Frequently Asked Questions
Listed below are Frequently Asked Questions. If you still have a question, please contact us.
About the Close
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.
What is ‘The Underground City’?
There isn’t literally an ‘underground city’ in Edinburgh as such. This is a term that has been used by the media to describe the various underground locations in the Old Town (there are lots of ‘Vaults’ particularly around the Cowgate and South Bridge area). If you are looking for the ancient underground street, you’re in the right place at The Real Mary King’s Close!
What is the difference between the ‘Vaults’ and Mary King’s Close?
There are a series of Vaults in the Old Town, the most famous of which are Blair Street Vaults and South Bridge Vaults. Mary King’s Close is completely separate to these vaults and is the only underground Close in Edinburgh. For tours of Blair Street Vaults you should contact Mercat Tours
Is Mary King’s Close known by any other name?
Mary King’s Close was called King’s Close or Alexander King’s Close (no relation to Mary) prior to her arrival in 1635.
Many people often get the name of the Close confused and call it St Mary’s Close, Mary Queen’s Close, Mary Queen of Scots Close or Mary’s Close. The correct name is, of course, Mary King’s Close!
About the Tour
How long is the tour?
The tour lasts one hour.
How often does the tour run?
The tour typically runs every 15 minutes from the hour – from the time of opening to the time of closing.
Why is pre-booking recommended?
We can accept up to 20 guests on every tour for health and safety reasons as well as your comfort and experience. At busy periods this means that demand is often high and tours sell out. Consider pre-booking if you are planning to visit at the weekend, during school holidays, during the month of August and at Hogmanay.
You can book online at any time up to 48 hours prior to your tour date. To book within 48 hours call +44 (0) 131 225 0672
Do you offer a discount for groups?
Yes we do! if you are bringing 15 people or more you could be entitled to a group discount – visit our Groups pages all the information you need!
Can I bring my dog on the tour?
The nature of the tour does not make the tour suitable for animals. If you require the assistance of a Guide Dog please contact us to arrange your visit and we will be happy to accommodate you.
I don’t speak English, what facilities are there for foreign visitors?
Tours are conducted in English however if you speak French, German, Italian or Spanish we offer free audio guides to take on the tour. These audio guides give a basic version of the tour however are limited in availability so should be prebooked at the time of booking. If you have booked online, please email the attraction – firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m visiting with a friend in a wheelchair, can they experience the tour?
The historic, underground nature of the site makes access to the Close virtually impossible by wheelchair. For more information visit our accessibility page.
I have asthma, how will this effect my experience?
It really depends on the individual. It is dusty in some areas of the Close. Air quality is tested on a regular basis and has been approved as fit for visitors to tour the Close. If you’re in any doubt, do bring your inhalers with you and let the tour guide know if you feel unwell.
Are there a lot of stairs?
There are 3 flights of stairs consisting of 58 steps to be descended and 38 ascended as part of the tour.