Forever Edinburgh: Five-star tours of the Capital restart by inviting locals to rediscover the city

With lockdown restrictions lifting and the weather heating up it is the perfect opportunity to get outside and rediscover the city - treading old paths or trying out something completely new.

By Caitlyn Dewar
Saturday, 1st May 2021, 7:00 am
Mercat Tours are back in business following a lengthy break during lockdown. The tour, led by Fred (Frederica) welcomed locals back to hear stories of the historic streets of Edinburgh
Mercat Tours are back in business following a lengthy break during lockdown. The tour, led by Fred (Frederica) welcomed locals back to hear stories of the historic streets of Edinburgh

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With a wealth of history on our doorstep, there are thousands of stories and tales to uncover in the Capital which many of us may not have taken up the opportunity to try out before.

Attractions have reopened in the safest possible way, and tours of Edinburgh are well underway, with dozens of guides and storytellers excited to get back out and share their knowledge.

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The popular Edinburgh tour was founded by Des Brogan, seen here with daughter Kat, who now runs the business.

Amongst the many attractions excited for the chance to welcome visitors back, Edinburgh’s oldest five-star walking tour relaunched in the Capital on Friday, April 30, after it had to suspend its world-renowned tours at the beginning of November due to Covid-19.

Family business, Mercat Tours, welcomed back its first visitors at the beginning of the bank holiday weekend and is inviting locals to venture back into town to rediscover their city.

The Capital’s rich history is expertly told by guides who have a real and genuine passion for storytelling and sharing their love of the city, and after months of being unable to guide tourists and locals alike are delighted to head back on to the streets, donning their robes to excite, entertain and educate people on the walking routes.

Over the past year, with government lockdowns in place the world has felt a lot smaller, but as Edinburgh reopens, businesses like Mercat Tours are putting an emphasis on well-being for both visitors and the city itself.

Edinburgh Bus Tours also began running again in the Capital

Kat Brogan, managing director of Mercat Tours, has been leading her team through detailed relaunch plans.

Ms Brogan, whose father Des established the company in the 1980s, said: “As a family business, our first priority is to look after our visitors and our team – that’s the Mercat deal.

“Our focus is on visitor’s well-being, quality experience and keeping our amazing city in top shape to benefit everyone. Our message is simple, choosing Mercat Tours is good for you, our team, our locals and good for Edinburgh.

“With thanks to VisitScotland, the Old Town Community Council and Edinburgh World Heritage for supporting Mercat Tours. “We’re Good to Go” and cannot wait to start reconnecting people with the city, its stories and each other.”

Whether you’re interested in history or the supernatural, there is something for everyone, and Mercat Tours’ storytellers can guide walkers and their imaginations through the city.

In their selection of history walks, locals are invited to uncover the secrets of the Royal Mile, discover the treasures of the Old Town, and even visit the places which were filmed in hit TV series Outlander.

The tour company are also set to launch a whisky tasting tour when restrictions allow.

Those interested in stories of the supernatural can also head to Edinburgh’s ghostly underground to hear gruesome tales of the past, or walk the haunted closes of the Old Town along with a storyteller.

As the Capital reopens, well-being is at the heart of everything Mercat Tours do. With storytelling being good for mental health, as well as taking an outdoor walk, the tours are carbon neutral and good for the people and for the city itself.

The local business has also supported its employees throughout lockdown and offers them an ethical living wage with a true passion for their job and a friendly sense of community.

Ms Brogan added: “It’s been six months almost to the day that we’ve been operating, it’s been really difficult but we’ve all been working so hard. Everyone in the team has been doing a training and development programme in all sorts of different areas to keep them interested, valued and make sure they know how important they are and to keep us connected.

“We’re delighted to be back, when your job, hobby and love is to connect with people and the past, it's been hard but even more of a thrill to be back.

“There is so much to see and hear, in some ways the last year and a half has told us our world is a bit smaller but that’s not a bad thing.

“On all of our tours we take visitors to the nooks and crannies, closes and wynds and uncover the stories in small groups that you otherwise would miss.

“Rather than feeling frustrated that you can’t go abroad, just feel delighted that there is so much you can do here. Not just that, it’s good for you. It’s a walking tour, you’re in the fresh air, you’re out, relaxed and connecting with the past and other people on tour with you and its therefore good for Edinburgh being a low-impact carbon free experience. It’s good for you, good for Edinburgh, good for everyone.”

At the moment, tours will be operating Friday, Saturday and Sunday to begin with, and can be booked via the website.

Numbers are restricted so it is advised to book with plenty of notice to make sure you don’t miss out.

Edinburgh Bus Tours also returned to the Capital’s streets on Friday as travel restrictions continue to ease across Scotland.

With three signature city tours; City Sightseeing, Majestic and the Edinburgh Tour, Edinburgh Bus Tours has something for everyone and locals are now also be able to escape the city with a half day tour on the company’s Three Bridges Tour, led by friendly and knowledgeable tour guides to South Queensferry.

This tour includes a 90-minute cruise on the Firth of Forth where visitors can get a closer look at the iconic bridges from the water.

Willie Hamilton, general manager for Edinburgh Bus Tours said: “We are thrilled to be able to bring back our tour attraction in line with the easing of Scottish government travel restrictions. Our open top buses offer a fantastic way to experience our Capital city and are a great value, fun family day out for both residents and visitors to the city.

“Our team have been working really hard behind the scenes to ensure our five-star attraction is ready to welcome customers and I want to thank them all for all their dedication and hard work.”

The Evening News is supporting Forever Edinburgh a joint campaign between the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) and VisitScotland. This encourages people to rediscover the city, its stories and places while supporting local businesses, promoting attractions, shops, bars and restaurants as lockdown eases.