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'Old Edinburgh' tour for schools

Take your learning into the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town.  Your class will use archive images and maps as they explore Old Edinburgh on this teacher-designed and led tour

2017 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence for Historic Edinburgh Tours
2018 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence winners - Historic Edinburgh Tours

As of 28/05/2023,  321 of our 326 Tripadvisor reviews awarded us five-stars! 


This school tour of Edinburgh is a great way to bring your class into the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town.

Your guided walk isn’t an expository tour, although we promise to share some classic Old Edinburgh tales with your class!  

Your guide comes equipped with an assortment of props and an A3 book packed with supporting images and other materials.    So we give you a very ‘visual’ tour!

The pupils will be doing a lot of individual and partner work using various sources of evidence.  We will use old maps, ‘then and now’ images and much more to get your pupils acting as detectives as they explore the Old Town.  Active learning, ‘on location’ is to the fore on this tour; no paper and pencils are needed on this investigation of Old Edinburgh!

This tour is easily customised for your class, their specific needs, and learning questions.  We can run a 1.5-hour tour for second-level pupils and a 1-hour tour for first-level classes.  If you provide information on things the class wants to see or discover, we can try to incorporate these on your tour.


£3.50 per pupil.  This includes a 50p donation to City of Edinburgh Council for using Greyfriars Kirkyard. No charge for adults.

Click the button below to secure a suitable date and start the discussion about your tour.


Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance


We work with you to give you the tour you need and want


Historic Edinburgh Tours is rated '5-star' on Tripadvisor


You will need to complete your own risk assessment form for the trip. 

Please note that the downloadable document covers the route for both first and second level tours.

Click here to download our guidance notes for teacher risk assessment.

"Robert was a fantastic help right from the start even before we made our booking! We met Robert for a tour of Grey Friar's Bobby and the Old Town with a class of Primary 2 pupils. Robert was completely flexible and adapted to our needs with very short notice. The children had a really informative and exciting trip to the Edinburgh's Old Town where Robert really delivered the tour at the perfect level of pace and challenge for us. I would recommend a tour with Robert for any school at any stage. A brilliant day out that we will remember for a long time!"

Mrs Edwards, Tripadvisor, June 2022



Meet just inside the main gateway of Greyfriars Kirkyard (next to Greyfriars Bobby's Bar at the top of Candlemaker Row).

Please note; Maximum of 36 people allowed with me in Greyfriars Kirkyard.


We recommend starting a morning tour at 10.30 am and an afternoon tour at 12.30 pm.  We do have some flexibility over these times.

We can 'dovetail' your tour times (and finish location) around any workshops you have booked at Edinburgh Castle, Riddle's Court or the Museum of Scotland.


This tour takes 1.5 hours (approx) for second level classes.  For first level classes, we recommend a tour of just over an hour.


Moderate gradients throughout, uneven paving, steps.


This tour finishes in the High Street, close to the City Chambers.


We will invoice your school after the tour.  There's no need to bring payment on the day.  We'll send the email to you; if you could pass this on to your school's business manager, we'd be very grateful.​


Here are five of the places we can visit on your private tour. There are more! How long we spend on each story and how much walking we do is up to you!


“How long could people live for in ‘Old Edinburgh’?”

We love covering this on our tour!  Towards the start of our tour, we will look at the gravestone of a family, giving us a clear idea about just how long it was possible to live in the eighteenth century.  We guarantee that your class will be surprised by this!


“Who are the most famous ‘Old Edinburgh’ people?”

Our tour starts by looking at one of the most famous of all Edinburgh’s characters; the story of the faithful Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. 

This story is probably the most popular Edinburgh tale.  But stories are not always full of facts.  Robert will explain the different versions of the ‘legend’ of Greyfriars Bobby and let your class work out their own opinions.


“How has the Old Town changed over time?”

There are many chances for us to become ‘time travellers’ on this tour!  We’ll stand in a couple of locations and use archive images to show us what these locations looked like hundreds of years ago.  We can even use multiple images to reveal how one area looked at different points in time! 

Your pupils will visit Greyfriars Kirkyard, the Grassmarket, the Lawnmarket, Riddle’s Court, the High Street, Parliament Square (where we get a great view of St Giles) and a typical ‘Old Town’ close on your tour.


“What were some of the big events in Edinburgh’s history?” 

We can look at the celebration which officially welcomed Mary, Queen of Scots, on her return to Scotland.  Then, we will look at the story of Deacon Brodie, and we’ll visit the site of the prison where he spent his last days.


We will also find out about the bodysnatchers, and we can mention the Irish murderers Burke and Hare if you wish.  We know that these characters often come up, even in first level projects.  

We can share stories that are as age-appropriate as possible.    You’ll know what you’d like your classes to learn, and we can incorporate when and where possible.


“How were people punished in ‘Old Edinburgh’?”

Let’s face it, most pupils like a bit of (age-appropriate) gore!  We’ll use this as a learning opportunity a few times on your tour.  Pupils always enjoy figuring out how to use our very own set of ‘thumbscrews’.  

We will visit the site of Edinburgh’s infamous ‘Tolbooth Prison’.  We’ll even recreate two sides of this long-lost building if the area is quiet enough.


“What was it like to live in an Old Town close?” 
We’ll use props and ‘then and now’ pictures to let pupils imagine what it was like to live in one of the famous Old Edinburgh closes.

Yes, we DO look at the whole ‘Gardyloo’ story…probably in a lot more detail than you’d expect…  But, twenty years of teaching have taught us what your pupils will want to know!


2018 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence winners - Historic Edinburgh Tours

Certificate of Excellence award winner 2017 and 2018.


Tripadvisor Traveller's Choice award winner 2020 and 2023.

five star rated tour of Edinburgh

As of December 15, 2022, 99.6% of our reviews have been five stars.


Your tour will be led by a primary teacher with 25 years of classroom experience.


Today was a good day. 2 years to the day since the schools closed for Lockdown 1 and I was back, out and about on a school trip with my class of 9 year olds. The sun was shining and Mr Howie, our very knowledgeable (he is a fully qualified teacher don’t you know) and entertaining tour guide was leading us around the streets of Old Edinburgh enabling us to find out how people lived (and died) in Edinburgh hundreds of years ago.
The tour lasted for two hours but the time flew by with Mr Howie telling tales of old and providing the children (32 of them!) with a selection of primary and secondary sources so they could be the history detectives and investigate dark goings on with torture, body snatchers, ‘rubbish’ walls, explosions, Royal visits and quite a bit about poo too.
I cannot recommend this tour highly enough for any educator studying the local history of this city with children at first or second level (ks1 and ks2). Reliable and unreliable sources? Check! Primary and secondary sources? Check! Compare and contrast society then and now? Check! Interpret historical evidence? Check!
The tour that really does tick all the boxes. And it’s fun too!


MsFMorse, Tripadvisor, March 2022


Q: Can we have a snack break on tour?

A: You can, but this means your class will be 'snacking' during their 1.5 hours.  We strongly recommend you snack your class outside the Museum of Scotland (the steps up to the old central doorway make a great place to sit on a sunny day).  You may also want to ask the Museum if your class can use the toilets.  The Museum opens at 10 am, and I typically prefer classes to attend any sessions there from 10.30 am onwards.  Reception staff may allow you to use the toilets before then.  Male and Female toilets are on the ground floor and are situated next to each other.  They're straightforward to 'police'.   Please note that we don't organise this for you, and it depends on the Museum of Scotland.

Q: Are there any other things we can do in the Old Town?

We recommend checking out the educational workshops at Riddle's Court and Edinburgh Castle.  These come with a cost.  A lunchroom is sometimes available.

We are happy to discuss tailoring our tour start/finish times and locations around any other activities you may be doing.  

Q: What happens if it is a stormy day?

A: Don't worry, we will be there!  We want you to have a good tour.  If the weather is awful, we know you may prefer to reschedule your tour.  We can even reschedule on the day - please let us know by 8 am on the day of your tour.  You can text us at 07590026077.

Q: What happens if we are running late?

A: Don't worry!  Robert was (and still is) a classroom teacher.  Traffic can happen, and parent helpers can have issues and turn up late.  These things happen!  It may impact the duration of your tour if you have time restraints.

Q: Are there toilets along the tour route?

A: No.  We've not planned or risk assessed for toilet stops on any of our routes.

Q: We have a pupil/adult in a wheelchair.  What do we need to do?

A: Edinburgh's history is there for all to be enjoyed.  Please let us know in advance, and we can alter the tour route so everyone can enjoy the Old Town and our stories.  Sadly, the Old Town is hilly and not brilliantly paved.   All our tour routes cross at pedestrian crossings, where possible, and any alternative solutions might include streets that don't have good crossing areas.

Q: Do you have any risk assessment advice?

A: Yes!  You will need to complete your forms, but we've included a suggested risk assessment for your tour.  You can access it here.

Q: Are your private tours' child-friendly'?

A: This tour has been carefully designed for primary school pupils.  We don't want anyone to be scared or upset by our stories.  A qualified primary school teacher delivers the stories you will hear.  Some pupils love to hear about Burke and Hare or the bodysnatchers.  We also know that some of Edinburgh's history (stories that some pupils love) is quite 'adult-level'; don't worry, we can cover this sensitively.  

Q: We've got two classes.  Can we combine both for one tour?

A: Sadly not.  Bigger groups are harder to move around the Old Town and cause more disruption for those around us.  We're also limited to 35 people in Greyfriars Kirkyard.  We may need to ask additional adult staff to wait at the Kirkyard gates.  This is a ruling by the City of Edinburgh Council.


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