. The stories, apparently true, were all extremely grisly and concerned the people who used to live in the vaults. The tout on the street above had told us that children were allowed on the cellar tour, which surprised me because some of the tales involved children being exploited, raped, murdered, burned to death, etc.. The guide was extremely enthusiastic but you got the impression that this was just at attempt to creep us out, because of the vaults themselves there wasn't a great deal to see. The guide seemed happy to tell us about other tour customers who'd freaked out, acted strangely, or claimed to have seen ghosts. It was almost like an attempt at hypnotizing us into seeing more than we actually were.

      However, I did have my own creepy experience in one vault. There were only six people on our tour, and in the last cellar, with my girlfriend's hand in my left hand I experienced what felt like a small hand tugging on my right upper arm. It lasted only a moment and I didn't say anything because I didn't want to play up to the guide's expectations, but it certainly was strange. I'm not a believer or a non-believer in such things, I just believe that we don't know everything about our world, and while it could have just been my coat settling suddenly or a psychological response to the guide's constant ghost stories, I won't rule out the possibility that I had a "ghostly" experience.

      After that last cellar, we were taken up into a pub built into another section of the vaults, where we were given piece of shortcake and a free whiskey. It was a nice touch, I thought. We stayed around to talk to the other customers but the guide disappeared immediately rather than wait around for us to ask any questions.

      Overall, I'm in two minds whether I got my money's worth. While it was interesting in terms of the historical content, we didn't actually see a great deal and I got the impression, having seen lots of touts about, that there were many companies, each with a lease to their own little section of the vaults, making a large buck out of tourists. Our group only had six people, but the guide said their biggest group ever was eighty-four, and to cram that many people on to a single tour and expect them to enjoy it sounded like a shameless cash grab.

      One final point was that while I thought that the guide was engaging and knew his subject, he talked much too fast. Of our group of six, there were two Mexicans, an Italian, and my Japanese girlfriend, and from discussions in the pub afterwards none of them could easily follow what he said. As a tour that no doubt sees numerous foreign customers I thought that was something they ought to address.

      It was pretty scary and I was quick happy for it to finish, but (ghostly experience aside!) mostly for what the guide told us rather than for what we saw. The Mexican woman in our group was so scared that she refused to go into the final vault but no one actually pulled out, although the guide said it was quite a common thing to happen.

      I'd recommend this tour or one of the many similar ones on a visit to Edinburgh simply because the history was interesting, but don't get your expectations up to high.

      The company website is

      www.auldreekietours.com

      where you can find further information concerning times and prices.

      Also on ciao under headofwords.

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        07.12.2010 13:25
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        A fun but dissapointing experience

        As Edinburgh is purported to be the most haunted city in Europe I was interested in going on a ghost tour. Now I am a bit of a sceptic and don't really believe in ghosts and spirits but I thought it would be a fun interesting thing to do.
        With the Edinburgh card there were a couple of ghost tours that were free to go on with the card so I asked the lady in the tourist information office which one she would recommend. I wanted something fun but not too tacky and she said the Auld Reekie terror tour was a popular choice and people always commented to her that they enjoyed it.

        It was really easy to go on as no forward booking was involved. We were told that we just had to meet outside the old kirk in the old town at a certain time and the guide would meet everyone who was going on the tour there.
        We chose to go on the later tour which started at 22:30 and the meet-up church was easy to find as there were about 30 people milling around outside all waiting for the guide to show up.
        The guide showed up a couple of minutes after the stated time and we waited around for a few minutes in case there were any stragglers.

        The guide was American which immediately took away some of the spooky atmosphere for me as although she knew her stuff it was difficult to get into the gory history of the stories when the guide was talking like someone out of sweet valley high.
        She took the group to the Auld Reekie offices so that people could pay and we could get tickets and afterwards the real tour started.
        The tour involved a walking tour of the old town area of the city where we got a lot of history and stories all involving death and killing in mediaeval times. This was fascinating but as the old town has a lot of bars and clubs we were forever being interrupted by drunk people and although quite funny it did take away from the atmosphere.

        After walking round the old town it was time for the main event which was a tour of the underground vaults which lie below the city.
        Before we could reach the underground vaults we had to go through a medieval torture chamber museum which was ok but I was more interested in getting to the vaults and since there was so many people it took quite a long time for everyone to go in and have a look.
        The vaults themselves were not really what I was expecting as they sort of looked just like a basement in an old house.
        At least the atmosphere was there as they were dimly lighted and had a damp smell which was quite oppressive and really lent itself well to the whole feeling. I think that if I had been there by myself then I might have been quite scared but with another 30 people beside me it did take away some of the potential scariness.

        We had a look around the vaults and one was currently being used by a local coven of witches but this was locked so we weren't able to go in that one.
        I had been waiting for some sort of tacky cheap scare since the tour started and I wasn't disappointed, I won't spoil it for those people who are interested in doing the tour but needless to say it didn't manage to scare any of the entire group and got more groans than screams. I actually felt quite embarrassed for the tour guide at this point and felt sorry for her that she had to do this every night.

        Once the tour was over the guide thanked us and told us that our tickets included a free drink in the bar adjacent to the vaults which we had to actually go through to exit. Now I was expecting some olde world pub but when we exited into the bar it was more like a night club with techno music blaring. Now if the tour had actually been scary in the least then this would have completely obliterated any leftover scares. As it hadn't been scary in the least it didn't bother me but I still think it was a weird decision of the company to exit the tour through a bar. Now I know it's all about profits and they are hoping people will stay and spend some more money but my group had quite a lot of older people in it who I doubt appreciated being led into a techno bar with loads of young people dressed up while they were in walking gear.
        I made use of my free drink but not many of the rest of the group actually did.

        We didn't pay for the tour as we had our cards but the cost is £12 for adults and children aren't allowed on this tour. This isn't really a bad price considering what you get. It is by no means the scary experience they promise but it is interesting and I actually quite enjoyed it as it is a unique experience and not something that you are going to be able to say you have done in every city you have visited.
        If you are going to go on the tour then just be prepared for crowds and also if you are a believer then go into it with your eyes wide open that you aren't going to see any actual ghosts and take it in the fun spirit it is intended.

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          03.01.2010 15:12
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          A must to see the most haunted vaults and most prolific

          Having been to Edinburgh twice in the past year I can highly recommend auld reekie tours for the ghostly underground vault experience.

          We went on the terror tour which is at 10pm and costs £10 each lasting approx. 1 hour. Met at the tour guides platform in the city centre we were taken to the auld reekie office where we had to pay and be given a stamp on our hand.

          We were then led by a woman in full costume and who was incredibly theatrical around the city with true stories and given the history of various areas where terror and witchcraft took place.
          This part of the tour was fantastic, going through alleyways/closes to focal points and various sites where torture and hangings took place. I did however find this a little disconcerting at one point in an alleyway where some youths were in a group and hanging around and the guide stated that she was with a group only a few weeks ago who were chased away, so a little unnerving to say the least, but perhaps this fear added to the evening!

          After our walking tour of the city we went back to the auld reekie office which is located in front of the haunted vaults where our tour was to continue. We walked up some stairs and were led through being told to keep close by as its dark and stay together as a group.

          The atmousphere was enticing and relatively tense, the air was very musty and dense so I wouldnt advise asthmatics to go down there. We were shown the witches covern chapel and told of its history and then the various vaults thruogh the coridoors which were haunted.

          There were a few unusual noises but nothing actually happened on the first tour I went to, the guide was thorough in her tellings, and told us unnerving and horrific statments whilst located in each vault.

          At the end we were standing with females one side and males the other and told how the ghost didnt like females and then it ended with a female guide jumping out on us all and frightening us, which did indeed work!

          All in all an excellent evening for entertainment and the vaults themselves area must see and can only be seen through an auld reekie tour, therefore is a must. They are frightening to young especially and those of a nervous disposition but more informative rather than a ghost hunt.

          I would recommend this tour for its interest, young and fun guides who make a theatrical performance for the whole tour and to get to see the most haunted vaults. There are other tours such as merkat that are history based and can be quite boring whilst walking round them however the vaults shown are fantastic.

          Our only downfall was that the tour states you are given a free drinks ticket to go in the pub next door, which didnt happen and in fact the pub had shut down, so that was dissappointing but all in all excellent.

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            16.06.2009 15:05
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            Great tour

            Having just returned from a long weekend in Edinburgh, the first thing I wanted to advise people to go do was the 'Auld Reekie' ghastly terror tour!

            This tour is a walking tour, so my first bit of advice is for the ladies not to wear high heels! You will be walking over cobbled steets and up and down steep hills, so best to get your sensible shoes on!

            Auld Reekie is a Victorian nickname for Edinburgh - although the guide did not explain this, we found this out later while overlooking the city from Camera Obscura. It is a rough translation of old smokey, because of all the chimneys belching out smoke all over the city back in the nineteenth century. This has all been banned in the city now, so it is a lot cleaner.

            My wife and I went on the 10.00 pm tour so that we would get to do the tour in the dark to increase the fear factor! The tickets cost £10, and the tour lasted an hour and a half so it is well worth it.

            The guide greeted us at the Tron Kirk, dressed up in some ye olde world garb. Our guide was knowledgable and did set the scene well, but this was my only area of dissatisfaction, as our guide was an American. Now I have nothing against Americans per se, but she kept referring to 'us' when clearly she meant Scottish people. Now I know that it was just part of the script and was being done to set the scene, but still....

            So we were taken round a couple of streets and told about witch burning and killing that took place outside St Giles Cathedral and then a quick stop in the torture museum where we were shown lots of horrednous implements used on humans of all ages and sexes before going deep into the vaults. The torture stuff was interesting, but to call it a 'museum' is possibly erroneous, as it was more like a room with 15 things in.

            The Nar lough which is now Princes Street Graden, sounded like a truly disgusting place. This was where all of the excrement would have ended up (as there were no toilet facilities a bucket was emptied twice a day and it all would have run down the hills into the lough) and all sorts of waste ended up here. This added to the idea of a generally not very nice place.

            The vaults were home to all kinds of robbers, thieves, murderers, rapists and all round bad people. This was because homelessness was outlawed, but obviously the poorest people needed somewhere to live. Our guide told us that the city even stopped investigating anything that went on there, which only increased the crime.

            The vaults themselves were quite eerie, all very dark and a few candle lights. The guide kept telling us a few 'scary' stories, and we went into a room where the local witch occult guy had apparently stayed and was terrorised by ghosts, etc, etc - you know the usual stuff! Now I may be sounding pretty dismissive now, but during it, I was as scared as anyone!

            The tour culminates in a room where the guide turns off her light and....well, if I told you that I would ruin it!

            Part of the tour included two free drinks. Oh sorry, wait, beer is extra, the free drinks are vodka and mixer. These were given where the tour ended - in the 'most haunted pub in Edinburgh'. This was where some entrepreneur had turned a few of the vaults into a small club full of under 18's drinking. That was probably the scariest thing I saw.

            The tour was good though, the guide very knowledgable and the vaults pretty creepy. Definitely worth doing.

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              15.05.2009 13:46
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              Worth a try, would probably be excellent without loads of people!

              So yes, Edinburgh probably is one of the scariest cities with all its crazy history, narrow creepy streets and of course the underground vaults.

              On the May bank holiday a group consisting of me and 5 of my closest girlfriends went to Edinburgh to experience the terror tour. We were excited about it all day long and at around 10:30am we met our guide along with a group of about 35 - 40 other people.

              The guide was dressed suitably in olde style clothing with a huge fake gash down her neck and started by telling us a little bit about what the tour would consist of. Then she took as a short walk to where we would pay, this would probably have been fine if it was a small group of people but the fact there was around 40 possibly more, it took a long long time for us all to get our tickets and our hands stamped as the ticket booth was in a very small room, one person was serving and as everyone decided to just pile in with no orderly queue even if you got in getting out was the problem. Tickets cost £10, £9 for students.

              So then the tour began we walked in the streets for a while hearing ghost stories, funny stories, and a bit about the gruesome history of Edinburgh - mostly to do with the killing of those who were accused of being witches.

              Next we went towards the underground vaults, firstly before we entered we went to the torture room which was full of real torture equipment. This room would probably have been quite interesting but as it was probably just a little bit bigger than where we got the tickets me and the girls could not see anything, and as there was someone translating everything the guide said into Spanish standing beside us it was extremely difficult to even here the descriptions of the equipment or what it was used for -and yes many of you may be thinking why not just move? To where. To where in a room full of people. This was slightly disappointing. Never mind, onto the vaults.

              The vaults consisted of narrow halls to begin with, then you entered the vaults which had a very eerie feel to them but again the sheer volume of people took some of the spookyness away. They are supposedly one of the most active areas for phenomenal activity but the group of 40+ people most likely scared the ghosts away. Plenty of stories in the vaults all suitably spooky, not going to go into detail about them it is better just to go and hear them yourself. The vaults were not the nicest area to walk through, some areas with very narrow steps, walls were wet and there was a feeling that not very nice things happened there.

              After the tour we got drinks vouchers and got a free drink in a pub which is attached to the vaults - the most haunted pub in Scotland. Possibly the dingiest place I have ever been to and the free drink turned into a vodka mix - not my drink of choice. But still a drink to get over our very "scary" experience - the worst vodka ever, in fact I don't even think there was any vodka in it!

              I think I would give this tour another go; the tour guide was fantastic; the vaults were scary and the tour of some of the spooky streets in the city was good along with the ghost stories; and the free drink at the end was a nice gesture. The biggest downer was the fact that there were just far too many people there and I think it would be worth a try again without the masses of people.

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            • Product Details

              Learn about the historical dark side of Edinburgh on this walking tour.