Five of Edinburgh's most haunted pubs

EDINBURGH has the twin distinction of being one of Europe's most haunted cities whilst having more pubs per square kilometre than anywhere else in Scotland. It's a marriage made in hell.

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The Mitre on the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian GeorgesonThe Mitre on the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Mitre on the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Banshee Labyrinth

Located on Niddry Street in the heart of the Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Banshee Labyrinth claims to be Scotland’s most haunted pub. A bold claim perhaps, until you hear some of its stories - the most famous of which took place during the pub’s renovation and inspired its name.

The story goes that a group of workmen were grafting away one day in the closed pub when they heard the distinctive sound of a young woman sobbing. The group turned to see what was indeed a young lady with her head in her hands bubbling away. As the men approached her she lifted her head to reveal a gaunt white face and a pair of bare eye sockets before launching into a blood curdling scream which caused the group to flee from the building as fast as they could. Within just a few hours one of the men received a phone call to inform him of the death of a close family member.

A trip to the Banshe Labyrinth's dark corridors. Picture: Banshee LabyrinthA trip to the Banshe Labyrinth's dark corridors. Picture: Banshee Labyrinth
A trip to the Banshe Labyrinth's dark corridors. Picture: Banshee Labyrinth
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Countless others have reported their unattended drinks mysteriously flying from the tables and smashing into the walls.

The pub’s lower rooms are located in what were once storage vaults under the arches of Edinburgh’s 18th century South Bridge. Some of Edinburgh’s poorest denizens and most unsavoury characters once lived and died in these vaults which many now claim are haunted as a result.

Tolbooth Tavern

The pub is part of the historic 16th century Canongate Tolbooth, an old toll collection point. The front section of the Tolbooth was converted into a pub in the 1820s, but it has also served as a police station and a prison during its long life. The evil spirit of a man held prisoner in the Tolbooth for witchery crimes is said to roam its halls and clock tower. Sounds of children’s voices and footsteps have also been reported, and one female tourist wandering the older parts of the building claims that a deep, raspy voice demanded that she “GET OUT”. Needless to say she didn’t hang about.

The Tolbooth Tavern. Picture: GeographThe Tolbooth Tavern. Picture: Geograph
The Tolbooth Tavern. Picture: Geograph

Employees say that unexplained occurrences of drinks and picture frames being thrown across the room are quite common.

The Last Drop

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The pub’s name references the last hanging on the Grassmarket gallows which were once located near to the establishment. Hundreds of criminals were executed in this area, but none of their spirits are said to stalk this bar. Instead, the Last Drop’s resident ghost is a little girl believed to have lived in the 17th century tenement above. Staff have reported many peculiar incidents over the years, such as items falling from shelves and hearing their names being called when no-one else is physically present.

The Mitre

The Last Drop. Picture: Greater GrassmarketThe Last Drop. Picture: Greater Grassmarket
The Last Drop. Picture: Greater Grassmarket

Situated half way down the Royal Mile, the Mitre is famous for being home to the ghost of a 17th century archbishop who lived here centuries ago and now refuses to leave. Mysterious phenomena have been witnessed by bar staff and contractors over the years, such as in 1993 when a team of electricians suffered electric shocks from appliances despite all power in the building being turned off.

The Mitre’s resident poltergeist is said to be very protective of the pub’s jukebox and will turn it off and on according to its taste. Engineers installing new components or attempting to fix the jukebox have reported being pushed in the back and thrown to the floor.

Whistle Binkies

A popular pub and live music venue at the top of Niddry Street. Like the Banshee Labyrinth, Whistle Binkies has been built into part of the South Bridge vaults and has its own fair share of spooky stories.

Whistle Binkies on Niddry Street. Pic Greg MacveanWhistle Binkies on Niddry Street. Pic Greg Macvean
Whistle Binkies on Niddry Street. Pic Greg Macvean
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There have been various sightings by staff and customers of a highwayman character in Whistle Binkies named “The Watcher”, a ghostly-figure wearing black riding boots and a tri-cornered hat. The Watcher is said to haunt other parts of the vaults as well.