What to Do:
South Bridge has been cursed since day one. As it neared completion in 1788, the city prepared an opening ceremony where the eldest local resident would be the first to cross it. Then, days beforehand, she died. A deal’s a deal though; the first person to cross South Bridge did so in a coffin, and ghost stories have plagued the vaults beneath ever since. Venture below, and you’ll also visit a catacomb so haunted it scared off a local Wiccan coven; to this day, a stone circle is on the floor, said to have trapped pure spiritual malevolence. Step in it if you’re feeling brave.
David Rizzio was an Italian courtier and, more importantly in local history, a close confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots. From 1565 to 1567, Mary was married to Lord Darnley – an arrogant, abusive heir. She found solace in Rizzio throughout the partnership, incurring her husband’s jealousy. Rizzio was murdered by Darnley’s friend, Patrick Ruthven, on March 9, 1566, with Mary watching. He was stabbed 57 times. You can visit Rizzio’s grave to the right of the entrance to Canongate Kirk, with a plaque highlighting what’s otherwise a sadly unremarkable tomb.
In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle is Grassmarket, which, until 1784, was the site of the city gallows. More than 100 Covenanters were hanged there, but the most notorious “execution” was that of Maggie Dickson. She was hanged for murder in 1724 yet somehow survived, soon being found alive in her own coffin. Because she’d technically served her sentence, she was let go and lived another 40 years. Today, numerous bars overlook the old gallows. Maggie Dickson’s Pub is named after the “half-hanged” woman, but best for you dark tourists is the Last Drop. Here, the lights dangle from nooses – plus, the building’s supposedly haunted by a poltergeist.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh:
This nine-suite gothic boutique is less than a minute’s walk from Edinburgh Castle. It’s adjacent to the Esplanade, where hundreds of women were burned at the stake for practising witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries. If you’re not put off by that macabre backstory, both the rooms and the restaurant below epitomise classical luxury. Andrew Lloyd Webber once asked regarding the Witchery, “Is this the prettiest restaurant ever?”
There’s no spooky backstory or freaky apparition associated with this restaurant with rooms. However, 21212 blends historical design with opulence to create something that feels like it’s straight from The Shining. The building is a renovated Georgian townhouse with a hyper-stylish and Michelin-starred restaurant on the ground floor, lauded for creative recipes and a quirky, glass-fronted kitchen. Above, four bright ensuite rooms overlook the Firth of Forth. Each one juxtaposes lavish and vintage fabrics with a sleek, modern design.
About 30 minutes south of central Edinburgh is Borthwick, the best-preserved Medieval castle in all of Scotland. It was built in 1430 to be an imposing fortress but, today, functions as a joint events venue and hotel. The 12 rooms here are all unique, each dedicated to a historical figure with a connection to the castle, from Oliver Cromwell to Sir Walter Scott. What they share, though, is historical decor guaranteed to make you feel like a noble. From the exposed brick to the looming oil paintings, the 15th century will never feel more alive.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.