Edinburgh Old Town guides reaches incredible milestone

City of Edinburgh Tours has notched up its 100,000th visitor. Picture: Scott Louden
City of Edinburgh Tours has notched up its 100,000th visitor. Picture: Scott Louden
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ALEX Andria, from Florida, was the 100,000th visitor to enjoy one of the hugely popular City of Edinburgh Tours back in time through the ancient wynds and closes of the Old Town.

The 20-something, who has been studying in the UK but is due to return to the US soon, was also presented with a bottle of Prosecco and a bunch of flowers as the company celebrated the milestone.

The tours started in 2012 when the company bought the old police box on the Royal Mile beside the Tron Kirk for £102,000 – making it one of the most valuable pieces of real estate per square foot in the world.

Jean Fraser, liaison officer for the firm, said she was “surprised” and also described the achievement as “extraordinary”.

Explaining the success of the tours, she added: “It’s theatrical with people dressed up in an exaggerated historical fashion. It combines history, comedy and geography. It’s a bit like theatre in ancient Italy in medieval times when the actors interacted very closely with their audience.”

Much of the inspiration behind the company comes from David Nish, who was born just off the Royal Mile, where his family has lived for at least 200 years. He has published A Concise History of Scotland from Day One Till Day Two, a light-hearted book on Scottish history, and Going Underground, a collection of comic stories from his time as a tour guide.

Davy became one of the first people to visit Edinburgh’s closed-off underground vaults – which were once at street level – and was the first to come up with the idea of introducing them to the general public, which quickly became very popular.

In 1995, David started to offer tours and, like the catacombs in Paris, they have become one of Edinburgh’s strangest tourist success stories.

His son, William Nish, sales and marketing manager, added: “It’s been incredible. When we started out in 2012, it took a couple of months for it to take off and we are very happy that the tour has reached this milestone.”

The guides adjust each tour or performance according to the age group, sensibility and even nationality of each group. Usually there are about six performers but the company takes on an extra guides at peak times including New Year, Easter and Hallowe’en.