Mercat Tours

Tonight I realised it doesn’t matter how long you have lived in Edinburgh, or how often you visit, there is a seemingly endless supply of stories that emanate from this most historic of Cities.

A walk up the imposing Royal Mile glimpses you a passage of stately buildings each with its tale to tell and the first port of call at the meeting point for MERCAT TOURS ‘DOOMED DEAD AND BURIED’ provides a fascinating piece of information immediately in the introduction, as the tour commences at Mercat Cross, outside St Giles cathedral.  I certainly didn’t know the old traditional name for market was mercat so the very spot we were standing on was the focal point of the old city of Edinburgh for centuries.

Here immediately the grisly details commence.  Dressed menacingly in dark cape and illuminated by the beautiful night lights of the City our tour guide talks us through the blood thirsty Witch trials of 1597, and the plague of 1645 which spread with lightening speed through the old town giving our tour guide the opportunity to explain the symptoms and eventual agonising deaths in grisly flamboyant detail.  Here the first stories about ghostly siting’s arise and our guide has a fine way to convey the spooky shenanigans many people believe they have experienced in the City.

Next, we venture down to the vaults underneath the South Bridge.  Built 300 years ago, underneath the bridge a series of storage rooms and workshops were created to serve the businesses that were built on the vast bridge.  However, they fell into the hands of vagabonds and villains, so the council decided to fill the rooms with rubble to prevent their use and were promptly forgotten about.  In the 1990’s a property developer stumbled across them and the access we have today is what he was able to chisel out from the dirt and stones deep below the surface. It’s a glimpse, quite literally, of a darker side to the City and our storyteller adds to the menace with her recollections.

From there we venture through Chessels Court, a beautiful residential square with a notorious murder and a vicious fire which I wonder if the residents are aware of the gruesome history before finally our destination is Canongate Kirkyard where further dark stories are recanted as you stare across the church yard.  The backdrop as you listen to these ugly footnotes to Edinburgh’s story is quite apt and simply stunning as the moon shines down onto the gravestones casting an eerie shadow over the gravestones. I almost felt with the only colours in front of me a hue of greys and blacks that I had stepped directly into an Alfred Hitchcock movie such was the atmosphere created by the visual backdrop and the tales told.

The tour is an excellent way to learn about the notorious side of Edinburghs past charismatically told by our most charming of tour guides.  Looking for something different in the evenings I would certainly recommend this.

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