Capital firm wins five stars for spooky tours

Mercat Tours is the only walking tour operator in Scotland to earn Visit Scotland's five-star accolade. Picture: Mercat Tours
Mercat Tours is the only walking tour operator in Scotland to earn Visit Scotland's five-star accolade. Picture: Mercat Tours
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Walking tours that celebrate the Capital’s brutal killings, sordid past and infamous hauntings have earned a top spot among the Scotland’s most regal attractions.

Mercat Tours, which promotes walks centred on the city’s past debauchery, has been branded a five-star attraction by Visit Scotland.

The family business, which brings the city’s ghouls to life, was the only walking-tour operator in Scotland to earn the top rating.

Just 13 sites across the country earned a score of 90 per cent or above as part of the survey – five of which are based in the Capital.

They included Edinburgh Castle, as well as The Royal Yacht Britannia – two of the nation’s top destinations.

The list also included national coach tour companies Gray Line Sightseeing Coach Tours and Heart of Scotland Tours.

Frances Mann, Mercat Tours’ head of product and training, said the firm had drawn inspiration from city staples such as the Britannia.

She added: “Constant review of what we do by listening to visitors’ feedback and scrutiny for awards such as this help us to develop and improve. It means a great deal to have the hard work of our staff and our business ethos recognised.”

Experts said walking tours have proved increasingly popular with international tourists because they animate the Capital’s history.

Robin Worsnop, head of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, said: “A lot of visitors want that extra bit of human interaction, that doesn’t just show off our city, but really brings it to life.

“That’s something these ghost tours do exceedingly well.

“More widely, visitor attractions in Edinburgh are very focused on the wants and needs of international tourists, and they’re very aware that they are facing fierce competition on an international scale in terms of service and what we have to deliver.

“We’re a capital city, and we have to be exceptional.”

VisitScotland’s annual satisfaction test grades everything from company websites to the cleanliness of staff uniforms.

Bob Downie, chief executive of The Royal Yacht Brittania, said that maintaining a top national attraction required having a meticulous eye for detail.

For almost a decade, the ship has earned the highest satisfactory rating of any Scottish site – and has been named on Tripadvisor as the number one visitor attraction in Britain.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to hundreds, if not thousands, of little things and how they factor into the bigger picture,” Mr Downie said.

“The most important thing to remember is that a lot of attractions in the city aren’t repeat attractions, and so you have to make sure that people that do come have a really great time.

“People used to talk about word of mouth, but now we like to refer to it as ‘world of mouth’, because we’re catering to an international audience that shares experiences 
digitally.”