About the Close
The Real Mary King’s Close is a warren of underground streets and spaces. It can be a strange concept to understand – back in the 1600’s, Mary King’s Close and neighbouring Closes were at the heart of Edinburgh’s busiest and most vibrant streets, open to the skies and bustling with traders selling their wares to the Old Town’s residents. Why would this street find itself underground 400 years later?
For years, the hidden Closes of Old Town Edinburgh have been shrouded in myths and mysteries, with blood curdling tales of ghosts and murders, and of plague victims being walled up and left to die. Research and archaeological evidence have revealed a truer story, rooted in fact and – as is so often the case – more fascinating than any amount of fiction.
With a costumed character tour guide based on a one time resident, you will explore this underground site, hearing these fascinating stories.
What is a Close?
Edinburgh is built on a spine of rock and down the backbone of the Old Town, from the Castle to Holyrood, runs the slope of the Royal Mile. A series of lanes and alleyways grew out of this long street, falling away to either side – these are the ‘wynds’ or ‘closes’ where Old Town folk made their residences.
Who was Mary King?
Closes were named after the most prominent citizen or the most commonly found business to be on the close. Documents show that Mary King was a prominent businesswoman in the 1630’s. At that time she was a widow and a mother of four, who traded in fabrics and sewed for a living. It was highly unusual for a close to be named after a woman at that time, indicating Mary’s standing in the town.