7 of the best Edinburgh walking tours

Walking tours are one of the best ways to get to know the real Edinburgh, and there's plenty to choose from.
Walking tours are one of the best ways to get to know the real Edinburgh, and there's plenty to choose from.
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May is National Walking Month, and if you’re looking to get active while exploring one of the world’s most culturally rich and beautiful cities, then why not check out one of Edinburgh’s many walking tours?

Whether you’re a literature buff, history enthusiast or just like a good ghost story, there’s a walking tour in Edinburgh to suit you - and some are completely free! Here’s our pick of the best.

The Potter Trail

On this free walking tour, you’ll discover the magical locations that inspired the characters and scenes in Harry Potter, as well as visiting the places where JK Rowling wrote the books.

Some of the highlights include seeing where Lord Voldermort is buried, taking a trip down the real-life Diagon Alley and having the chance to be sorted outside the school that inspired Hogwarts.

The tour runs daily, starting from Greyfriar’s Bobby statue and there’s no need to book ahead. On some dates you can even enjoy an ‘Extended Magic Tour’ with magic from family-friendly conjurer Magus Negus.

Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour: Mysteries, Murder and Legends

Breathtaking by day, Edinburgh is also a stunning city after the sun has set.

This tour takes you around some of the most atmospheric locations in the capital by night, to bring Edinburgh’s dark history vividly to life.

Winding through the cobbled streets of Calton Hill, North Bridge, and Canongate cemetery, the walking tour includes stories of torture, treason, and death, pagan festivals and dramatic historical events.

Tickets start at £12.30

The Secrets of the Royal Mile

The perfect introduction to Edinburgh, this tour will help you discover a side of Scotland’s capital that you won’t get from a tour bus or a guide book. It takes you into the heart of where the city’s history was made - the wynds, closes, courtyards and homes of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

As well as covering historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots, David Hume, Adam Smith and Robert Burns, the tour will take you beyond the well-known facts and faces to reveal a different side of the city, from crime and culture to politics and everyday events.

And the first secret you’ll learn? That you can skip the line at Edinburgh Castle!

Tickets start at £14.

Free Ghost Tour

Known as one of the most haunted cities in Europe, Edinburgh’s murky past includes tales of murder, witchcraft, plague, body snatching, public executions, gruesome jails and spine tingling torture.

This free ghost tour starts on The Royal Mile every night at 7pm and 9.30pm. The 1.5-hour tour will transport you back in time to a terrifying Edinburgh, through ghostly tales and sinister stories, from Burke and Hare to the city’s most haunted graveyard.

Group Walking Tours - Edinburgh

Led by Edinburgh locals Stuart and Richard, this tour gives you inside knowledge on what to see, where to go and what to do around Edinburgh. With a maximum of ten people allowed on the tour, Stuart and Richard tend to start off at the Usher Hall, which was donated to the city by Stuart’s great uncle. You’ll then be taken around many of the city’s major historical, cultural and architectural sites, while learning about some of Edinburgh's most famous characters such as Deacon Brodie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Burns, David Hume, and Sir Water Scott.

Tickets start at £23

Ghost and Gore Walking Tour of Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a gruesome history, and this 80-minute early-evening tour is a chance to learn some of the more ghoulish stories in a light-hearted way. Ghostly guide Mr Alexander Clapperton (deceased) describes the torture, witchcraft, plague and mayhem that haunts the city to this day.

Be prepared to meet the Mad Monk of Cowgate, the witch Agnes Fynnie, and the wild and bloody Higlander Rhuari McLeod, as well as witnessing public demonstrations of spine-tingling torture devices that ‘enjoyed’ centuries of common use.

Tickets start at £10.

Rebus Tour

Starting in Rebus pub, The Royal Oak, this two-hour walking tour explores the dark and hidden world of Ian Rankin’s best selling Rebus novels, uncovering the history and mystery of the real locations along the way.

Covering the Royal High School and ancient medical district, the historic Flodden Wall, the grey Carnegie Housing Scheme and Saint Leonard’s Police Station, it also includes readings from Set in Darkness‚ Dead Souls and Exit Music. Held every Saturday, these are a must for any Rebus fan.

Tickets - £15 per person.