Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Things get spooky on a Halloween trip to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
The dinner took place in the grand surroundings of Edinburgh Castle.

As the full moon rises over St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile, glinting off the brass plate marking the site of the final execution in Edinburgh, we sit nursing our wrath – and our coffee – on the perfect Halloween scene.

Edinburgh is the city of grave robbers, witch dunking and hidden closes, where stories of ghosts and murders lurk in every shadow.

This is where Deacon Brodie, Burke and Hare and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde blazed their bloody trail – and thousands of people were drowned in a bid to find out if they were witches.

If they sank they were innocent – if they floated, they were guilty and burned at the stake. Either way they died, such was justice in our capital city of the past.

My son, Matthew, and I had travelled from our hotel just outside Edinburgh, the Bridge Inn at Ratho, to see a plaque commemorating one of its former residents – George Bryce, known as the Ratho Murderer, who was the last man hanged publicly on the Royal Mile in 1864.

The historic plaque.

He was executed in front of a crowd of thousands after being found guilty of killing the nanny at a neighbouring house.

After we had settled in to the Bryce Room – and caught up on the story of its namesake – we noticed a room along the corridor named after bodysnatcher Burke, who apparently worked on the nearby Union Canal at Ratho before meeting his accomplice Hare and going on to commit their infamous killings.

Preparing for a night of horror, we ate a delicious last supper in the gastropub at the Bridge Inn, looking out on the canal built to bring coal from the pits of the area into the city of Edinburgh between 1818 and 1822, and which is now still in use for canal and walking holidays.

Stappit foo and unco happy, as would suffice Tam o’ Shanter, we headed for the Lawnmarket in Auld Reekie to find the exact spot where our infamous former room mate met his sticky end – after four minutes on the rope and the executioner pulling on his feet, so the story goes.

We toasted his memory with a drink of blood-red wine at Deacon Brodie’s pub, named after another ne’er-do-well who inspired the Stevenson classic Jekyll and Hyde. A cabinetmaker by day and criminal by night, Brodie ended his life hanged on the very gallows he designed and made.

Making our way up the Royal Mile we passed the Witchery, before taking in the shadowy outline of Edinburgh Castle. Here on the castle esplanade in the 1500s, more than 2,000 people, mostly women, were strangled and then burned as witches – more than anywhere else in Scotland. A horror indeed.

Travelling back towards our next stop, The Real Mary King’s Close, we enjoyed some comic relief, posing in the mirrors of the Camera Obscura, before passing the dark outline of the Ghost Bus, all burgundy curtains and flicking lamps, where conductor Devious Davie and bloodthirsty driver Angus take poor unsuspecting tourists on a ghostly tour of the Old and New Towns, stopping for a walk through the haunted St Cuthbert’s Graveyard – rich pickings for the body snatchers of old and a perfect setting for some grim tales of the past.

Are you brave enough to take a trip on the Ghost Bus?

Finally a real step into Edinburgh’s history as I joined a group descending the stairs under the City Chambers building and into the hidden scenes of Edinburgh’s past, revealed in a guided tour around The Real Mary King’s Close.

This award-winning attraction beneath the Royal Mile is an underground walk through a perfectly preserved series of streets and homes showing life in 15th Century Scotland.

I joined a group being guided by 400-year-old daughter of Mary King, Jonet Nimmo, an enthralling storyteller who appeared to drift from room to room spinning tales of poverty, doctors, plague and royal visitors as she went.

We were also introduced to the ghost of Annie, a young girl apparently trapped in the close, who visitors are encouraged to leave toys for. These are then handed over to a children’s charity, along with any cash donations left behind.

The Real Mary King’s Close offers a step back in time underneath the Royal Mile.

This was an eye-opening trip into the past with tales of quarantine, the plague doctor, leeches and boils – oh and the “gardyloo” flushing its way down the streets of the old city into the manmade Nor loch below Edinburgh Castle. Yes the same place where the witches were ducked.

Thousands of skeletons were uncovered when the loch was drained in the 1820s to create Princes Street Gardens, where we found an oasis of calm far from the horrors of Halloween.

The atmospheric castle and graveyard.

Returning to the Bridge Inn for our night in George Bryce’s room, I wondered if he’d make himself known. The hotel is known to be haunted after all.

Nothing to see here – although when Matthew asked if I’d slept well, I said I had, despite that big commotion a couple of hours before which had woken me. Some noisy hotel guests I imagined.

He had heard nothing and neither had the night porter… now that’s spooky.

The Bridge Inn at Ratho.

Travel facts
The Bridge Inn at Ratho has rooms starting at £100 and the Gastropub was very busy on the Monday evening we visited. Best to book – the reputation for good food there travels far and wide.
A bus outside the hotel takes you to the Park and Ride at Ingliston for £1.40, and then the tram into Princes Street is £1.80. A short walk up The Mound takes you on to the Royal Mile.
The Ghost Bus Comedy Tour costs £21 each and lasts an hour, with very easy walks included.
Mary King’s Close is £19.50 for adults and £12.95 for children for an hour-long tour and should be booked in advance. The groups for guided tours are small and it is an award-winning attraction. The Close is doing special Halloween walks throughout October. A True Crimes tour is £21, and a Lantern-led tour in complete darkness apart from the flickering candle is £23. Both are for over 18s only and special deals include an option with Halloween cocktails or food. See the website for details