A group on an Old Edinburgh tour
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Walk in the footsteps

of some of the most famous (and infamous) characters from Scotland's history on our Old Edinburgh tour

COVID-19 and your safety

We're good to go - COVID-19 safety

We have achieved the “Good to Go” standard for the COVID-19 procedures we’ve put in place to give you a safe tour.You can find out more about our COVID-19 policy here.

2017 Certificate of Excellence winner - Tripadvisor - Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd
We're Certificate of Excellence winners on Tripadvisor.
We're Traveller's Choice winners on Tripadvisor.

Your private Edinburgh tour

Welcome to your private Old Edinburgh walking tour! Edinburgh’s Old Town is a great place to explore.  Your expert guide will take you to the very places where history happened, places where amazing (and sometimes awful) happenings occurred.

We endeavour to cover everything that we’ve outlined on this page.  Sometimes, however, external factors can impact our tours.  Edinburgh often has special events, some of which involve diversions and ‘blocked off’ areas.  We will also make alterations to your tour if someone has mobility issues.  We aim to deliver a history tour which is perfect for you.  If there are stories or places outlined here which you wish to see, please let us know, and we will make these our priority.

We can’t wait to show you our historic Old Town!

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The top of Candlemaker Row.
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“Robert has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Edinburgh. His enthusiasm is contagious and we spent a wonderful day seeing the whole center city with him. It was the highlight of our trip and informed everything else we chose to see and do. A great first day in Edinburgh!”

EvanstonMama-  Tripadvisor - September 2019

A detailed itinerary

Remember, this is your private tour of Edinburgh - you can choose when it starts!  We’ve also got some flexibility with distances and elevations on this Old Town walking tour.  Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these alternatives.  Robert, your Edinburgh tour guide, wants to give you a walk that is interesting and accessible for you.

In this Edinburgh walking tour, all your locations will take place within Edinburgh’s Old Town.  We’ve outlined all the story possibilities for your guided walk.  We may not cover them all; it depends on where your interests lie.  Remember, this is YOUR tour, and we’ve got opportunities to accommodate the things you are interested in!

Story 1 - Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful wee Skye Terrier.
You’ll find just how vital Greyfriars is to Scotland’s history and you’ll get a chance to discover the different stories behind the legend of the famous wee churchyard dog, Greyfriars Bobby!

Story 2 - Walking on ancient streets.
Throughout this walking tour of Edinburgh, you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of Scottish history’s most famous (and infamous) characters.  We’ll learn how little has changed by comparing what we see on Candlemaker Row, with a map dating from 1647!  You’ll also get a chance to see the Greyfriars Bobby statue - Scotland’s most photographed statue.

Story 3 - The wedding that caused overcrowding.
Aww, bless, it’s ‘Royal Wedding’ time when we stop in the historic Grassmarket! We’ve got a few stories we can share here - it’s really your choice as it’s your private Edinburgh tour.  We’ll look at the wedding of Margaret Tudor and King James IV.  There’s some fascinating gossip to be shared about this tale!  Their marriage really impacted upon Edinburgh, as you’ll discover when we talk about the Battle of Flodden.  We can also look at the Porteous Riots and Margaret Dickson's hanging - the famous ‘half-hangit Maggie’ story.  Robert will work with your tastes and interests!

Story 4 - The West Bow.
If we could travel back in time and visit one street, then the West Bow would be where we set our time machine to visit.  Robert will point out some of the oldest buildings on this pretty street and share some West Bow tales from Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Occupation of 1745.

Story 5 - Mary, Queen of Scots - a Palace and a welcome.
You’ll be following in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots.  She’s one of Scotland’s most famous historical characters.  We love pointing out places that aren’t there any more, and you’ll learn about the palace of Mary de Guise (mother of Mary, Queen of Scots).  Lots happened on this part of the famous Royal Mile, and we’ll reveal how the Bowhead would have looked hundreds of years ago.  This section of Castlehill and the Lawnmarket was incredibly atmospheric, and we’ve got the archive images and photographs to prove it!

Story 7 - A King and a posh pad!
Although we love helping you imagine how the Old Town’s streets once looked, occasionally we don’t need to.  Sometimes we’ve got buildings which ooze history.  We’ll take you Riddle’s Court, an often-missed little side street and show you 16th-century Edinburgh’s equivalent of Mayfair or Park Lane on a Monopoly board.  We’re talking about a building so exquisite and refined that the King came here to party.  Not that it did it’s murdered owner much good…

 

 

 

 

 

 


Story 8 - A Kirk or a Cathedral?  And a Parliament or a Prison?
We’ll look at a famous building which still exists - the fabulous exterior of St Giles’  and then we’ll explore the long-lost Tolbooth, once a parliament and then a prison.  This gives us a chance to meet a man who knew this place far more intimately than he’d have liked.  Deacon William Brodie, a classic ‘Old Edinburgh’ character, was imprisoned and then hanged here.  Deacon Brodie’s hanging is darkly comic in places…and comes with far more possibilities than you might imagine!

Story 9 - The Royal Mile.
In the 1950s, a historian said that two-thirds of Scotland’s history took place along the Royal Mile.  The ‘Mile is Edinburgh’s most famous street, where many important events happened.  In quick succession, you’ll hear about the last night in Edinburgh of Mary, Queen of Scots and of the proclamation which took place here in 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stewart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) was in town with his Jacobite Army.  Robert, your Edinburgh guide, can tailor this Royal Mile/High Street part of the tour to what interests you.  If you’re an Outlander fan, we can investigate places linked to the Jacobite Rebellion (including the place where Flora MacDonald went to school), and if you like gory stories…well, trust us, we’ve got that covered too!  If you like Robert Burns, we’ve got a few stories about him to share as well.  It’s your choice.  Each of these stories takes place right in the locations these people would have known hundreds of years before.

Story 10 - Close encounters of the not-so-pleasant kind (eew…)
No Old Town tour would be complete without a visit to a traditional Close.  We’ll pick one with you and then we’ll find out how people lived in the Old Town.  We LOVE telling the stories here.  There’s plenty of yukky moments to keep everyone interested.  And we have props to help.  Oh yes!  We’ll also share what happened to Samuel Johnson.  Johnson was the writer of the first English dictionary, and he spent some time in the Old Town.

Story 11 - The Cowgate and Irish immigration into Edinburgh.
We actually offer a tour that looks exclusively at Edinburgh’s Victorian poor. We take you into the areas that were once some of the poorest slums in Scotland.  

Story 12 - Burke and Hare and Dr Robert Knox.
Williams Burke and Hare have been the central characters in many films and documentaries.  They even take the lead in a comedy film!  You’ll find out the reality of the resurrectionists, Edinburgh’s famed anatomists Doctor Monro and Doctor Knox and of the murderers Burke and Hare.  It’s a truly enthralling story!  Charles Darwin also makes an appearance in this tale.
Robert can also take this opportunity to discuss the kilt he’s wearing and answer any (yes…) questions you may have about this ‘traditional’ Scottish garment.

Story 13 - Mary, Queen of Scots and the murder of Henry, Lord Darnley.
Your Old Edinburgh walking tour finishes with a bang, almost literally!  We’ll get to visit the site of Kirk o’Field, the place where King Henry, Mary’s second husband, spent his final night on earth.  If we’re fortunate, we’ll also get to see the Old College of Edinburgh University - a fine structure and one worthy of a snapshot or two!

The Old Town has many incredible stories.  As Scotland's capital city for hundreds of years, if something significant happened in Edinburgh, it impacted the whole kingdom.  We’ve gone into some detail with these notes, but the full stories are even more fascinating.  This tour holds an average five-star rating and our Old Edinburgh walking tour is our most popular guided walk.
 

The lower part of Victoria Street - this features on our Old Edinburgh tour.
The Lawnmarket, one of the three streets of the Royal Mile which we explore on this walking tour.
Explore Riddle's Court with us!