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The Dark Side of Edinburgh
Beyond the famous castle and other well-known sights lies a rather darker side to Edinburgh.
The city's history is caught up with all manner of spooky tales of body snatchers and ghostly apparitions, and there are some lingering reminders of these intriguing mysteries that can still be seen in its more unusual attractions.
Right in the heart of Edinburgh lies Mary King's Close, beneath the Royal Exchange (or City Chambers). Once the most important shopping street in the city, the traditional narrow streets and tall tenements of the close were then built over in 1753 and used (but kept in tact) as lower foundations for the Exchange.
It remains surprisingly well-preserved and guided tours are now offered through the dark - and decidedly eerie - streets. Tours cost a reasonable £7 and mix history, science and myth to bring to life a realistic (if unsavory) vision of 16th century Edinburgh.
Featuring a late Gothic church as well as suitably gloomy tombstones and crypts, Greyfriars is the subject of a creepy tale involving grave robbing.
The robbers were terrified at this turn of events but it seems to have been a happy ending for the victim seeing as she hadn't been dead at all…
In the western shadow of Edinburgh Castle sits another churchyard at St. Cuthbert's, which is also supposed to have been the setting for such immoral behavior and holds a suitably ominous air today.
The large number of students and anatomists who lived in Edinburgh years ago created a high demand for corpses that could be studied. The end result was that many of the graves were robbed, like at Greyfriars - only this time it was the bodies themselves which were of value!
Alongside the more popular galleries and museums, Edinburgh also has a slightly macabre but excellently original exhibition detailing the history of surgery and anatomy.
Part of the museum at the Royal College of Surgeons focuses on two of the city's most notorious criminals, Burke and Hare. Recognizing the potential market for corpses, the pair went one step further than the body snatchers at St Cuthbert's and actually began to murder fresh victims.
This is not a museum for the faint-hearted, however, and it comes with an official warning that some displays may be "unsettling"!
The Last Drop Tavern (74-78 Grassmarket) serves affordable pub food and decent pints to the student and traveler crowd typical of the Grassmarket area, but with an added twist for enthusiasts of Edinburgh's darker history.
The 'drop' in its name refers to the city gallows which used to be positioned just outside - a fact which is further driven home by the red exterior paintwork.
To really experience this mysterious side of Edinburgh and the still atmospheric streets, visitors may want to stay overnight in the city. In addition to the city's numerous more expensive hotels, there are plenty of Edinburgh hostels which budget travelers and backpackers can take advantage of.