17th century ‘hand-fasting’ to celebrate Royal wedding at The Real Mary Kings Close!

We will be taking time out of our usual tour at midday on Saturday 30 July to re-enact some 17th century nuptials in honour of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall’s Edinburgh-based wedding. In addition, all Zaras and Mikes* will have free admission on the couple’s special day.

We have recently installed extra staging within one section of the tour in the form of wine racks, crates and barrels that would have existed when the Close was in its hey day. What has been dubbed ‘the merchant’s cellar’ will be used as a backdrop to perform highlights of what was a traditional marriage ceremony of the period, including a ‘hand-fasting’.

Whilst the Royal couple’s wedding is somewhat shrouded in mystery, the 17th century wedding will be equally exclusive with only one lucky tour group being invited to the wedding of Agnes Chambers – aka the Maid and Walter King – aka the Foul Clenger. The couple will have their hands tied together in the customary ritual, signifying their marriage to each other. The demonstration will conclude with so called ‘bride cakes’ (thin, dry biscuits) being crumbled over the bride’s head, acting as a wish of good fortune and hope that the bride will be ‘fruitful’!

Guests at the ceremony will also be treated to a more twenty-first century glass of champagne in order to toast both of the happy couples’ health and happiness.

*Photo ID required.

Brought Alive By The Sound of Haunted Bird

Haunted BirdThe Real Mary King’s Close is delighted to be playing host to renowned Scottish contemporary musicians Iain Morrison and Daibhidh Martin to mark the occasion of the launch their new album. Playing a live acoustic set on Thursday March 10th, it is fitting that Iain and Daibhidh have chosen this unique, historic location to play their only Edinburgh ‘Haunted Bird’ date.

Iain Morrison and Daibhidh Martin were born and brought up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and have written songs together for the last decade in a diverse range of critically vaunted projects considered by many to be at the forefront of Scotland’s burgeoning new trad and alt-folk music scene. Haunted Bird is their debut joint collaboration and expands from the alt-folk tag. Its soundscape remains rich in roots, warm and glowing, but the songs are more sparsely crafted and open, cast around unforgettable, natural melodies.

Iain Morrison is one of Scotland’s most inventive and acclaimed contemporary musicians; a piper from the Gaelic tradition; a guitarist and composer with a golden ear for strong melody, and an engaging, expressive singing voice.   Iain is also the winner of Composer of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2010.

Daibhidh Martin writes poems and stories in short forms: a flow of iconic sometimes surreal fables, myths, micro-fiction and fragments of balanced and crafted words that chart the brief moments of intense life. Daibhidh has been a major part of many of Iain’s critically acclaimed projects during which, the partnership that has now produced ‘Haunted Bird’, has come into sharp and vital focus.

Tickets are strictly limited due to the unusual nature of the Close as a venue. For more information about the gig or Iain and Daibhidh visit the Haunted Bird website.

Christmas and Hogmanay Opening Times

Don’t get bored by endless Christmas TV and unwanted Christmas jumpers – The Real Mary King’s Close is only closed on Christmas Day.  Once you have recovered from your festive excesses, it’s then time to celebrate the coming of a New Year with extended opening times at the Close!  

Opening times are as follows….

  • December 23rd – 10am – 4pm (last tour) (tours every 40 minutes)
  • Christmas Eve – 10am – 4pm (last tour) (tours every 40 minutes)
  • Christmas Day – Closed
  • Boxing Day – 10am – 4pm (last tour) (tours every 40 minutes)
  • December 27th – 10am – 5pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • December 28th- 10am – 9pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • December 29th – 10am – 9pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • December 30th- 10am – 9pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • December 31st – 10am – 5pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • January 1st – 10am – 9pm (last tour) (tours every 20 minutes)
  • January 2nd – 10am – 9pm (last tour) (tour every 20 minutes)
  • January 3rd onwards – Normal opening hours resume

As always if you would like to guarantee your place on a tour, pre-booking is recommended, especially over the busy Hogmanay period, so please Book Online.

We look forward to welcoming you and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Don’t stress about delivery…give a Mary King’s gift voucher!

Real Mary Kings Close gift voucher - ten pounds

With so many problems surrounding delivery of Christmas gifts and the weather causing worry, we have a solution to your Christmas gift issues!

Why not give a Real Mary King’s Close gift experience? You can book a package for two adults for our underground tour with a souvenir guidebook or a family experience of the Close, amongst others. If you can’t decide, you can buy cash value vouchers for your loved ones to buy unique gifts in the shop or perhaps a souvenir photo after their tour. All vouchers are valid for six months from the day of purchase.

Vouchers can only be purchased online and can be emailed to you for your convenience – so no waiting in for the postman! You can buy them 24 hours a day… could be a last minute option late on Christmas Eve!

Visit our dedicated Gift Vouchers page to purchase your gift vouchers!

Hola Isobel de Toledo!

rmkc_espana1_web1 (1)Yesterday saw the official launch of Spanish tours of The Real Mary King’s Close, welcoming Isobel de Toledo into the characater tour guide fold!

In response to an increase in Spanish speaking visitors, we launched our Spanish tours along with a brand new character guide, who speaks entirely in Spanish! To mark the occasion the Close celebrated with a special Spanish Day, complete with Spanish cava and rioja (of course!) and Scottish/Spanish tapas, to coincide with Scottish Tourism Week

Many fascinating stories behind the historic streets are brought to life during the underground tours by several characters based on the real people who lived or frequented these once thriving homes and businesses, and they will be joined by a sixth character, Isabel de Toledo, who will conduct the tour entirely in Spanish.  While existing characters are based on actual Scots who lived and worked on the Close, Isabel is based on a character of a maid to the renowned Pedro de Ayala, Spanish Ambassador to Scotland in 1500 at the court of James IV of Scotland.  She would be very typical of how a maid would have lived in these times.  What also sets her aside from the other character guides is that she will take guided groups around the Close speaking only in Spanish.

The move comes following an increase in Spanish visitors to the Close, and it is hoped that the Spanish speaking Isabel de Toledo will add even more to the visitor experience.

Nigel Hosier, the attraction’s General Manager, commented: “We pride ourselves on being an innovative attraction that listens to our customers.  Visit Scotland’s own market research shows there has been a slight dip in domestic visitors to Edinburgh, and our own visitor research shows that we are seeing more and more Spanish visitors to The Real Mary King’s Close.  By adding a Spanish speaking character it should help in describing what life was like in the 15th & 16th centuries in Edinburgh.  Many Spanish visitors often lose in translation what ‘Garde Loo’ means for instance, as the Romans had taken sophisticated plumbing and sanitation techniques to Spain, and by adding a Spanish guide we hope that this should be even easier to explain”.

We were delighted to welcome tourism colleagues from around the Edinburgh area, including colleagues from Visit Scotland, the STGA and from local hotels and attractions.


Stop The Plague Returning To Edinburgh!

Rats have been spotted all over Edinburgh and there are fears that they may be spreading The Real Mary King’s Close plague!
Hundreds of black soft toy rats are lying in wait around the city and it’s up to the residents of Edinburgh to find them, before the city’s legendary plague doctor does! From Monday 7 until Saturday 12 November, there will be rats hiding in various locations around the city including visitor attractions, landmarks, phone boxes, bus stops and shopping centres. They are being tracked down by the terrifying looking beak-masked figure of Dr George Rae, who normally resides deep beneath the Royal Mile in the award-winning Real Mary King’s Close.
Everyone who finds a soft toy rat will be able to claim a prize by following the instructions on the luggage tags attached to the cuddly creatures.  The lucky finders of the ‘King Rat’ each day will win one of six star prizes donated by award-winning hotel group Malmaison and its sister company Hotel Du Vin.  Other prizes include high street vouchers, champagne and free tickets to The Real Mary King’s Close.During the bubonic plague outbreak of 1645 anyone who came into contact with a rat was likely to catch the plague.  Scotland lost over a quarter of its population as the plague raged throughout the country. In plague-ridden Edinburgh, the contagious disease spread like wildfire but some how Dr Rae never caught it and went on to earn an unprecedented yearly pension of £1,200 Scots for his services.

Nigel Hosier, general manager of The Real Mary King’s Close attraction, commented:  “Lots of people associate Mary King’s Close with the plague because so many of its residents perished when the disease spread through Edinburgh in the 17th century.  We wouldn’t want another outbreak, so we’re calling on the public to help us find these guilty rats.  Instead of catching the plague, those who find a rat will be rewarded with a fantastic prize for their bravery!”

Followers of the Real Mary King’s Close on Twitter and Facebook will be given daily clues to help them seek out the rats.  In addition, breakfast presenters on local radio station Forth One, will be giving out clues to the whereabouts of their very own ‘King Rat’  This will hold the biggest prize of the week..

Seek them out before it’s too late!

Mary King’s is top for Edinburgh residents!

The Real Mary King’s Close is celebrating yet another award, this time voted for by the listeners of Radio Forth.  Lisa Robshaw and Susan Dunnet from the Close collected the award for ‘Favourite Visitor Attraction in Edinburgh, Lothians and Fife’ at a star studded ceremony at the Assembly Rooms on Thursday November 18th.

Speaking after the ceremony, which saw performances by X Factor stars Olly Murs & Joe McElderry, as well as Alesha Dixon and Paolo Nutini, Lisa said ‘This award is particularly important to the attraction because we were nominated by the people of Edinburgh! We welcome visitors from all over the UK and the World but its great to be recognised by locals too – we look forward to welcoming more residents over the coming year!’