WTF: The Creepy Vaults of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland is a city with something for everyone. Home to some of the most beautiful views from Arthur’s Seat, local cuisine, like Haggis, to test any foodie, and the birthplace of the Harry Potter series, it’s a delightful place to visit (see more things to do here). However, Edinburgh does host a dark past beneath its Bridges.

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During the expansion that took place in the mid-18th century, two bridges were built to connect Edinburgh University and High Street. The Bridges were built with intention of hosting storage space and shops for tradesmen, but the poor construction of the rooms beneath The Bridges, also known as Vaults, caused the tradesmen to flee due to the inability to breathe in the damp, hot tunnels. We’ll revisit this later…don’t forget.

Around the same time, homelessness and poverty ran rampant throughout the city. With public persecution for anyone found to be homeless (because obviously, this was upsetting to the King and Queen. Ew.), Edinburgh’s poor fled to the Vaults seeking a hideout. These temporary shelters became the home to the city’s vices. Brothels and illegal taverns opened within the Vaults and crime, including a series of murders, took place beneath the city surface.

Today, a popular attraction for visitors of Edinburgh are ghost tours of the Vaults. Two of our Trip Consultants, Eric and Abby, went on a tour separately and say it’s a must-do for anyone visiting Scotland. After briefly hearing about their experiences, I had a few questions for them:

Q: So, how did you find out about these tours?
Abby: Caitlyn and I did some research online for things to do in Edinburgh and the Vault tours came up. There are tons of companies that lead them once you get there, but if you’d rather pre-book it, you can find the information online.

Eric: There are tons of kiosks along the Royal Mile, so when my friend and I went, we just booked it on the spot, but you HAVE to do it when you’re in Edinburgh.

Q: For the skeptics out there, was it really that scary?
A: Definitely! I had to leave early I was so scared. They walk you down a long hallway with these small dark rooms along it. They explain all of the horrible things that happen in each of them that it freaked me out.

E: Ya, I was even a little scared. The guides really know the history of the Vaults and explain the crimes committed there, so it’s hard not to be scared. Plus, I was in the very back of my group, so I kept checking over my shoulder for the ghost of a guard that is supposedly seen down there jingling his keys.

A photo Eric took in the Vaults
A photo Eric took in the Vaults

Q: What was your personal scariest moment?
A: They really build up the scariness. First, they take you on a walk of the city and explain different historical and haunted spots. They took us into a room of old torture instruments and told us, in detail, what each were used for.

By this point, I was pretty freaked out. Then, once we entered the Vaults, there were three rooms they took us in, each with an equally dark past. They told us a story about a little boy that tries to hold your hand as you’re walking through and I swear I felt something!

E: I think the scariest story I heard was about a room that has a stone circle in it. The guide told us stories about bad things that happened to people who entered the circle and that was enough for me to not go in. It’s a cool look at an alternative part of history that I think any visitor to Edinburgh should do, skeptic or believer.

Since the air down there is so humid, even in the winter, you aren’t cold and can’t see your breath when you’re walking through. But when we got to the third, and supposedly most haunted room, our guide walked in and breathed out. You could see a huge cloud of his breath. It was really weird.

So that’s that. Whether you’re reading this with a scowl or shaking in your boots, check out the Vault tours of Edinburgh and decide for yourself if the legends are true or not. Get to Edinburgh on London & Scotland Escape, now $100 off with the Pumpkin Spiced Sales Event through October 30th!