Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
January 27, 2012
From journal Castles, Museums and Vaults
by Cindy Grant
June 25, 2011
From journal The Scotland Ghostour
June 26, 2007
From journal Excellent Edinburgh
August 14, 2003
Many of these closes are still open and accessible today. Mary King's Close and several other adjacent closes were covered when the Royal Exchange was constructed. The building is now the city chambers.
The top levels of the close were removed for the construction. Many of the lower levels were reinforced to provide a foundation. As a result, many of the homes that were occupied by the lower class of centuries old Edinburgh are intact.
Originally, only part of the closes were covered by the new building, and families continued to live in the unaffected sections. Eventually, new construction covered all of the dwellings, and the families moved away.
The tour brings you through the houses in the closes that remained intact. They have attempted to recreate the living conditions that would have existed when the houses were occupied, and provide some enlightening information on the plague ridden people who once lived there. It's a very spooky tour.
The tour literature is somewhat misleading. I had the impression that Mary King's Close was an ancient underground city. It's not. While taking the tour you might feel that you're underground, but it was made clear by our tour guide that we were not. Nobody ever lived underground. You are simply inside the bottom floor of an old apartment building that is now completely enclosed within another building. It's still creepy and spooky. The tour, which is performed by guides in period costumes acting out the roles of individuals who actually lived in these dwellings, is entertaining and informative.
From journal Edinburgh During the Festival
Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
July 6, 2003
The tours are led by guides who take on characters of the people who once lived there. I was led around by Jonet Nimmo, 'Mary Kings Daughter' in period dress.
However, the effects were too overdone. In attempting to give an example of how it would have looked, it really just killed the experience. With electric lighting, wooden floors, light projections of figures on the walls, taped sounds, etc. it seemed to lose its historical significance. I felt like a guided tour was not needed -- there is no complex of chambers, so once you reach the end of the close you cannot go anywhere else, and it meant I didn't have time to look at things in more detail. The buildings are apparently original, and I would have liked time to look at those in more detail and how the close was laid out. However, you could only go into the reconstructed rooms. These were a cattle pen, wealthy person's living room, plague victim's bedroom, etc. At one point, the tour group sat on wooden boxes to listen to a tape recording of life during the plague. In addition, the rooms in those days were very small, and still far too small to fit a large group of people in comfortably. In some rooms, I didn't even get to enter.
It had some redeming points. The last part of the tour took us into a room that has been left alone -- to me this gave far more information than the reconstructed ones. In the corner, there was a large pile of toys, left for the ghost of a little girl who is said to be said. I didn't leave a toy, but I have heard that they are given to a local childrens charity on a regular basis. I also learnt some other interesting titbits -- like whatever the popular history books and guides on other tours tell you, the citizens were NOT bricked up alive during the times of the great plague. Finally, about 45 minutes after leaving the gift shop, I emerged back there. I would recommend this tour -- if you want to see Mary Kings Close you can only see it on a guided tour, and it's interesting enough and entertaining, but if you haven't the time/money to do all of the guided tours, I would recommend the ghosthunters walks or City of the dead tour instead.
From journal Paradise in Edinburgh
April 25, 2002
Marlin's Wynd was built in 1532 and is believed to have been the first paved street in the City, and its paver John Marlin was so proud of it that he had himself buried underneath after his death, but it did not last long. The upper half was covered over in 1637 with the building of the Tron Kirk and the lower half was demolished in 1786 to allow for the construction of the south bridge. All was not lost however and when the floor of the Tron Kirk was taken up in 1970 the cobbles and foundations of the ancient through fare were uncovered. The Kirk now houses the Old Town Information Centre and these remnants are visible inside.
Mary King's Close which stood on the other side of the Royal Mile has a far more salubrious history, the close found its place in infamy when an outbreak of the plague in 1645 led the city authorities to brick up the close with its inhabitants still inside, when the close was opened again two months later all its inhabitants were not surprisingly dead and council workers were sent in to hack up the bodies and hall them away in carts. After that people were reluctant to live there and those that did venture in were scared away by visions of ghostly body parts.
In 1754 the upper end of the close was covered up by the construction of the Royal Exchange and in 1845 the crumbling lower end was bricked up for the last time. The old street and its buildings still exist there though completely forgotten by the public until Mercat Tours (0131 225 6591) started running visits to this old street. The tour is unmissable and leads through the old building that have been used as bomb shelters and council store rooms through the intervening centuries and includes the macabre highlight of Sarah's room, a room filled with dolls left by tourists over the years to appease the ghost of a young girl.
These two preserved streets give one an eerily authentic feel to what life must have been like in this old city during the 16th & 17th centuries and while it's not exactly a pleasant feeling it is one that you should not miss out on.
From journal The Strange Case of Auld Reekie