Spooky Halloween in Gothic Edinburgh
Halloween has never been so much fun. And so little fun. And everything in between. Atmospheric Edinburgh is the place to go to be spooked at Halloween. Venture to the Scottish capital and you can spend a whole night or even a week terrifying yourself and the family….
Why spend Halloween in Edinburgh?
Boo! Did that scare you? If so, you won’t last five minutes in Edinburgh. With its dark alleyways and underground history the ancient Scottish city has enough of a spooky atmosphere on a bright summer’s day to scare the nervous so beware October 31st when it really pulls out all the stops. In this video, shot on location in the streets and alleyways of the city, Visit Scotland’s PR Manager, Erin Hickey, explains why you should visit her city at Halloween:
Spine tingling Halloween events in Edinburgh
When you arrive in the city at the end of October know that the shiver down your spine is nothing to do with the weather, and if someone shouts ‘he’s behind you,’ don’t assume you’ve stumbled into panto season. Here are some of our recommendations for spine tingling things to do in Edinburgh on Halloween.
Mercat Story Tours
Mercat are the masters of ghost tours and at Halloween they have tricks up their sleeve and stories running through their veins. Details of their Halloween offerings bleed out from their website from 1st Sept but be sure the Mercat ghost tours cater for kids, adults, and anyone who needs a whisky at the end to get over it! The history tours widen the focus and you can even have your tour in French. The Blair Street Vaults are the eerie setting for many of them although our tour also took us out onto the streets for a public flogging. Here, to tempt you into investing your time into it, is the unsettling story of Mary Brewster. Watch to the end for a little surprise…
Blood at Guts Tours at the Surgeons’ Hall
The Surgeons’ Hall Museums on Nicholson Street will be ramping up for Halloween with its own brand of activities. At the end of October its Museums at Night offering will be heart dissection workshops for adults. Meanwhile its Blood and Guts: The Twists and Turns of Edinburgh’s Medical History walking tours run every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets for the tour also include museum access.
Murder at the Hall
There will be a seance. There will be a murder. And people are needed to help solve it. Booking a dinner date at ‘Dalrymple Hall’ for the night and solve the mystery of Roderick Prendergast, the wealthy undertaker who was murdered there on Halloween three years ago. The Murder Mystery play Seance puts four professional actors to work with few spirits in Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor. £35pp + booking fee gets you dinner and entertainment. You need to bring your own detective skills and a Sherlock Homes outfit if you are feeling dandy.
Haunted and hunted at the Edinburgh Dungeon
If you’ve never had a dungeon experience before you are in for a treat. If you consider the plague a treat. It could equally be a trick. You won’t know till Halloween. What you do know is that you will be bludgeoned with entertaining little scenarios as you wander from torture chamber to cannibal’s cave meeting some of the more horrible characters from Edinburgh’s past. You can also expect a brand new show running in the Edinburgh Dungeon from 5th October – 3rd November, late openings, Halloween surprises, pumpkins and competitions.
Grave time in the graveyards
Graveyard tours are popular in Edinburgh at any time of year. We stumbled across several in summer. If you have young kids try the excellent Harry Potter walking tour. You get sorted by the hat and learn a few spells as well as visiting all of the sites that inspired JK Rowling. City of the Dead tours have a special Halloween week of walking tours including Underground, Graveyard and Double Dead tours. Meanwhile Auld Reekie Tours offer ghost and torture tours, terror tours, and moonlit graveyard tours.
Walking with phantoms
Cadies & Witchery Tours provide a joke and a jump in a tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The tour features characters like extremely dead Adam Lyal whose lack of warm blood hasn’t dimmed his sense of humour. You can catch the classic Murder Mystery tour at 7pm on 31st or every might in the run up to it. Kids are welcome, but will not be let off the (meat) hook.
Dancing and drums at Samhuinn Fire Festival
Ancient Celtic traditions and pagan rites are marked at Edinburgh’s Samhuinn Fire Festival. The evening includes fire, dancing and drumming to mark the death of summer and the rise of winter. The festival is organised by the Beltane Fire Society every year on October 31st. For the first time last year ticketing was introduced to cover costs. See the website for where to gather; usually on the Royal Mile for the torch-lit procession that winds its way up Calton Hill.
The unresting residents of Real Mary Kings Close
This history tour has lots of spooky elements to make you jump and can feel more authentic than a dungeon experience. Costumed characters bring you close up to the residents of the Real Mary Kings Close in centuries gone by; meet the maid, the doctor and the poet. Do the last tour at 9pm for the ultimate spook fest.
Locked up in the Escape Rooms
It can’t come as much of a surprise that Edinburgh’s Escape Rooms focus on the gory and the bloody. Locked in Edinburgh’s Cutting Room game brings you a series of murders in the city in the 1980’s. Escape Hunt hangs out with terrifying Blackbeard. Escape Reality dumps you in the world of Nosferatu, investigating the deaths of your close friends and tracking down the world’s most dangerous vampires.
Night terrors on the Ghost Bus tours
The Ghost Bus Tour is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh at any time, but obviously it’s that much spookier on All Hallows Eve. I met the conductor a while back and he was a strange fellow, but he was also very interesting, and full of information about the macabre history of the city. He will fill you in on where the best murders happened and has the inside track on torture. Enjoy an hour and a quarter of ghoulishness on an ex funeral bus- a double decker helping of comedy horror entertainment.
On Halloween itself you can dance the night terrors away with the Annasach Ceilidh Band in The Counting House in the Old Town on 31st October 2019. Fancy dress is optional but dancing must be done! On 26th October the electronic music festival, Terminal V has multiple indoor and outdoor stages hosting some of the leading names of house and techno. Check out the website for the latest names to be announced. Take older teens to find out how the grown ups party at the Hotter than Hell concert at Edinburgh night club The Hive- just off the Royal Mile. This Kiss Tribute on 1st November 2019 , with special guests, is the perfect antidote to the supermarkets’ sugar and saccharine version of Halloween. Over 18’s only -ID will be checked.
On 31st Oct 2019 Manchester band Baked A La Ska promise to take a bloodied chainsaw to spooky classics at Band on the Wall in the city. Fancy dress is encouraged. Skanking is guaranteed by this band of assembled oddballs and pranksters. the Manchester Evening News called it utterly bonkers but irresistible. Anyone over aged ten is welcome. There is no upper age limit although preference will be given to the living.
You cant miss these in any city but there’s a particular joy about watching human statues come to life in the city that helped inspire Harry Potter. But will it be Gandalf or Dumbledore? Its not unusual to see vampires walking the streets either.
Edinburgh Horror Festival
Right, now we are really getting serious. The Edinburgh Horror Festival 2019 (EHF,) is a mix of theatre, comedy, magic, spoken word, movies, games, improvisation workshops and interactive events. As usual it is a themed event and this year it is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe as 2019 marks the anniversary of both his birth (210 years) and his death (170 years). The main part will run Thursday October 31st to Sunday November 3rd, mostly at The Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street. This will be preceded by events at Lauriston Castle, and other site specific venues.
Wild Halloween hunt
If you fancy getting out of the city, 28 miles away at Loch Leven near Kinross the RSPB are running a half term ‘spooky Halloween hunt’ from 14th -31st October. There’s a treasure sheet available from the visitor centre with objects to spot. Some of the wonders will be natural – others definitely man made. Suitable for kids of all ages, free of charge and no booking required.
Not in Edinburgh this Halloween? Check out my round up of the rest of the UK’s Halloween 2019 events.