Edinburgh’s Underground City, What’s the Deal?

Some cities keep subway systems in their underground, Edinburgh Scotland instead keeps vaults. Edinburgh’s underground city is mysterious and filled with legends. Ghost stories and ghost tours run as deep as the cities history. But, what’s the deal with Edinburgh’s underground city?

Edinburgh’s Underground City – Why?

“For almost 250 years, Edinburgh was surrounded by a giant defensive wall.” Writes Jan-Andrew Henderson author of The Town Below The Ground, “Unable to expand the city’s boundaries, the burgeoning population built over every inch of square space. And when there was no more room, they began to dig down”

Edinburgh's Underground City
Edinburgh Cowgate Photo

Edinburgh’s underground vault systems oddly enough began as bridges. Most notable is the South Bridge. The bridge expanded out from Edinburgh’s highest hill with massive arches. Construction began in 1785 and since then the city has risen around the bridges to create an underground city system.

Edinburgh's Underground City

These bridges are not visible today due to a city being constructed around them. A visible bridge arch is rare but can sometimes be seen such as around Cowgate.

Edinburgh’s Underground City – Witches and Ghosts

These underground vaults were mainly by merchants and business owners as storage areas. Also, people began living in Edinburgh’s underground city but these conditions were considered abysmal even by standards centuries old. The dark and dank underground conditions were lived in by only the poorest of residents.

There was no light in these cramped conditions. It is believed that dozens of men, women, and children, who were living underground passed away within the vaults due to disease. Edinburgh’s underground city was forced to seal shut for centuries.

“The vaults also became a den of vice and nefarious practices.” Edinburgh News

Edinburgh's Underground City Vaults
Edinburgh’s Underground City Vaults

However, due to the nature of a hidden area, nefarious acts began to take their work underground. Gambling dens, murders, alcohol brewing, prostitution remained in Edinburgh’s underground city. Also, a Wiccan Witches Coven can still be visited, officially named The Source Coven of The Blue Dragon. 

“Paranormal experts say the South Bridge vaults is one of the most haunted places in the UK,” Says Edinburgh News, “On account of the sheer number of disturbances recorded there, which include voices and apparitions.”

Since the decades following its re-opening ghost hunters have been flocking to Edinburgh’s underground vaults. “TV spook hunters Most Haunted,” Writes On The Luce, “To a Japanese psychic who claimed to have met a young girl called Annie in one of the rooms. She was said to be a plague victim abandoned by her parents who wanted a doll to stop her feeling so lonely.” Patrons will now leave toys where this event occurred for this young girl.

“According to the City of the Dead tours, who run nightly tours into the legendary labyrinth, the vaults are as ‘black as Satan’s jammies’” Edinburgh News continues, “And are stalked by a ‘malevolent presence known as the South Bridge Entity’, which some call ‘The Watcher’.”

Edinburgh’s Underground City – Visiting

Dozens of tours can take you to Edinburgh’s underground city. There are different sections to the underground as well, so keep in mind what you would like to see. More vault tour information can be found hereherehere, or here.

Edinburgh’s underground vaults remains one of the most haunted places in the UK. Ghosts, demons, and more are said to dwell within the caverns. These sites were built, sealed away, and now re-opened. “If even half of the numerous ghost stories are to be believed,” Writes Edinburgh News, “Then the South Bridge vaults should be considered among the most haunted places in Europe if not the world.”


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