In June, myself and my sister decided to have a night away in the capital without the children. We aren't big drinkers but do like ghost tours so we participated in a few...
by glasgowgirl88 on June 21, 2012
Edinburgh Dungeons is located around the corner from Waverley Train Station in the city centre. There is no onsite parking but parking is available nearby. Edinburgh Dungeons is open most of the year excluding a few dates and Christmas Day. Depending on the time of year, they will open at either 10am or 11am and close between 4pm and 7pm. Tickets can be booked in the attraction but you can obtain savings by booking online at www.the-dungeons.co.uk. If you have a Merlin Annual Pass, this will allow you to visit anytime during the year. *Adult - £16.20 (as low as £10.20 online)*Child - £12.00 (as low as £6.00 online)Edinburgh Dungeons have been purposely designed to allow visitors to experience the horrible history of Edinburgh but in a less 'serious' way (compared to the ghost tours). Here is a brief overview of the attractions which I will discuss further on. *Judgement of Sinners - 17th century court room.*Torture Chamber - what would have been used during interogations and executions?*Sawney Bean : Cave of the Cannibals - meet a family of flesh hunters and take a ride on a boat.*Burke and Hare : The Business of Murder - a burial ground where you come face to face with the murderers.*Mary King's Close - 1646 streets and the plague!*William Wallace : Allegiance - complete with talking heads!*Extremis : Drop Ride to Doom! - face you doom on this ride. *Labyrinth of Lost Souls - a maze at the end of the attraction.We arrived at the Dungeons around 3pm on a Friday afternoon. It is very easy to find. There are quite a few stairs down to the Dungeons but there is a lift and someone can come and help should you need help. I personally do not feel this attraction is ideal for those with mobility issues.We had a 2 for 1 voucher with us and I personally wouldn't visit without one as I feel £16.20 is very expensive for one person. We split the cost and also purchased a guide book which was well worth the £3.00. The 'tours' leave the reception area every 10 minutes or so and we waited the maximum time. Everywhere is dark and 'cold' but thankfully dry inside and spacious. Our group consisted of 6 teenage girls, a couple and my sister and I. We knew we were in for a giggle with the bubbly girls with us!The actors do their best to sound serious and do give a little bit of history but ultimately, it is difficult to keep a straight face as they are a little comical. That isn't to say that there aren't some scare aspects to the Dungeons - there are especially if you aren't expecting them so be on your guard is all the advice I can give!The tour of the attraction flows well and a decent amount of time is taken in each section. No photography is allowed and they will throw you out if you try to take pictures. It is important that you do not touch the actors either! Each section has realistic backgrounds and actors - nothing seems out of place given the time and location it is supposed to resemble. The costumes are fab too.The Courtroom has always been a firm favourite of mine. We had a female judge who brought two of our group up on charges. I felt incredibly sorry for the only man in our group as he was picked for everything throughout the attraction! He was brought up on charges of cross dressing and this was hilarious - poor guy was mortified!One section not mentioned on the website is the operating room which reveals a 'surgeon' who uses a large and thankfully fake body to show us various organs. This section offered some surprises but I won't say anything else! The Torture Chamber is excellent. The English man in our group was once again picked to be caged up! My sister was also picked to be demonstrated upon. We found out about tongue pullers and the likes - cringe! The actress demonstrating was freaky and didn't flinch when telling us about what would have happened to criminals many years ago. Moving on, we met jumped aboard a long boat doomed for Sawney Beans cave. Despite having been on this boat before, I was still anxious and hearing the girly screams from the front made me worse as I knew something was up ahead and causing frights! Sawney Bean himself was a scruffy, hillbilly type guy who creeped up in various areas of the cave. This reminded me of something from the Wrong Turn films! Bones, possessions from those murdered..yuck but well acted! The Burke and Hare section wasn't brilliant. It consisted off some tomb stone seats and the lights went out. Nothing special and really just a voice over.Mary King's Close led us meet another actor and a realistically designed dark, close. This is a relatively short section of the tour and simply features a foot thumping actor and a misty figure of a lady - nothing particularly scary! Being a Scot, I was highly impressed with the William Wallace section! If you aren't aware of who William Wallace is, he fought for our country to free it from the grasps of the English back in the 1200s. He was then killed! The strench in this section was vile though and smelled of pee and alcohol which could explain the drunk acting - I think it was Sawney Bean again so perfect re-use of the characters! Once again and as you would expect, the English guy was picked to face the wrath of William Wallace and took it in his pride! William Wallace is only partly present though - his head is on a large stick and it is fully animated. He spoke and sent mild insults and orders to kill the English 'twit' I believe was his choice of words. Luckily the English guy wasn't offended but some may be! The animated head was so funny. It kept making weird expressions and I couldn't help but laugh. The story was told of what happened to Wiliam Wallace and was done so in quite a loud, comical way with the word 'numpty' being used. To be honest, the one scenario reminds me of Still Game (a Scottish show).The final part of the tour led us to the Extremis ride. This ride was opened a few years ago and this was my second ride on it. I actually expected something that dropped you through the floor so was a little disappointed the first time. You can ride if you are pregnant of course or have heart issues/major back problems and the likes. Everyone in our group went on. Extremis is a bit like a mini version of the Ice Blast (was the Playstation at Blackpool Pleasure Beach) and is in a dark room. You are secured in and raised up before being dealt your fate and drop back down into the dark room. It is fast and you do 'jump' as you fall but it is short lived!After wandering around the mirrored maze (which is fun but frustrating when you can't find your way out!). You arrive at the picture shop. We had the option to purchase the Extremis pictures or those we had taken before entering the attraction. We avoided the ride photos as we looked awful in them but my sister bought two copies of the stocks photo for £10.00 (£7.00 each). They were of a high quality. We then headed upstairs in the lift.The main gift shop has lots of souvenirs to choose from. Cheaper options including sweeties, pens and stationary (from 50p). There are various ornaments, pictures, t-shirts and bags available. I picked up a bag and it was priced at £21.00 which is extortionate. My bag had snapped half way around the attraction so I settled for a £2.00 'Bag for death' which was a canvas bag which was blood stained. My sister opted for a small stationary set for my nephew but there isn't anything you would take home to Granny or for young children! They also sell light refreshments including slush drinks, chocolate and juice but they are quite expensive.My sister enjoyed the Dungeons but thought they were nothing spectacular. I feel they are worth a visit if part of a big group. Audience participation is really good if you are up for it and the acting is great. Staff are friendly and there is enough to see but not enough to justify the high entry price so look out for vouchers. Some may not like being part of a tour but there is no option to wander around at your own pace as you will miss all the stories etc.Recommended!
by glasgowgirl88 on July 5, 2012
Black Hart Entertainment was founded in Edinburgh in 1999. They offer 'City of the Dead' tours around Edinburgh. The Double Dead tour combines both the Underground and Graveyard tours into one tour. It also includes a tour of Covenanters Prison. You will visit the South Bridge Vaults followed by Greyfriars Graveyard and the prison. Your tour guide will tell stories of living conditions, murderers and prisoners during the tour. The Mackenzie Poltergeist will also be discussed and further information about this entity can be found on www.blackhart.uk.com.Double Dead departs from outside St Giles Cathedral which is located on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Buses/taxis stop nearby and it isn't too far from Waverley train station. This particular tour is a night time tour. During the Summer months, the tours run at 8pm and 10pm. Winter tours depart 7.30pm and 9pm. The tour takes approx 1hr 45mins and it is recommended that you wear sensible footgear. Due to the nature of the tours, it is not suitable for wheelchair users.There is a ticket office on the Royal Mile but it is recommended that you book your tour online (www.blackhart.uk.com). This is an incredibly easy process and they accept various debit and credit cards. You can choose a time and date and will receive an email with a booking code. This can be printed off or written down and presented to your tour guide. The Double Dead tour is priced at £13.00 per adult. Students/concessions are £11.00. Children can go if with an adult but I wouldn't recommend it!Our tour guide was a brilliant friendly (but spooky at the same time) guy called Iain. We found out he was previously a psychologist before taking up a career as a ghost tour guide! We also met another man (who I cannot recall his name) and I believe he was a medium. He was with us throughout the tour and it made me feel a little at ease knowing someone was in front and behind us in the tour!Iain is a fantastic guide and very enthusiastic without being OTT. He knew when to 'act' and when to take a step back. He also had a comical side which felt a little sinister at times. He knew his stuff and was open to any questions. Our tour group consisted of around 30 people of various ages and he kept the group together well and kept everyone involved. Iain was aptly dressed for the tour in a long black coat. He carried on professionally at all times despite the heavy rain we were walking around in and adapted the tour slightly to ensure we got the the Vaults (and cover) a little quicker which was appreciated.Our tour set off around 10.10pm on Friday night. We chose the later tour as I thought it would be better to do the tour in the dark. Some of this tour takes you around the same areas as the Auld Reekie tours and the stories are similar but Iain made them sound much more 'real'. We wandered down the same steep close we originally went up which was daunting as it was slippy from the awful rain. Iain kept this part of the tour to a minimum to ensure we had more time inside the Vaults but did tell us about those who used to live in the buildings and how disgusting the closes were with waste due to the lack of drainage. Edinburgh was a very smell city! The Underground Vaults were originally used for shop storage until the damp issue became too much. Homeless people flocked to the Vaults to seek refuge after it became illegal to be homeless in Edinburgh. The part of the Vaults which we visited are known as 'Damnation Alley' and are often stalked by the South Bridge Entity. The gates were locked once we were all in for our own safety - no way out except to go on through the Vaults.The first Vault we arrived in we spent a short while hearing about how many people would have lived here through desperation and about the various deaseases that would have been present. The Vaults are incredibly dark and wet but we did have a small amount of lantern light within them. They were incredibly spooky. The stairs leading up to the higher floors weren't the most secure and steady. We visited a few Vaults here and I found them more interesting that the Vaults that Auld Reekie took us too. They were empty mostly but varied in size and shape. One particular Vault barely held us all in. Iain took time to explain a typical scenario. Unmarried woman were often cast out into the streets if they fell pregnant and had no option but to take refuge in the Vaults. They would be befriended by a stranger and their child taken either to be murdered (to avoid any additional population increase in the overcrowded city) by snapping their backs or necks (this made me feel ill) or selling them on to be slaves or worse - used for sexual acts. The part we were most looking forward too! The graveyard is a good 10 minute walk from the Vaults and we found ourselves heading up that way around 11.15pm. Greyfriar's Kirk is open during the day. The on site church was opened in 1620. The graveyard is most commonly remembered because of the story of the little dog who sat at the grave of his master for 14yrs. Iain informed us that although the gravestone is near the entrance of the graveyard, the story is not quite accurate. I will leave that yourselves to find out!I am not in the habit of frequenting graveyards late at night. I find them decidedly freaky. The actual church in the Kirk overshadows the graveyard. The exterior is stunning and beautifully lit at the front which did 'open' up the graveyard somewhat. The stainglass windows were stunning but we were not permitted entry during our tour.Covenanters Prison is under lock and key. Iain explained that those who chose not to believe in the religion dictated to them were brought to this prison which is now ruined and mainly open air. The prison extends far down a grassy hill and features various 'rooms' - some are accessible, others are not. Iain went on to tell us about the Battle of Bothwell Brig and the type of prisoners were brought here to rot or await being murdered.Our tour of the prison was fairly short and we did not explore everywhere. We were encouraged into a closed over room and told not to stand against the back wall. Here we learned of the McKenzie poltergeist who has been responsible for many injuries and fainting incidents in this very room. You can read more about him online. We took a few pictures in this room but didn't think much of it. Although no one in our group fainted, I did feel like something was taking energy from me - sounds weird I know but I didn't feel 'right'.It wasn't until we returned home and uploaded pictures we had took. My sister had caught something though what you choose to make of it is up to you! I have provided the picture but have been warned (by a dear friend who knows her stuff) to delete it from my mobile and computer asap as it is not as it seems. The picture was taken in pitch black on an iPhone so please have a look and let me know what you think. I was really glad to leave the prison though as I started to feel very uneasy and scared. Most attractions have shops these days but you do not expect them in a graveyard! 'The Creepy Wee Shop In The Graveyard' is located at the entrance and Iain let us in to his 'office' as he calls it. It is a tiny little room - half office, half shop. Most of our group had left by this point so we had room to look about. They offered little trinkets with angels and fairies, skull ornaments and various pictures. They weren't very expensive - £5.00 for a fairly large ornament for example. I actually bought three little bottles of fragrance oils (dewberry, spiced apple and vanilla) and these were priced at 3 for £2.00 or 80p each. I cannot really fault this tour. Going a night increases the atmosphere and the tour was fun, scary and educational at the same time. Iain and the other guy were brilliant and he really does make it more worth trekking around Edinburgh in the pouring rain! If visiting Edinburgh, I can highly recommend this tour. I am leaning more to being a 'believer' after this particular tour and it is definitely the best out of the tours I have been on. It is well worth doing the Double Dead tour if you have time.
Frankie and Benny's are classed as 'New York Italian' restaurants and are dotted up and down the UK. They offer a mixed menu of American and Italian cuisine and are often open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.Omni CentreEdinburghThe restaurant I will be reviewing is located in the Omni Centre in Edinburgh. It is a 5-10 minute walk from Princes Street and is within a complex with other restaurants and a cinema. It is open 7 days a week from 9am - 11pm. The entrance to the restaurant is inside the complex. Inside, various tables and booths are crammed in. The kitchen can be viewed at the back of the restaurant and there are toilets (disabled downstairs and female/male upstairs) at the back of the restaurant. The menu in this particular restaurant is the same as every other Frankie and Benny's. They offer a breakfast menu with pancakes, waffles and cooked breakfasts for £5.00 a pop.There is a set lunch menu for midweek dining until 5pm. which includes various selection of starters, mains and desserts. This menu is priced at £5.95 (one course), £8.25 (two courses) and £9.25 (three courses). Options include dishes such as soup, potato skins, various pizzas and pastas, salads, omelettes and even hot dogs. Desserts include crumbles, ice cream etc.There is a specials menu in the evening priced at £10.95 for two courses. Options include chicken wings, calzone, burgers, wraps and fruit salad. Vegetarians have limited choice on the set menus. The main menu can be opted for at any time of the day and has lots of dishes to choose from including lighter options for those watching their weight. *Starters are priced from £2.95 - soup, dough sticks etc.*Main courses - lots here from £7.95 including pizza, burgers, pasta (various), steaks and sides. The most expensive option is the steak platter which has chicken, sausage etc with it. It is priced at over £20.00!*Desserts from £3.25 - ice cream, sorbets, sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake and various sundaes are up for grabs.*Drinks - Frankie and Benny's stock lots of drinks including cocktails, wines and spirits and also hot and cold drinks. Cocktails are around £6.00 (pitchers £11.95) and soft drinks are priced between £2 and £3.F&Bs also have a childrens menu. Younger children have the option of chicken nuggests/fish fingers etc whilst older children can opt for larger portions and dishes such as pizza and pasta. A drink and dessert is included and priced from £3.99.We were seated quickly and shown to a table for 2 up the very back of the restaurant. The restaurant isn't particularly spacious. It was very busy when we arrived at 5pm. I cannot say that the staff were the friendliest or the most professional. They appeared harrassed and difficult to communicate with as they were always in a rush. As we had an offer code, we had to order 2 main courses from the main menu but were given the specials menu too. I wish we had opted for that menu to be honest.We ordered some drinks including a Long Island Iced Tea pitcher and a bottle of Irn Bru. I would have appreciated a proper glass with our cocktails but we were given a small tumbler and one of those straws you get with a Kwenchy Cup - felt like children to be honest! The table was tiny but clean. It just felt a little cramped. Our meal order was promptly taken and food was brought at a reasonable pace. We did ask to order our desserts before our main course arrived as we realised we were short on time. The waiter didn't seem impressed and was adamant we wouldn't have time for desserts as the main courses would be a while. He was quite cheeky about it but the other waiter was much more helpful.During our dining experience, we did have to complain. Most restaurants would take the dish away and resolve it or bring the manager over. The waiter seemed confused as to why we weren't happy and went to speak to the manager and returned with a feeble excuse which I will discuss further on. The manager stropped off in a huff and was not very professional. I can tell you a tip was not left!For starters, my sister ordered Calamari (lightly fried and seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper. Sprinkled with a warm, Neapolitan dip - £5.95). She received a good big portion which was well presented with her dip on side and a lemon wedge. Usually I would have a try but was previously fooled into believing this was pasta and not baby squid - no thank you! If you like that sort of thing, I can confirm she was very pleased with her calamari - very fresh, tasty and plentiful.I opted for the Amazing BBQ Chickens Skins (fully loaded and served with sour cream - £4.95). This is always my favourite starter but I felt it was poorly presented. I had three filled potato skins on a tiny little plate so it did get a little messy! They were tasty enough and plenty of filling. The BBQ sauce was lacking a little in smokey flavouring and I felt there was more sweetcorn rather than chicken. The dip was fresh and the skins weren't hard or dry. As we were somewhere different, we decided to go for a steak each. We opted for the 8oz Larder Trim Sirloin at £16.95. We were promised a thick sirloin with a mushroom, rocket, cherry tomatoes and had the option of fries, a salad or a jacket potato. I opted for fries, my sister opted for a jacket potato. Our meal was presented well but the outside of the steak looked a little burnt despite being 'medium' cooked. The fries were lovely and seasoned well. The tomatoes were sweet and fresh as was the rocket. My sister opted for peppercorn sauce which was served in a tiny pot.All looked ok. I did notice by sisters steak had a lot more visible fatty bits than my own. It wasn't until I started chewing a piece of my steak that I noticed that most of it was fatty. Cutting any fats bits off our steaks resulted in about half of the steak being cut away. We weren't impressed. We complained and we were asked if we would like another main course. We had to decline as we were pushed for time. The chef passed on a message though that apparently the steak was the way it was supposed to be and they had used that supplier for a while now. Sorry - a steak should be edible! In the end, they agreed to take it off our bill which saved us nearly £34.00 but we were still without a main course.We both have sweet tooths so choosing a dessert is always difficult. The desserts are reasonably priced and there is plenty of choice. One dessert we ordered was the Banana Cheesecake (Rich and creamy vanilla cheesecake topped with freshly slice banana, toffee sauce, toffee crunch and cream - £4.95). Absolute heaven! The cheesecake was nicely finished (I assume a blow torch gave the effects) and melted in the mouth - creamy and deliciously sweet. We also ordered an sundae. I refrained from ordering the 'Sherbet Dip' sundae and opted for the Eton Mess (vanilla and strawberry ice cream layered with meringue, sweet red berry sauce and topped with whipped cream - £5.25). This was more than enough to share and was well presented in a tall glass. The vanilla ice cream tasted a little cheap but the rest of the sundae was tasty if a little sickly sweet! The red berry sauce was nice and tangy and there were plenty of meringue pieces which added texture and crunch to a regular sundae - very satisfying!Starters and desserts fab - main courses and general service very poor. Despite having both main courses taken off our bill (and therefore we couldn't use our 20% discount), we still paid nearly £35.00 for two starters, a jug of peppercorn sauce (they did not discount this even though it was useless), two desserts, a pitcher and a bottle of Irn Bru. Expensive. I do feel the set menus offer better value for money. I wouldn't eat here again even if I was down that way in Edinburgh. The toilets were clean too and the restaurant is the perfect location for the cinema.
Last year my sister and I went for an overnight in Blackpool. We had intended on going there again this year but decided against the long journey and three train changes! We still wanted to get away so opted for the capital city of Scotland - Edinburgh! We are a 45 minute train journey from the city. We were planning on participating in various ghost tours and doing a little shopping.When it came to choosing a hotel, we were spoiled for choice but had to keep to a budget. We wanted somewhere central (ie near the shops!) and fairly cheap as it was only for one night. We checked out the Holiday Inn, nearby Premier Inns and local guesthouses. Many were either too far from the city centre or over the £100.00 mark as we were booking for a Friday night in June. Very expensive but typical for the city.There are several Travelodges in the city centre. I visited their website www.travelodge.co.uk and carried out a search. The newly opened Princes Street hotel appeared to be our best option. Booking online was very simple as the website is easy to navigate. I was given the option of a twin, double and family room which I appreciated. We paid just short of £60.00 which was a non-refundable saver rate. Location wise, this hotel is just off Princes Street. It occupies the space above Topshop and is directly across from Waverley Train Station which was perfect for us! There is no on-site parking but an NCP car park is nearby (charges apply). Princes Street is a total mess at the moment and various parts are closed off. The hotel can be located down an alley which is very dark and not accessible by cars. The hotel is set across 7 floors with 2 lifts present. Some of the rooms overlook Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle whilst others overlook the office buildings at the rear of the hotel. The hotel is nearly all on the flat and has disabled toilets on the ground floor.The reception area of the hotel is located on the ground floor and is fairly spacious. A vending machine stocks crisps, small toiletrie sets, juice and chocolate. There are self-check in units. Check in time is from 3pm but we arrived just after 2pm and our room was ready. The lady in reception was very friendly and gave us our key card and informed us where to go. I only had to show my invoice - it was an incredibly simple process and very professional. We were informed the main doors locked at 10pm but we could use our key card to get in and also to enter the main hotel area. Check out is 12pm which is later than most hotels and excellent if you fancy a long lie! We checked out at 11am and this was a case of handing our card in. The various floors of the hotel can be accessed by stairs or lift. The lifts are very spacious and clean. We were located on the 5th floor and were surprised by how clean and fresh the landings were. They were neatly carpeted and neutrally decorated. The landings are well sign posted and whilst I didn't count how many rooms there were, they were numbered 501-516 etc on each floor. There is nothing else to say about the layout of the hotel except that it is a little bit of a walk to some of the rooms! It was clean and modern overall so I cannot fault that aspect.Our room was no 516 and was the furthest from the lifts on the 5th floor! Due to there not being a great deal of windows in the landing areas, we had no idea which side of the building we would be facing out of until we got to our room! We had booked a family room to give us plenty of space! Unfortuantely, our room ended up being at the back of the hotel and facing out onto the alley and office blocks.This was my first Travelodge stay and I was amazed at the size of the hotel room! To the far end, we had a huge window with sliding panels. There was a ledge and some old style, panelled windows which couldn't be opened without climbing up on the ledge - I didn't attempt it! The sliding windows do keep the draft out which was essential given the cold and rainy weather we experienced during our stay. The heavy curtains kept the light out too.The room was incredibly spacious and suited to a family of 2 adults and 2 children. We had a kingsize bed. We also had a sofa bed with a pull out mattress underneath. There were no bedside cabinets or chest of drawers - only a simple rail with 4 coat hangers. Not idea if you plan on staying for more than a few nights though there is sufficient room to live out a suitcase comfortably! We also had a small desk and chair, tea and coffee making bits and bobs and a large mirror. A wall mounted television was also present but only had 22 channels and none were particularly exciting.The room itself was spotless and modern yet basic. The walls were fresh and neutral and the bed sheets/pillows crisp and clean. My bed was spacious and comfortably though the duvet was a little on the thin side. I slept very well. My sister was given the sofa bed which wasn't the biggest and is definitely more suited for children and teenagers! She didn't sleep as well and commented that the bed was a little on the hard side. She did benefit from two duvets though. Additional pillows are available from reception. There is no telephone available in the rooms. The room did have a radiator and kept one side of the room warm but took a while to filter around! Our bathroom wasn't massive but spacious enough for even us larger ladies to move around freely! It was clean throughout and well stocked with toilet roll and a small bar of soap. There was a huge, well lit mirror and shaving point as well as a spacious ledge for toiltetries and a small pedal bin. We had a bath and shower which with a clean shower curtain. We had an overhead shower which was powerful, easy to operate and beautifully warm. The bath wasn't a full size bath so don't expect any Radox evenings in there! The bathroom had a lovely red tiled wall and was very neat, modern and compact. We were given a few large bath towels and a hand towel - they were lovely and soft. I expect more would be given for a room with a high occupancy.We slept well and didn't have any issues with the room or bathroom. We did hear our 'neighbours' arriving home at 1am but once in their rooms, we heard nothing through the walls which was ideal. It was warm enough at night too. They suited us fine - we didn't expect luxury and didn't receive it. The cleaners were busy sorting vacant rooms as we left. WI-FI is available at a charge but we did not use this as we were able to get a good internet signal on our mobiles anyway. The hotel is fully non smoking.Whilst some Travelodges may have restaurants/cafes attatched, this particular Travelodge doesn't. We were planning on eating out anyway as there is plenty of choice in the local area. If you could figure out how to cross the closed off road, a McDonalds and KFC were located directly across from the alley way. My sister went over to McDonalds at 10am on the Saturday morning and brought back some breakfast to eat in our room. The hotel does offer Breakfast packs which include cereal, milk, a drink and croissant for under £5.00. This hotel also offers a room service option for panninis and burgers. I believe they order them in and they are reasonably priced at £3.00. We did opt for some munchies from the vending machine at midnight. £1.00 for a large pack of Walkers, 80p for a Twirl and £1.60 for a bottle of fizzy pop - not the cheapest but not extortionate either.I cannot really fault this Travelodge. The service is minimal - not many staff wandering about. It is clean, tidy and incredibly spacious. It isn't ideal to stand in the alley way for a cigarette or at night and this would be the only issue I have with this hotel. We were very pleased with our stay as it is central and a friendly hotel. It is perfect for overnight or short stays in the city centre but definitely book in advance as the prices go up!
Auld Reekie have been running tours of the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh since 1995. They offer a range of guided tours throughout the year and special Halloween tours and overnight tours. Daily tours include those who go underground and others go above ground and underground.This tour takes place above and below ground in the evening. It departs from the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile. It can be prebooked (recommended) or paid for at the ticket office which you will visit at the start of the tour.This tour lasts 1hr 15mins (approx) and departs at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. The tour guide will take you around the closes and wynds in Edinburgh and tell the story of Edinburghs grim past including stories of death, body snatching and the plague! You will also be taken to the underground Vaults where thousands of homeless people would flock to in order to escape the streets and threat of death as it was illegal to be sleeping on the streets in the past. The tour is not really suitable for those who are disabled (wheelchair bound) as there are steep hills, stairs and uneven surfaces to negotiate. The Vaults are supposedly the most haunted place in Edinburgh and Auld Reekie take no responsibility for injury or death (!) inflicted by anyone 'present' in the Vaults. Your ticket also includes entry to the Torture Museum and a free Whisky and shortbread in the Banshee Labyrinth (most haunted pub) after the tour.There is a minimum of 4 people required for the tour and it is priced at £9.50 per person.Our most recent visit was booked through the website which is easy to navigate. We opted for a 7pm tour on a Friday night. I paid by card and received a confirmation.The lady taking our tour was a young girl named Erin. She was friendly yet professional and could 'act' well. She had her own personality and was very informative. She was dressed in a stunning black coat and looked the part. She was professional despite the pouring rain and kept the group together. We were part of a group of various aged people and there were around 25 of us. We had a few ghost tour options and wished to participate in a mid-evening tour. I have been on an Auld Reekie tour with my college class before and it was a day time tour. If you are participating in the above and below ground tours, I recommend the evening or night time tour - I quite fancy the overnight tour! You can actually book out the full Vaults for overnight tours. That would be fun!Anyway, we arrived bang on 7pm and the tour was getting ready to leave so be there sharpish to avoid getting lost! It was heavily raining - it is Scotland afterall so were wise to wear a hooded jacket and warm, flat shoes as the pavements are very uneven. If you tire easily, definitely take a bottle of water with you - trust me! So, we chose this tour as my sister hadn't been to the Vaults before and fancied trying them out! Edinburgh is known for its steep closes where buildings are built high around narrow pavements. Our tour guide took this opportunity to tell us about the sort of people who used to live in the high buildings in the closes. Erin knew her stuff and told us about the lack of drainage systems in Edinburgh many years ago. Therefore any 'waste' was thrown out into the closes once a night - not pleasant and you can imagine the smell. The close we walked up was practically vertical and tiring to climb!Erin led us back on to the Royal Mile and we stopped at the St Gyles Cathedral to hear some more stories. We had to all 'spit' for good luck into a heart design on the ground which used to be the entrance to the Toll Booth Jail. The stories we were told could well be 'enhanced' for entertainment but were daunting and interesting to listen too especially about the bodysnatchers. It was a little uncomfortable hearing about children being murdered though. I believe we wandered around for 40 minutes or so before heading to the Vaults.The South Bridge Vaults were originally used for storage but there was a major damp problem. The bridge was opened in 1788. The vendors vacated and many thousands of homeless people took refuge underground - often hundreds in each Vault. The Vaults were closed back up We were led up a steep stair case and were assured that we were infact 'underground'. We arrived in the Torture Museum which was a stuffy, small little room which was very dark. It featured various displays behind glass panels. We were told about the various contraptions and many brought a tear to my eye just thinking about them. The majority of the contraptions were originals including a 'ball crusher' and chasity belts which never got removed from the wearer. This part of the tour took 5 minutes and we headed into the Vaults.I suppose you really need to have an open mind for this type of tour. The Vaults are said to be haunted and frequented by a little boy looking for a blonde haired female to 'befriend'. A man is also said to wander the Vaults jingling his keys - possibly security in the past but who knows. The Vaults are cold and very wet. As we visited during a heavy rainfall, puddles were everywhere and drips were common. There is a small amount of lighting in the Vaults and Erin did have a torch.We weren't disappointed. We spent a relatively short length of time in the Vaults. The Vaults are very spacious but it is difficult to imagine so many homeless people and their families sleeping, eating and doing their 'business' is such horrible conditions. One particular Vault was previously used for witch craft and featured a stone circle. No one was brave enough to risk entering the circle! Other Vaults were empty but the atmosphere and stories were enough to give anyone a chill down their spine. My favourite Vault was right at the start of the row of Vaults but is not allowed to be accessed by the general public. This Vault is actually still used today for witch craft activity and is used by a coven of white witches (good witches). They do not like the public being brought down on tours but the owner would not allow them to rent out the full Vaults on a permanent basis. Unfortuantely no witches were there at the time of the tour but we did get to see various cloaks and pentagrams. Whilst we didn't experience any ghost or paranomal activity during our tour, I did feel generally freaked out and uneasy like there was 'something' there. The Vaults are incredibly dark and the stories are gruesome. You can imagine how many people were there - how many people died there. I sort of hoped for some form of activity. It is common for people to experience scratches or burns after leaving the tour.We left the Vaults and went for our free drink and shortbread. The Banshee isn't what I would call a typical 'haunted' pub. It is more of a nightclub but I do believe it got the haunted titled after builders came across a screaming lady and ran! The Whisky (according to my sister as I hate the stuff) was cheap and nasty but the shortbread finger was lovely. The toilets were clean too.I was happy to pay £9.50 for this tour. It was well thought out, well guided and eerie. We managed to get a few pictures. It isn't the scariest tour we have been on but it does have a 'chill factor' in my opinion and is worth going on. I wouldn't recommend it for children under 12 but that is up to the parent! I suppose it depends on the level of activity whether you experience anything sinister as there have been valid reports. We just weren't as lucky - or perhaps we were too lucky depending on which way you look at it!
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009