Shortlist Success

Last year marked a landmark birthday for The Real Mary King’s Close, and now the Edinburgh attraction has even more cause for celebration as the success of its 10th anniversary ‘Imagine…’ marketing campaign is applauded by tourism, marketing and PR industry experts.

The Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence is the latest in a recent string of awards that the five star Edinburgh attraction’s ‘Imagine…’ campaign has been shortlisted. The bold new campaign, which was launched in 2013, positions the one time residents of the Close at the forefront of all promotional activity and emphasises the attraction’s historical importance to Edinburgh.

As well as substantial outdoor advertising which many people will have seen on buses and taxis, the campaign extended across events, social media, marketing and PR. Added to this was the attraction’s first ever stand alone festival, Close Fest, which invited local audiences to experience the venue in a completely new light through theatre, music and comedy as well as showcasing the space which is available for private hire.

Earlier in the year, the campaign was successfully shortlisted for a Marketing Excellence Award alongside big tourism players including VisitEngland and VisitScotland during what the Chartered Institute of Marketing noted as “an extraordinary year for entries” with “the quality and standard extremely high.”

The campaign which caught the imagination of the media with its creative story angles and strong news hooks was also shortlisted for a Golden Hedgehog PR Award, one of the few companies north of the Border to reach the Award finals.

Claire Riddoch, Marketing Manager, The Real Mary King’s Close said: ‘It is a real honour to be recognised by our industry peers and to be shortlisted alongside established brands. From talking to our visitors, we knew that our character tour guides were one of the most popular aspects of the experience in helping visitors understand Edinburgh’s history. This feedback led us to using the characters as the face of the campaign which has proved extremely successful since being launched early last years.’

This campaign was part of a substantial investment in the site which included the creation of The Real Mary King’s Close tartan for staff to wear and a new state of the art interactive addition to the tour.

Uncover the truth at The Real Mary King’s Close this Halloween

Many visitors over the years have reported seeing, hearing and feeling things they can’t quite explain during visits to The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh. 

Unexplained happenings have been reported to staff at the Close on a regular basis since the attraction opened in 2003, but the majority of sightings have taken place on the same night each year – Halloween.

webcam (2)This year the team at The Real Mary King’s Close is prepared to investigate the truth behind these happenings at Halloween.  A webcam has been installed to capture everything that happens in Chesney’s House – the area where most people have reported strange goings-on.  Mr Chesney, who used to live in that house, was the last person to leave the Close in 1897.

The camera is recording footage 24 hours a day and can be viewed live.

Nigel Hosier, manager of The Real Mary King’s Close attraction, commented: “I think the senses are heightened at Halloween and people visiting the Close seem to see and hear a lot more than what we set up as part of the tour.  We take all the reports we receive from our visitors very seriously and would love to capture something on camera to help explain these happenings.  We won’t be able to monitor the webcam 24 hours a day, so if people spot anything unusual we would love for them to let us know so we can investigate further.

“We have also obtained some electronic voice recordings from the Close which we will be revealing during our Supernatural History Tours between Thursday 27 and Monday 31 October.”

The new extended Supernatural History Tour of The Real Mary King’s Close is a spookier alternative tour for Halloween.  Edinburgh’s myths and legends of witchcraft, the supernatural, and the reported paranormal activities on the Close will all be examined, including the revealing of the new electronic voice recordings.

Tours take place from 7pm on Thursday 27, Friday 28, Saturday 29, Sunday 30 and Monday 31 October.  The last tour departs at 9pm every night except on Halloween (31 October) when the Close will be open late to give visitors the rare chance to be on the Close at midnight, with the last tour leaving at 11pm.

To find out more see our Supernatural History Tour page and to book tickets please visit our bookings page or call 0845 070 6244.

Halloween at The Real Mary King’s Close

GhostlyVisitors can experience a spookier alternative to The Real Mary King’s Close between Thursday 27 and Monday 31 October.  Supernatural History Tours will explore Edinburgh’s macabre stories of witchcraft and the supernatural as well as investigating some of the reported paranormal activities on the Close, including the revealing of electronic voice recordings!

To find out more see our Supernatural History Tours page and to book tickets please visit ourbookings page or call 0845 070 6244.

Awarded Five Stars For Tenth Year

As The Real Mary King’s Close marks its tenth anniversary year, it has even more reason to celebrate as VisitScotland awards the top Edinburgh attraction five stars for a tenth year running.

The award comes in the same year that the attraction celebrates its very own five stars, the one-time residents of The Real Mary King’s Close brought to life through character tour guides. The characters who include a foul clenger and Mary King’s daughter are the faces of the attraction’s latest ‘Imagine’ marketing campaign that has already helped generate more than 100,000 visitors since its launch in April this year.

5 stars for tenth year - lighter

Since opening as a visitor attraction, it was always a key objective for The Real Mary King’s Close to become a World Class addition to the city’s cultural portfolio and within its first year of operation it secured VisitScotland‘s top award of five star status. In that time it has consistently retained its five star status and has attracted over 1.6 million visitors over the last decade.

Manuela Calchini, VisitScotland’s Regional Director comments on the accreditation: “Since day one, The Real Mary King’s Close team has committed to delivering a quality visitor experience and has always shown a genuine passion across all that they do. This combined with recent major investment in the attraction has made sure a decade on, they continue to engage audiences, deliver an excellent level of customer service and meet VisitScotland’s five star standards.”

VisitScotland’s five star accreditation was awarded after a visit from its Quality Assurance team highlighted the recent major enhancements to the tour, the friendly welcome from staff and the quality of tour delivery as areas of particular excellence. This combined with the high quality visitor experience delivered across all areas of the business, has ensured The Real Mary King’s Close’s continued position alongside Edinburgh’s elite five star attractions including Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and The Scotch Whisky Experience.

Craig Miller, General Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close says: “To have retained five star standards in all ten years of operation and to be consistently recognised for our ‘excellence’ is testament to the dedicated team we have here at The Real Mary King’s Close all of whom have a real love for what they do. Part of our success is down to us continually looking at new ways to enhance our visitor experience whether that’s through on-going investment or staff training. This ensures we always deliver a five star experience and create lasting memories for all that visit.”

This latest news comes as the attraction celebrates its tenth anniversary with special events including The Dark Truth Tour which featured for the first time in this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. Celebrations will culminate with ‘Close Fest’ which launches on Halloween and promises to show off the attraction as never before.

Stranger than Fiction – History with a Twist this Summer

With Edinburgh now rated as the second most popular city for tourism in the UK*, a city visitor attraction is challenging those who think they know Edinburgh to take a step below the surface this summer for a history lesson that can be stranger than fiction at The Real Mary King’s Close!

Whether visiting for The Festival or sightseeing and shopping on the world-famous Royal Mile, visitors are just a few steps away from The Real Mary King’s Close, where they can discover a part of the city that has remained hidden and frozen in time since the 17th century.  Now opened as an intriguing visitor attraction, complete with guides who take on the persona of one of the former residents of the street, The Real Mary King’s Close experience offers an unforgettable underground tour of one of Edinburgh’s lost streets.

“When you descend onto the Close, you could be anywhere – there are no windows to reveal the outside world and no modern point of reference, just the street looking as it would have when it was abandoned,” explains general manager, Craig Miller.  “The current city authorities in Edinburgh work extremely hard to keep the Royal Mile looking fantastic for visitors from every corner of the globe, but down here, those visitors get a unique insight into life in the 17th century city, when only a few metres – and a few storeys – separated the riches from the poorest residents.  Whilst the wealthy and most educated wrote history based on their own experiences, the folk who lived down here have a very different story to tell.”

Indeed, the guides each offer their own perspective on life in the Close, looking at its history, their neighbours, and some of the legends that have grown up around the location – is the Close really haunted, as many psychics and paranormal investigators believe, and is it true that the street was barricaded when the plague hit Edinburgh, leaving its residents to die in isolation…?

“If you are happy to be told the glorious story of the wonderful city of Edinburgh, there are plenty of tours to take and places to visit.  But if you want to hear the real story that lies beneath all that glitters, you need to visit The Real Mary King’s Close,” adds Craig.

Each tour takes around one hour, and tours depart approximately every 15 minutes.


The Real Mary King’s Close is open daily from 10.00am to 9.00pm.  Admission prices are £12.95 for adults, £11.45 for seniors and students and £7.50 for children aged 5 to 15.  The attraction is unsuitable for children aged under 5.  Prebooking is recommended by calling 0845 070 6244 or online at


* Results of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice 2012 Awards

Investment Adds New Life To The Close

The Maid Meets Mary King 1It may have been over four hundred years since she last traded in the city’s old town but now the woman behind The Real Mary King’s Close is being brought back to life as part of a major investment at the top Edinburgh visitor attraction.

The infamous Mary King is just one of three characters that visitors will meet for the first time as part of the new interactive tour and comes as the attraction celebrates its tenth anniversary since first opening its doors back in 2003.

The enhancements follow years of research into the lives of those real people that once lived and traded within the warren of streets and goes deeper than ever before in bringing Edinburgh’s history to life using the latest state of the art technology.

Craig Miller, General Manager comments: “We’ve given our thousands of visitors over the last ten years a glimpse of what life would have been like back in the day and discovered through our own guide research that there is so much more to tell about this unique piece of Edinburgh’s history.  Our tenth anniversary seemed the perfect opportunity to introduce visitors to more of those past residents of the close through a fully interactive quality visitor experience that aims to exceed expectations, securing our position as an unmissable part of Edinburgh’s tourism offering future for years to come.”

The new visitor enhancements form part of the ten year celebrations where visitors during 2013 will be able to enjoy a programme of one off special events at the attraction, culminating in a week long festival launching on Halloween.

Further details will be released on the website with booking recommended by calling 0845 070 6244 or going online at

Ten Years Making Edinburgh’s Hidden History Unmissable

View of close MerchantThis year The Real Mary King’s Close marks its tenth anniversary as a top visitor experience with a programme of one off special events as unique as the attraction itself.

Birthday celebrations will kick off with the attraction “Calling All King’s To The Close”, appealing to those named Mary King to join in the celebrations for a gathering of King’s at the attraction.  Added to this, those who share their name with this remarkable Edinburgh woman will be given free entry during the month of April, marking the month the venue officially opened its doors for the first time back in 2003.

During August, whilst the city heats up for the summer festivals, visitors can experience a chilling Edinburgh Festival Fringe first as The Real Mary King’s Close gets darker than ever before for this late night special tour. Not for the faint hearted, the ‘Dark Truth Tour’ will tell the sinister tales of plague and pestilence and murder most horrid witnessed by those who lived and worked in the closes.  With lights turned low and shadows cast wide, those who dare to be there will learn the whole truth behind the myths and mysteries shrouding this hidden city, the question is, are they brave enough?

An eerie late night Dark Truth Tour on Halloween for those that dare will mark the launch of ‘Close Fest’, a week long celebration of underground events.  Visitors can expect to experience The Close as never before with events ranging from comedy, live music and fun for the kids, in what promises to be a celebration like no other previously witnessed in this hidden warren of closes.

In the wintry month of December visitors will feel a further chill in the air at The Real Mary King’s Close when they learn the shocking truth that until fairly recently Christmas across the city was banned.  The ‘Christmas On The Close’ tour reveals the history surrounding Christmas as an ordinary working day for Scots that saw the celebrations moved to Hogmanay instead.  The story of those early merrymakers who paved the way to Edinburgh now playing host to one of the biggest New Year street parties in the world will culminate with a warming mulled wine and mince pie.

Ten years on and The Real Mary King’s Close has grown to become an award winning five star attraction that ranks up there with the top things to see and do in Edinburgh.   With daily tours combined with one off special events, this year there are even more reasons to visit this underground time capsule to share in the celebrations.

Cupid On The Close

Valentines (1)To mark its tenth anniversary since opening as a visitor attraction, The Real Mary King’s Close is offering couples who tied the knot back in 2003 the chance to renew their vows this Valentine’s Day to the backdrop of this atmospheric Edinburgh venue.

The competition, as unique as the venue itself, will be available to enter here, as well as being announced via Facebook and twitter giving couples the chance to take their romance to a whole new level as they renew their vows within the attraction’s warren of underground closes.  As an attraction that tells the real stories of those who lived and worked on The Close, couples will be asked to submit their real story for their chance to win.  From the hidden depths of Edinburgh’s historic past to the bright heights of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the winning couple will then enjoy an overnight stay including a romantic candlelit dinner at Edinburgh’s luxurious Hotel du Vin.

The couple’s commitment to each other will also become part of the fabric of The Real Mary King’s Close as this historical first will be recorded and included within a tenth anniversary time-capsule which will remain in The Close for future generations to come.

Craig Miller, General Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close comments: “Much of our success is down to the warm reception we have had from those who have visited and subsequently recommended our timeless attraction over the years, so this is our way of giving back some of that love!”

As part of its celebratory year, visitors to The Real Mary King’s Close during 2013 will be able to enjoy a programme of one off special events with highlights including a week long festival planned around Halloween.

Down to Earth with Agnes….


Continuing our series of opportunities to get to know our residents a little better, this week it’s the turn of the down to earth and homely Agnes Chambers.

Agnes Chambers is a maid of the prominent merchant burgess, Alexander Cant.  She will be able to regale you in stories of this household, and even perhaps a wee bit of gossip.

Click on here to see what Agnes has to say and perhaps even get a wee discount for your next visit!