Edinburgh Walking Tours
ABOVE: Scott, a guide on The Vaults Tour, has a doctorate in medieval history.
Mercat Tours Ltd. was founded in 1985 by a group of Edinburgh history teachers, and the company claims that all of its guides are "university-trained historians with a flair for dramatic presentation." Scott, the guide who led The Vaults Tour during my most recent Edinburgh visit, is a case in point: He has a graduate degree in medieval studies, and his son is pursuing a doctorate in medieval armor at the University of Leeds (which should demonstrate that Scott's enthusiasm for history is infectious).
Mercat offers half a dozen daytime and evening tours throughout the year. Tours include:
Secrets of the Royal Mile, a 90-minute walking tour of Edinburgh's Old Town that starts at 11 a.m daily.
The Vaults Tour, a one-hour exploration of the hidden, cavelike vaults beneath the South Bridge where practitioners of legal and illicit trades lived and worked in the 18th Century. (The vaults were abandoned for nearly 200 years before being rediscovered in the mid-1980s.) This is a good daytime tour for history buffs and for young children who might be spooked by the creepier nighttime tours.
The Haunted Underground, a tour of the vaults that focuses on paranormal activities. (The vaults were featured on TV's Most Haunted show.)
The Ghosts & Ghouls Tour, an evening vaults tour where "the dead are brought dramatically to life."
The Ghosthunter Trail, a "terrifying late-night stroll" through a moonlit churchyard and the underground vaults.
Gilmerton Cove, a tour through an underground "maze of rooms and passageways" that a blacksmith, George Paterson, is said to have hewn from Edinburgh's bedrock as a family dwelling and drinking den in the early 1700s. The tour is offered in association with the Gilmerton Heritage Trust.
The company also has Halowe'en Tours in late October.
Mercat's Edinburgh tours depart from the Mercat Cross just below the High Kirk of St. Giles on the Royal Mile. For tour times and prices, visit www.mercattours.com.
Next page: City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
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