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Walking with the Ghosts in Edinburgh's South Bridge Vaults

Updated on February 1, 2016

Is This a Real Ghost Picture? - Can You See a Woman and Child?

This is a zoomed in picture taken in Edinburgh's South Bridge Vaults. Can you see what looks like a women and child in the middle of the picture?
This is a zoomed in picture taken in Edinburgh's South Bridge Vaults. Can you see what looks like a women and child in the middle of the picture? | Source

Can you see Edinburgh's Ghosts?

Can you see anything in the Hub's first picture?

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Visiting the South Bridge Vaults

I recently went on an underground tour of the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh, reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.

They are are damp, dark and very cold. However, it wasn't the plummeting air temperature that chilled our blood, it was the unfolding tales of their dark and tragic past.

The Black Door with the High Step leading in

The street entrance to part of the South Bridge Vaults.
The street entrance to part of the South Bridge Vaults. | Source

The Edinburgh South Bridge Vaults Location

A markerSouth Bridge Vaults -
South Bridge, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 1LL, UK
get directions

The Atmosphere is very Oppressive

The air is very cold and damp.
The air is very cold and damp. | Source

A Brief History

Edinburgh was a growing, vibrant city back in the late 18th Century and the need for progression was met by an ambitious engineering plan.

The South Bridge was built as Edinburgh's first planned, shop lined street. The actual bridge consisted of nineteen arches with eighteen of those arches enveloped in tenement buildings and the Cowgate arch left visible. Those hidden arches were given floors so that all the space could be utilised by businesses; over one hundred vaults were created.

The bridge opened in 1788 and once it was open people quickly realised that the vaults were not suitable to be used as storage facilities.

Back in the 18th Century there was no sanitation and the population's human waste was thrown out in the street. Due to the positioning of the South Bridge the sewage ran downhill towards it. When the South Bridge had been constructed the work had been completed very quickly, so quickly in fact that they had failed to make it watertight. The rain, the damp and off course the human waste seeped right through the ceilings of the vaults and tainted the merchant's stock. Less than ten years after moving in, the merchants began to leave the Vaults.

Back at that time the Cowgate in Edinburgh was regarded as a notorious slum area filled with vagabonds and undesirables. When the Vaults became vacant it was an open invitation for continuing unsavoury practices outwith the reach of the law or the tax office.

Soon they were filled with illegal businesses ranging from illicit stills, taverns and brothels. Conditions were atrocious with overcrowding, disease and crime running unchecked. The ceilings still dripped raw sewage down onto the occupants and anyone who went to live there was regarded as homeless and would then be arrested and punished if they went to the surface again.

There are no records detailing when they were cleared out and blocked up, although it is believed to be sometime in the 1800's.

The rediscovery of the Vaults was not until the 1980s and nowadays they are used to conduct historical tours and ghost hunts.

Original Stocks

Original stocks from Edinburgh's darker days.
Original stocks from Edinburgh's darker days. | Source

An Orb in the South Bridge Vaults?

Is there an orb in this picture? It was taken at the same area as the picture at the beginning of the hub.
Is there an orb in this picture? It was taken at the same area as the picture at the beginning of the hub. | Source

Embarking on our Tour

We were taken by our tour guide into a black doorway, led up a flight of stairs and into an old building. She warned us of the impending dangers of slippery floors, near darkness and not to leave her side. By this point the group were waiting and feeling a little apprehensive as we faced the doorway leading in.

The Vaults in Edinburgh

The Vaults have been bricked up.
The Vaults have been bricked up. | Source

Would You Venture In?

Source

When We Walked In

Upon walking in the first thing you notice is the bitter cold and the black stained walls. The stone is badly discoloured and the ceilings perpetually drip water. Water lies on the stone floors which makes them very slippy and you need to be really careful when walking. Black areas hang down from the ceiling creating a very oppressive atmosphere and it all adds to the feeling that you have stepped into somewhere that maybe you shouldn't have.

It is creepy, you do feel unsettled and you are constantly looking around in case there is something frightening near you.

Horrible History from Edinburgh

The guide took us around a number of rooms and within each room there was a story relayed. As we walked, we heard more and more of the grisly past; our nerves became raw and our senses moved to high alert.

A tragic tale of how many lives had been lost in one room due to the Great Fire of Edinburgh was told. This room felt very oppressive and for me it was the most uncomfortable out of all the vaults.

Whilst standing in what had previously been a tavern, we heard a really sad story of a mother and son whose lives were taken from them unfairly after they had tried to bring to justice, a man who had wronged them.

There were some other rooms as well including one where a stone circle has been built to try to contain a dark energy which is in the vaults. This room has apparently had past reported cases of scratches appearing after visiting it.

The stories weren't pleasing, they made you listen, they made you feel uneasy and to be honest at the time they made you very jumpy.

Does Edinburgh Really Have Ghosts? You Decide...

This is the unzoomed in picture. Look at the top of the stairs...........There seems to be a child with an adult standing behind them. This picture has not been altered in any way.
This is the unzoomed in picture. Look at the top of the stairs...........There seems to be a child with an adult standing behind them. This picture has not been altered in any way. | Source

Things to Remember...

  • The stone floors and steps are very wet and slippery. Wear suitable shoes.
  • It is really dark. Only venture in if you aren't afraid of the dark!
  • The atmosphere is opressive and the air quality isn't great due the damp conditions.
  • It is an enclosed space, so best avoided if you are claustraphobic.
  • The tales are sad and disturbing at times. If you are sensitive and easily upset it may not be for you.
  • It is very interesting and informative and I would definitely recommend it.

Accessing the Tours

A few different companies run tours, offering various options and time lengths. We chose Auld Reekie tours and we all found the guide to be helpful, informative and a very good narrator.

Auld Reekie run daily tours between the hours of 12.00 and 22.00pm. The tours range from Underground Tours to Terror Tours, for the fearless. The tours need to be booked through their ticket office and the meeting point for all the tours is the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.

Please check their webpage for more details.

More Orbs in the Pictures?

Are there orbs in this picture?
Are there orbs in this picture? | Source

The Conclusion

The tour was really interesting and the tour guide done a good job of bringing the history to life.

The atmosphere is unpleasant with the damp hanging from the ceiling and climbing up the walls. Listening to the macabre tales of it's turbulent past whilst standing in the darkness would put a chill into the heart of the very bravest of us.

When the tour is finished and you want to warm up and move onto nicer surroundings, there are so many excellent restaurants and bars near to the vaults that you will be spoiled for choice. So find somewhere comfy, order a drink and compare notes with your friends on your walk through Edinburgh's dark history.

I really enjoyed the tour and I find the history aspect fascinating, although also very sad.

As for the ghosts? The picture at the start of this hub raised a few questions in my mind; you must all decide for yourselves, do you believe in ghosts?

Edinburgh Castle by Night

Edinburgh Castle is a short walk from the Vaults.
Edinburgh Castle is a short walk from the Vaults. | Source

My Rating of the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh

4 stars for South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh

A Very Interesting Tour

The tour was fascinating.
The tour was fascinating. | Source

Would you Venture into the Vaults?

Would you walk around in Edinburgh's South Bridge Vaults?

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Walking Into the Darkness in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has many dark corners and spooky tales of  past centuries.
Edinburgh has many dark corners and spooky tales of past centuries. | Source

© 2013 Anna Haven

Comments

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I would definitely go on this tour. Loved the pics, the history and your writing. Well done, Anna! If I ever come to visit I am hoping you will be a tour guide for Bev and I. :)

      bill

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 3 years ago

      I will be honest and admit that would never go down there because I'm claustrophobic. I am quite intrigued by stories of ghost sightings though, and so found this to be a really interesting read. I have heard about the existence of the vaults but I didn't know so much about their history, and now I do...you are a great tour guide...voted awesome and shared:-))

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi anna, Ooh this is for me! lol! I love these sort of places! In fact I remember seeing this on tv a while ago and thought if I lived there I would definitely go in! Mind you it would probably freak me out, but hey we could have a whisky after! I love the name of the tour guides, Auld Reekie! Says it all doesn't it? voted up! nell

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Anna, I would love to visit these vaults. I am into spooky stuff and the supernatural so think it would be both unsettling and exciting. Good hub and pics. Voted up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I like to look with an open mind and find it very interesting. For some reason I think spirits may like vaults. Great hub. How are you doing? ^

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I'm from Savannah, Georgia, plenty of ghosts around there, But your experience sounds waaayy eerier than anything I'VE ever seen . I enjoyed your tour. It was very well done.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Very interesting hub, Anna -- I love the photos you included, which really enhances your article. I love to learn of haunted places like this. There are wandering spirits in the vaults for sure.

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 3 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      An excellent hub, Anna. Thee was a time when Edinburgh wasn't the Athens of the North? That's a surprise.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      I see no ghosts..but thanks for this exciting hub Anna, and the historical information too.. I don't believe in ghosts, or spirits but I find these types of hubs fun to read :)

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Anna,

      I would definitely take the tour, but I would want someone with me holding my hand :-) Not so much than I am afraid of ghosts, but I can see me slipping if there is a slippery floor. What about the smell? I am guessing that the area has been sanitized since its opening for tours, but I think the sewage history would always be in the back of mind. Interesting and voted as such.

      Best Always,

      Kim

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Bill

      Thank you. It would be my pleasure to play tour guide for you and Bev. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Valleypoet

      Thank you for your nice comments. It was a very enclosed space and very dark! Very cool though. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Nell

      It really is very atmospheric and you can feel the energy around. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Jodah

      I am really interested as well so I really enjoyed the Vaults. You would definitely have liked them.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Jackie

      thank you for reading and commenting. I think there is much history and a lot of it traumatic that it would hold a lot of past times energy.

      I am well thank you; I just seem to be running out of hours in the day! I hope you are good and I appreciate your kind comments. Anna :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you rebeccamealey. It was fun to write as I am really interested in both history and the paranormal. I appreicate your kind feedback.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading Phyllis Doyle :)

      I am sure there are. I am not sure how clear it is on the size of picture on here but the first hub picture has what looks like a woman and child it it. Spooky stuff.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you John MacNab for taking the time to read and for your kind comment. Like everywhere else it has skeletons in it's closet :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you very much Frank :)

      I am a complete believer and find myself totally caught up in the story.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Kim

      It just smelt damp and old, which added to the whole bleak atmosphere.

      I nearly slid on some steps as I was too busy taking a photo and not paying attention. That would not have been cool!

      Thank you for reading and for the vote :)

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Really cool and interesting. Wish I could visit Scotland one day.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi thank you Thief12

      It was a really cool place. I hope you get to Scotland one day I am sure you would like it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      What an interesting hub. I went to Scotland a few years ago and would have loved to have visited a place like this. Thank you for detailing it and providing such spooky photos. Well done.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you FlourishAnyway for reading and for your kind comment. Scotland is so full of old castles, buildings and history that is seems to be rich in haunted locations. It does make for interesting days out. :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Anna, I believe in ghosts and am highly claustrophobic, so I'd have to pass on a tour. I'll bet the stories are amazing. I didn't see the ghosts in the first pic, but I did see the lights. Do they represent ghosts?

      You're a very brave woman. My hat's off to you!

    • Katie Lineback profile image

      Katie Lineback 3 years ago

      I need to go there!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

      Very interesting and atrractive hub, i would love to visit Scotland and go there!

      Voted up!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Bravewarrior :)

      One of the other rooms had a really scary story that I thought I would miss out; the pictures didn't turn out either! The picture doesn't show it very well here but in the middle of the landing at the top of the stairs there appears to be a women and child on front of her. The child's face isn't clear but the woman's is. The silouette of the two bodys are quite clear as well. There is also a really creepy face to the right of the two women.

      Yes the circular lights are orbs. They appear in flash photography in low lights. The science defination is light reflection the paranormal defination is spirit energy.

      It was scary but soooo interesting.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      You should Katie Lineback; you would like it. Thank you for reading.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Mike Robbers for reading and your kind comment. It is really informative, different and nerve fraying. I loved it! :)

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      You made this tour sound so intriguing! I would venture forth for a visit to the vaults as a result. But, with LOTS of company. :-) The photos are amazing. Very interesting hub.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Genna

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. I definitely wouldn't be keen to stay in there on my own either. :)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I am a little bit late in my reading on HP, sorry Anna!

      Interesting and creepy place to visit! As much as I don't like creepy things, I love to visit those kind of place because it's a great way to learn about history and culture of those times. It's like you can almost feel the energy and the suffering left by some souls who spent some times in those places.

      I hope that one day I can visit Scotland and for sure, Edinburgh will be on my list of things to visit!

      Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome! There is no creepy in the choices ;-)

      Have great day!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      What an interesting article of these vaults to see in Edinburgh. I have never heard of these or knew of these before reading this. I would take the tour - but it does look creepy. I am not a big ghost believer - I've never seen a ghost before, but I'll tell you, that first picture does look like there is something filmy there. That is really interesting and thanks for sharing this with us. Definitely something to check out!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This definitely sounds fascinating to me.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What an interesting article! I can't imagine why the builders thought a shopping mall without sunlight was a good idea. Even without the leakage problem, I think the air would be moldy and musty. Thank you for sharing this tour and I think you are an excellent tour guide. Voted up!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Sorry for the delay in reply. I seem to be running out of days rapidly! I love visiting historical places too and you could definitely feel the energy in the Vaults!

      I am sure you would like it.

      Thank you for reading and for the votes. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you very much suzettenaples for reading and for your kind comment. The Hubpages picture doesn't show it very well, but in the original print the figures are really quite clear. Spooky stuff!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi aviannovice. Yes it is really interesting and a tad nerve shredding at times. I love it. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Writer Fox. They planned on using the underground vaults as storage for their above ground shops. The air is really oppressive and musty. Thank you very much for reading. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Wonderfully created and oh so well worth each and every vote. Also saving for future reading. Wonderful and here's to so many more to follow.Enjoy your day Anna.

      Eddy.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Eddy for reading.The paranormal really interests me and I intent to write more on it, if I ever get the time! :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      I would think this energy is just bad and bad energy has a way of sticking around---

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      I think that there was a lot of bad and also some very sad energy Audrey. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

    • mochirajackson profile image

      mochirajackson 3 years ago from Liverpool, United Kingdom

      Hi Anna,

      I love your photos and your hub. I didn't know about these vaults but, had I known about them, I would have visited them while I was in Edinburgh 3 years ago. I hope to go back for another visit some time in the future as I thought it was an amazing city, and I will definitely take a look at the vaults while I am there. Thanks for sharing x

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi mochirajackson

      They were very atmospheric, definitely worth a visit. Thank you very much for reading and commenting. :)

    • gillesdeleuze profile image

      Gilles Deleuze 8 months ago from France

      Great hub. I love walking and crouching/climbing in caves so this citycaving / vaulting seems like an excellent thing to do. Will put it on my list.

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