Great Myths and Legends of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Myths and Legends

The city of Edinburgh is famous for its legends and myths, from spooky hauntings to hidden underground streets. Built on seven hills, just like Rome, Edinburgh’s history dates back centuries. With a castle built atop a volcanic rock and a network of secret tunnels and streets, the city is full of mystery. So, with this, of course, come the Edinburgh legends and myths that continue to puzzle locals and visitors alike. Why not book a room at our central hotel and discover the facts behind these mysteries?

Here are some of Edinburgh’s most famous myths, stories and legends, that will leave you wanting to plan a visit to our historic capital:

Edinburgh Legends of Greyfriars Kirkyard

Our capital city is said to be one of the most haunted in the world, and there are many stories of ghostly sightings and experiences. Many locals and visitors say they have spotted several Edinburgh ghosts throughout various sites across the city. Perhaps, one of the most famous haunted sites is Greyfriars Kirkyard. Here, you’ll find the grave of George McKenzie, a barrister who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Covenanters. But, his soul is far from at rest. His ghost continues to haunt visitors, with some saying they have been violently pushed over when walking past his grave.

Then there’s the heart-warming story of Greyfriar’s Bobby. Which tells of a 19th century night watchman named John Gray and his wee Skye Terrier called Bobby. When Gray died, he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and his faithful dog sat by his grave for 14 years. Then when Bobby died, he was buried at Greyfriars alongside his master. A granite fountain with a statue of Bobby was erected in his honour 1873. However, you’ll discover there’s more to this story, as we debunk the myth.

Gates to Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh

Hauntings at Edinburgh Castle

The spectacular Edinburgh Castle is built on a 700 million-year-old extinct volcanic rock, known as Castle Rock. With a rich history, it has become a hot-spot for ghostly sightings. So, in Edinburgh Castle, it’s no surprise, visitors have had their fair share of haunting experiences over the years.

One of the castle’s most popular spooky tales is the one of the headless drummer boy. His identity is unknown and he only makes an appearance when the castle is under threat. First spotted in 1650 when Oliver Cromwell attacked the castle, the ghost is said to be wandering the grounds. Another of the castle’s famous ghosts is the one of the Lone Piper. In this story, the piper was lost in the underground tunnels beneath the castle. He played his bagpipes so that people could track him from above, but sadly he never returned. Still today, you may hear his pipe music in the castle, as he endlessly walks along the underground tunnels.

Find more haunted places to visit in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle lit up at night

Disputed Myths About Edinburgh Castle

Some believe Edinburgh Castle was built by the Romans. But while a castle has stood atop Castle Rock for as long as we can remember, there’s no proof that Romans had anything to do with it. Excavations around the castle in 1980 revealed a settlement has reigned supreme over modern-day Edinburgh since the Bronze Age.

There’s another rumour that the Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle is actually fake. Set in the belly of Edinburgh Castle, this is an ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy. For hundreds of years, the stone has witnessed the coronation of kings and queens throughout UK history. But in 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey. Three months later, the stone turned up at the front door of Arbroath Abbey. In 1966, the stone returned to Edinburgh Castle, where it sits in the Crown Room. But despite its safe return, many people believe the stone that now sits in Edinburgh Castle is not the real Stone of Destiny.

Learn more about Edinburgh Castle with these 10 fascinating facts.

Statue on wall inside Edinburgh Castle

Arthur’s Seat and the Sleeping Dragon

Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh is one of the city’s most popular attractions for visitors. Part of a volcanic rock, this peak is a hot-spot for hikers and it overlooks Holyrood Park, the city and beautiful countryside. Here, many myths and stories have developed over the years. One of the most popular is the story of the Sleeping Dragon. Some say a ferocious dragon once circled the skies, eating anything it could from the ground. One day, the dragon stopped for a rest on this peak because it was so full and it never woke. Then, it became the hill now famously known as Arthur’s Seat.

Arthurs Seat over city of Edinburgh

The Real Mary King’s Close

Sitting beneath the City Chambers on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile lies a network of streets that were once bustling with people who lived and worked there in the 17th century. These streets were once open, but became buried beneath the new City Chambers building in 1753. Mary King’s Close gets its name from one of the wealthy residents on the streets; Mary King a merchant Burgess and widow. This area saw the arrival of the plague in 1645, with hundreds of residents perishing of the deadly disease. Now, these winding narrow alleys and tunnels are said to be haunted by former residents and merchants.

Black sign with gold writing showing direction to Mary Kings Close

To discover more about Edinburgh legends and stories, spend some time exploring our historic city’s attractions and sights. So, check out our special offers, book your stay at central Parliament House and unlock the mystery!