You know the day won’t go well when you can’t find Sainsbury’s, cross the road to ask someone only to find you were standing right outside it at the crossing. We made a shame-faced retreat, remarking how much like an office block it looked. We went through the revolving doors, marvelling how posh the marble foyer was. Sainsbury’s in Cardiff just have security bleepers and teenagers hanging around outside. Turned out, this wasn’t Sainsbury’s. This was an office block. Whoops. Sainsbury’s was next door. Then Cat got stuck in the revolving door on our way out. Being humiliated by a supermarket wasn’t exactly the highlight of the tour. We returned to Travelodge to fetch Ryan and head to the castle. Ryan forgot his coat & had to return for it. We mocked him and continued on our way. Only for Lynx to discover she’d forgotten her camcorder when we weren’t far from the castle so we had to go back for it. By now the group had splintered – Ryan was on the Royal Mile in Games Workshop, Neen was browsing the shops on Princes Street and we were standing outside a shoe shop getting strange looks from the shop girl inside. So we stood staring in through the window just to make the atmosphere inside mildly uncomfortable.
We finally made it to Edinburgh castle and we managed to get Ryan and Neen in for free on our Cadw cards, saving them £16 each 😀 The castle was cool, though we were disappointed it wasn’t like a castle in the traditional sense. It’s made up of old buildings, which are mostly war museums. We pretended to fire the cannons at the peasants below. They screamed a little but their pain didn’t last long. We went to see the Crown Jewels after spending a while sitting outside. We walked 9 and a half miles yesterday and about 4 on Tuesday so our feet, ankles and shins were in agony. Each step was torture. Over the security guard’s radio, we heard the word ‘camcorder’ and immediately had visions of someone being tackled after using their camcorder in a prohibited zone. After a lunch break, we noticed we were minus our camcorder. Cat had been in charge of it for once. She’d left it on the bench outside the Crown Jewels. Luckily someone handed it in. Yes, the camcorder announcement on the radio wasn’t heralding the take down and imprisonment of a brazen tourist, but the idiocy of us forgetting it. The security guard commented on how long it took us to notice it was missing. (An hour we believe). Yes we’re numptys. We then nearly left our tablet by a guard post but Neen spotted it. The whole time she’s been looking after the tablet it was safe. We take it back and leave it behind. After that we relinquished full guardianship duties of the tablet to Neen. It wasn’t left behind again.
We were supposed to do the Mary King’s Close tour at 9 but Neen and us wanted to do the other vaults tour so we could dance in the witches cursed stone circle. Neen phoned and asked if we could do an earlier tour. They said yes so at 5 we headed over. Have to say we weren’t that impressed. The guides on the City of the Dead tours were amazing but this guy was terrible. He was boring, quite rude to people and putting on a terrible Scottish accent for only a few words. Seriously, either do it properly or don’t bother. He even told an old guy off for sitting on a trough. They don’t let you take photos or film purely so they can make money off the souvenir photos which are taken by an IR camera and frankly not great. The street itself was pretty cool but they really need to sort out their guides. And they have speaking portraits which were clever but totally irrelevant to the tour. They had nothing to do with the close, except one and the guide was so wooden at interacting with the portraits it was embarrassing. The Dungeons staff were brilliant at interacting with the props. This guy was pompous, telling everyone how to walk down spiral stairs. There were four steps. We were hardly in danger of killing ourselves. And we’re seasoned in the spiral staircases in castles. You want a dangerous staircase, try Conwy Castle. He was more concerned with telling us how to walk over the flag stone floor than he was at being entertaining. But we’re glad we did the tour, because Mary King’s Close has been a place we’ve wanted to visit for ages and we can now say we’ve been there.
We then headed to Rapido chip shop which served vegan chips. We’d been looking forwards to going there since we found out about it. The chips were delicious, fat, greasy and huge portions. They tasted like chips you get at the seaside. We returned to Travelodge for a couple of hours before the 10 o’ clock vaults tour. Ryan didn’t want to do another vaults tour and stayed in Travelodge, so if we antagonise the witches and ghosts on the tour, we’re kinda screwed.
We left early for our tour because our legs are so sore, normal walking pace is painful. Good job we did because Cat forgot her rucksack and had to run back for it. When we reached the meeting place, almost everyone was smoking. Ych a fie. We hate the smell of smoke so stood upwind from them as much as possible. If you want to kill yourselves, fine, but don’t take the rest of us with you. For once, the men outnumbered the women on the tour. Usually you get couples or if there is a small group, it’s always women. One large group were a group of soldiers. They were all big guys. Let’s see how brave they are in the vaults. If the amount they were smoking was any indicator, they were clearly nervous.
This tour was with Auld Reekie and called the Terror Tour. Our guide, Rachel was lovely and had a really cool coat. Our first stop on the tour was the site of the old Tolbooth jail, which was right next to St. Giles cathedral and is marked out by brass bricks in the road. On the pavement is a stone heart. We’ve walked over it plenty of times on our travels, not knowing what it was. Apparently it’s the site of the death cell. It’s considered good luck to spit on it, bad luck to stand on it. She asked if anyone wanted to stand on it to tempt fate for the tour. Naturally, Neen and us leapt on it and danced. Strangely nobody joined us. If they’re not willing to stand on a stone heart, there’s no way in hell they’ll come into the stone circle with us. Rachel then took us to a car park for the Parliament buildings, which used to be the graveyard for the cathedral. One resident, John Knox stated in his will he was never to be moved from his resting place, so he’s the only occupant still there. Under car park space 23 which has a plaque. And last night it had a van on it.
Then it was in to the vaults. These vaults aren’t underground, but are actually in the South Bridge. The first room was the torture room. It was boiling in there. Once we were in the vaults, the first room we spotted was the room belonging to the coven of wiccans. They used to hire a vault further up, but discovered a negative presence was there. As we gathered around the stone circle, Rachel told us not to stand inside. Thinking she was banning us, we were planning to jump in anyway. She told us that one night, the coven leader stayed overnight by himself in order to cleanse the vault. He heard a noise further down the vaults and went to investigate. On returning, he saw the iron gate over the vault was closed. There’s no wind in the vaults. He shouted “show yourself” and heard a crack. The mirror in the corner had a large fracture running through it. He again shouted “show yourself!”
But has never said what happened next.
He asked the boss of Auld Reekie tours not to allow anyone to go into the vaults. But naturally, being an operator of ghost tours, he couldn’t lock up the scariest vault in the bridge. So the wiccans built a stone circle to trap the negative entity inside. Apparently, anyone who goes into the circle is attacked or suffers bad luck. There’s a story that one man had a heart attack while in there. Before Rachel had finished saying “if you want to step inside” we were in the circle like rats on a corpse. We broke out our zumba moves while the rest of the group stared at us. It was either in awe, terror or ‘you pin them down, I’ll fetch the men white coats’. It’s hard to tell in the gloom.
Nobody else joined us. We got Rachel to take a photo of us then a couple of the soldiers, clearly feeling emasculated, reluctantly stepped inside the circle. But they didn’t stay for long. As we left, one of them said to us “if anything happens to us now, we’re hunting you down.” We’re not scared! 😀 One of the soldiers then spent the rest of the time tapping us in the dark in an effort to frighten us. Nice try. We see ourselves first thing in the morning, we don’t scare easily.
The final vault was known as the haunted vault. She had the group separate so the men were on the left, the women on the right. Which meant we got to stand in a big puddle and our boots leak. The reason for this was that the entity in this vault is only felt by women. If women are on the right side, all they feel are soft caresses on their cheeks or their hair being brushed. If they’re on the left, the entity becomes aggressive and they get pushed, scratched, etc. We asked if we could switch sides. She was reluctant, but we ran to the left side and mingled with the men. For some reason, the soldiers moved away from us. None of the other women joined us.
On our way out, Rachel threatened to lock some of us in overnight. We were thrilled and begged her to lock us on. One of the soldiers said “I’d stay overnight, but I’m not staying with those three.” 😀 It’s not often that women who are 5’2” at their tallest, terrify a group of soldiers, who were 6’ plus. It was a definite high point of the evening and is now our joint favourite moment with Ryan’s cross dressing charge. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to film in these vaults so the two best moments of the holiday were not captured 😦
However, it’s been four days since we tempted Fate with the heart and dancing in the cursed stone circle and we weren’t attacked, haven’t dropped dead and haven’t had any bad luck. But this is probably because we are naturally the unluckiest people we know so the entity clearly thought about it and went “you’re screwed enough.”