A repost of my review of the Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh…

Here’s another Epinions review from 2012 that I’m trying to keep from obscurity.  I am reposting it for those who might be heading to Edinburgh, Scotland, which is one of my favorite places!  The information may no longer be up to date, but our experience will always be the same!

  • Exploring Edinburgh Underground… The Real Mary King’s Close

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel
      December, 14 2012
  • Pros: Very interesting.  
    Cons: A bit campy.  Forced photo ops.
    Recently, my husband Bill and I took a trip to Scotland where we spent 16 nights exploring Glasgow, the western isles, and Edinburgh.  By the time we got to Edinburgh, the trip was winding down a bit.  Perhaps we should have spent some time wandering around Edinburgh Castle, but I was a bit castled out by then.  I ended up talking Bill into exploring The Real Mary King’s Close instead.

    Who was Mary King and what is a close?

    If you visit Edinburgh and stroll along The Royal Mile, you’ll see narrow alleyways with signs over them.  These alleyways are called “closes”, because they were private properties that could be closed off from the main drag.  They were usually named after one of the more memorable occupants of apartments located within them.

    Mary King was a seamstress and businesswoman in the 17th century who was quite successful.  The close that is named after her is now a commercial tourist attraction that was opened to the public in April 2003.  Before it became a tourist attraction, it was the subject of many ghost stories and urban legends about the people who haunted it, having died there after suffering the plague in the 17th century.

    Visiting Mary King’s Close

    Bill was thinking that Mary King’s Close would be very campy and silly.  Nevertheless, given the mood I was in at the time, I decided I really wanted to see it.  So we showed up in the middle of the afternoon and signed up for the tour.  Adult tickets run 12.75 British pounds, while children between the ages of 5 and 15 pay 7.25.  Senior citizens and students (with ID) pay 11.25.  This attraction is not suitable for children under age 5.  Pre-booking is recommended, though we were able to just walk in.  Be mindful that the tours have different hours depending on the season.

    We were a bit early for the 2:00 tour, so we milled around the very well appointed gift shop.  Had we wanted to, we could have dined at the small outdoor cafe just outside the entrance.  I made myself comfortable using the public restrooms, mildly amused when an electronic voice yelled “Gar-de-loo!” when I flushed.

    Time for the tour

    We were in a group of 13 and a gentleman dressed in 17th century garb and acting as if he came from the 1600s gathered us together, asking if any of us suffered from asthma, claustrophobia, or any other medical condition that might make the tour dangerous or uncomfortable.  He told us he had a walkie talkie from “our time” that would allow him to call for help should it be needed.  Then he advised us that we were not allowed to take photos, though one would be taken of us that we could purchase if we wished.  I always hate the forced photo ops, mainly because I hate how I look in pictures and because I think it’s tacky.

    The tour begins

    We descended down several flights of stairs that took us into the dark, dusty depths of Mary King’s Close.  The guide put on his best act as a man from the 1600s, explaining how people of that time lived and holding a flashlight to prevent people from falling down on the uneven floors.

    We heard the story of a family afflicted with the plague and what was done if it was determined they had a chance of survival… and what was done if it was determined they were doomed.  We heard the story of Annie, a little girl who lived in the Close who lost her doll and supposedly still haunts the Close.  Thousands of people from around the world have left dolls for Annie and they are displayed in her room.  Our guide showed us a workshop that was operated as recently as the 19th century as well as the front of a house that was inhabited until the occupant basically had to be forced out.

    After about an hour, we were on our way back out of the Close, climbing the same stairs.  We had to wait a few minutes for another tour group to pass, and we spent this time in a small room with benches where the guide was available to answer questions.

    As we were leaving Mary King’s Close, Bill said “I have to admit that was interesting.”  And it was, though I will definitely admit it was very campy!


    Mary King’s Close is a bit on the silly side, but this tour is based in history and I think it’s worth doing once.  Yes, we probably should have toured the Castle, but I really needed something fun to take my mind off of the bad news we had gotten about our dog, MacGregor (who is still with us and doing better).  Mary King’s Close fit the bill in that regard.  It was interesting.  On another note, having grown up near Williamsburg, Virginia, I’m always interested in history involving Britain or America during that time period.  I’ve toured Colonial Williamsburg several times, so it was kind of cool to get perspective of what was going on during the American Colonial period in Scotland.

    I give Mary King’s Close four stars!

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