The Real Mary King’s Close (Edinburgh)

Edinburgh’s city center consists of two parts: Old Town and New Town. The Old Town mainly consists of the beautiful castle and the main street Royal Mile. The New Town is a carefully planned urban expansion from the 18th century. Many mysterious and dark stories are told about the Old Town. Deep beneath this part of the city there is a system of corridors that has been hidden for a long time. A labyrinth of streets, dungeons and vaults. Before the New Town was built, this was the place for people for whom there was no room above ground. Literally because of the high housing shortage, but people also came here who did not want to be seen and preferred to hide. The Real Mary King’s Close is an attraction that takes you into this underground labyrinth and gives you a glimpse into the history of the city.

Edinburgh’s closes

The Scottish capital Edinburgh is built on a rock formation, on which the castle shines at the highest point. The important street Royal Mile runs down from the castle. From this street, long, narrow alleys grew in both directions, where people made their homes. These narrow alleys are called closes. They are named after the city’s most prominent citizens or after the trade that was displaced in the respective close. Many of Edinburgh’s most influential characters had their home base in one of its many closes. You will come across Dickson’s Close, Old Fishmarket Close and Mary King’s Close when you walk through the city.
The particularly narrow alleys located within the former city walls were not architectural errors. These closes played an important role in the infrastructure. The threat of English attack was always present and these narrow streets, surrounded by tall buildings, provided residents with protection and peace of mind. The closes contain some of the city’s best stories, secrets and mysteries. It is said that ghosts still roam here.

Mary King’s Close

One of the most famous closes is Mary King’s Close, which is known for its paranormal activities. This is called one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. For centuries, this close, including all its secrets, has been buried beneath the city and forgotten. This place was only reopened to the public in April 2003.
Archaeologists and historians believe the close was more than just a narrow passage. It would provide access to several closes and leaseholds owned by Alexander King. He named this particular close after his daughter, Mary. She was a widow, mother of four children, sewed and traded in fabrics and later became a prosperous businesswoman. It was very unusual for a close to be named after a woman. This shows how high her status must have been in old Edinburgh.
One of the most horrifying and disturbing rumors is circulating about Mary King’s Close. Victims of the plague were said to have been locked up here, after which the alley was bricked up and these people were imprisoned. There was nothing they could do but wait for their death. This is why the close has been nicknamed Street of Sorrows.

The Real Mary King’s Close

The Real Mary King’s Close is an attraction that is high on the sightseeing list of many tourists. Character guides in costume take you into 17th century underground Edinburgh, to the unique streets and spaces that have been preserved. There are various character guides such as merchant, poet or daughter of Mary King. Each character offers a unique perspective on daily life at the time. Listen to their stories and imagine what life must have been like; living close together, with poor sanitary conditions and the plague that continued to claim victims. Before the tour starts, you can learn more about life in the closes in the exhibition room. The Real Mary King’s Close is not a haunted house and the costumed actors are not there to scare visitors. The tour is informative in nature.

Annie

Annie was a young girl who lived in Mary King’s Close hundreds of years ago. She lost her doll and has been inconsolable ever since. The legend of Annie lives on underground in Edinburgh, she is said to still roam here in search of her beloved doll. Some visitors think they felt her presence and even heard her cry! Visitors bring toys, cuddly toys and dolls, hoping that this will help her find her well-deserved rest and stop her mind wandering. All the toys that visitors bring are collected every once in a while and donated to a charity, intended for children who are going through tough times.

Practical information (2020)

Location, opening hours and prices

  • The entrance can be found on the Royal Mile, directly opposite the Mercat Cross and St. Giles Cathedral.
  • Mary King’s Close is open every day from 10am.
  • The tour lasts one hour and starts every fifteen minutes.
  • For safety and health reasons, a maximum of 20 visitors per tour is allowed, so advance booking is recommended during busy times such as school holidays and weekends.
  • A ticket costs £17.95 (£11.25 for children and £15.95 for people over 60), with a group discount for groups of 15 or more visitors.
  • When you buy a ticket online you get a £1 discount.

Who is the tour suitable for?

  • The tour is not suitable for children under 5 years of age and youth under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Unfortunately, the tour is not suitable for wheelchair users.
  • Visitors who are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark are not advised to take the tour.
  • Visitors who suffer from asthma are advised to bring their medication.
  • Dogs are not allowed, the tour is not suitable for animals.

The tour

  • In total, visitors have to walk 96 steps, 58 down and 38 up.
  • The character guides speak only English, but French, German, Italian and Spanish free audio guides are available.