Seven young boys languish in the dreary shadows of a city prison charged with a violent shooting in a local school. The year was 1845 and the boys were all under ten years old.
It is a scene from the start of a new tour tailored to suit the gore-thirsty minds of the younger generation and has been launched by walking tour company Mercat Tours.
The tour aims to bring gruesome tales of the city’s murky past to life for children aged five and up.
The creep down the claustrophobic closes’ of the Old Town begins on the Royal Mile, where a guide will deliver the weird and wonderful tales of life in Edinburgh’s gruesome past in a tone and format suitable for a younger audience.
Jean Burke, marketing manager, said: “Adults are a bit more put off by gory elements but things such as Horrible Histories have shown us that kids are more than capable of understanding parts of the past that weren’t very nice.”
Rich in grisly detail and full of historical facts, the tour begins with the story of the imprisoned boys, who were joined in the squalid prison by 245 other children under ten.
The Ghosts, Gore and Grime tour will twist through the cobbled streets, bringing to life the stories and experiences of children living in the overcrowded city centre.
“The tour looks at the role of children in the 19th century and the social context of what was happening at the time,” Jean explained. “It examines what the conditions would have been like, for those in school, who were the lucky ones, and those who had to work, most commonly as chimney sweeps.”
The daytime tour will also delight in the ghoulish stories of body-snatching, murders and finish with a visit to Blair Street Underground Vaults – where some of the city’s poorest tried to survive in the damp, crowded and pitch black conditions.
Running at weekends from Saturday – and weekdays during school holidays – the tales of stinking streets, terrible tortures and ghostly goings-on will thrill young visitors also delving into the city’s stories of infamous witches, horrible murders and Edinburgh’s cry of “Gardyloo”.
Kat Brogan, managing director, said: “We’ve collected all the horrible stories we know kids love to hear in our latest tour.
“Ghosts, Gore and Grime brings the sights and smells of our city to life and gives them the chance to interact by handling real, historic objects and belongings, allowing them to experience what family life would have been like.”
And parents reckon the new venture will prove a hit.
Johnston Ralston, dad of 11-year-old Amy, said: “As a parent of a curious child I’d be happy to take her to one of these tours, especially if there was an educational element.
“Anything that helps children to learn is good in my book, there’s little enough hands-on learning outside of school these days so this can’t be bad. Also, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of gore if it makes it memorable and interesting.”