Halloween Pub Crawl
Edinburgh is so steeped in history that it shouldn’t be a surprise that it is one of the most haunted cities in the world. What goes well with a spooky tale? A pint (you know, for Dutch courage).
So using that solid logic, just in time for Halloween, we thought we’d create the perfect Haunted Pub Crawl in Edinburgh, so you can experience the paranormal activity and ghostly atmosphere for yourselves. This self-led, Edinburgh pub crawl route will take you through a lot of the haunted pubs in Edinburgh city-centre and is designed so that, not only will you take in the main sights, you’ll also have a wee bit of fresh air to liven you up before you reach the next drinking establishment.
Your pub crawl starts at Starbar (where else?) one of the most spooky pubs Edinburgh has to offer. Situated in the trendy New Town, Starbar actually has a clause in its’ lease forbidding the removal of a skull that was found on the premises. Attracting the attention of numerous paranormal investigators, the skull has caused several disasters in the past when it was removed from its’ preferred location. A previous manager who transferred it to another local bar was shot during a raid; fitters took out the skull and inside a week their workshop burnt to the ground. The last time the skull was displayed, the brewery it was in mysteriously flooded. Many of our locals have seen the skull but none will touch it. Plenty of other spooky goings on come with the territory and Starbar certainly has the Halloween atmosphere in bucketfulls.
Not strictly listed as a haunted pub in Edinburgh’s tourist publications (possibly because Nicholson’s – the chain that owns the pub – isn’t interested in scary stories) this pub is definitely worth including on a Halloween, haunted pub crawl list. Not least because it is named after the greatest ghost story teller of all time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but also because the underbelly of the pub is an unnerving place to be. Having worked at The Conan Doyle myself (a loooong time ago) going downstairs into the cellar to replenish the spirits in the bar was not a task any of the bar staff particularly looked forward to. Sudden chills, unexplained noises, when there was no one else around and juddering CCTV were all a common occurrence. The regulars had plenty of stories – which were very entertaining whilst you were in a busy pub area and less so when you had to descend beneath it. Well worth a visit for the fantastic atmosphere and excellent pub food (to line that stomach) as well.
Having, by now, acquired some Dutch (or Scottish) courage, next on our pub crawl is The Mitre Bar. Situated on what must be one of the most haunted streets in Europe (the haunted tours that regularly leave from the Royal Mile throughout the day and evening will fill you in on just how haunted), The Mitre Bar is the preferred haunt of an Archbishop, who is its most dedicated regular, having refused to leave since the 17th century. No friendly ghost is he either. In the 90s several electricians were electrocuted whilst working on the property despite the fact that all power to the building was switched off and, to this day, if anyone tries to play music the Archbishop does not approve of on the jukebox, it promptly switches off. Engineers who dared try to modernise the jukebox a few years back were pushed firmly away and pinned to the floor. Charming. Have a pint here before moving on but maybe just leave that jukebox alone?
Moving on, down to The Grassmarket and onto The White Hart Inn – the oldest city centre pub. Staff here are braver than most having reported frequent sightings of shadowy figures descending to the cellar only to disappear when chased, being locked in the pub’s cold storage room by a randomly slamming door and hearing random bangs all over the cellar for no discernible reason. Tourists have complained of having their shoulders grabbed in the toilets and one Australian couple took the picture you see above – spot anything weird? Working here is tough too as the poltergeist who haunts the place likes to pull barmaids’ hair, play with the beer taps, detaching the gas cylinders, waiting for staff to reattach them with a spanner only to detach them again when they retreat upstairs, forcing the longsuffering bar staff to repeat the exercise again and again. Not a fun game during busy times so if you see the guys behind the bar looking harassed, offer up some sympathy and perhaps a stiff drink.
You may be a wee bit wobbly by now, so the next two pubs are close to each other, for your convenience. The first of these is Whistlebinkies, a pub and live music venue haunted by – among other ghosts – a reserved, music loving spirit called “The Watcher” who is stylishly dressed in 17th century attire of riding boots and a tri-cornered hat. He’s frequently seen by customers and bar staff alike but disappears as soon as you try to approach him. The pub is built into the South Bridge vaults – one of the most haunted parts of Edinburgh – so you may well hear a tale or two of the spooky goings on here or even see an apparition yourself. If nothing else, the music here is excellent so well worth a stop.
Having been to some of the most haunted pubs in Edinburgh, you’ll definitely need a night cap or two at The Banshee Labyrinth. This place is quite frankly terrifying, especially towards the end of the night. A large part of this pub is also located in Edinburgh’s famous underground vaults where the city’s most dodgy characters used to convene. A previous owner of the building in the 16th century – a Lord Provost no less – used the dungeons as torture chambers and who knows what other horrible events went on here since that time? All we know now is that the pub is haunted by a (not so) merry band of ghouls, the banshee being the group leader. Workmen renovating the pub reported hearing a disembodied, blood curdling scream – suitably perturbed they continued and a few hours later one of them got a distressing phone call, notifying him that one of his relatives had passed away. As a place to round off a Halloween Haunted Pub Crawl in Edinburgh, few places come better than this. A word of warning though – keep your hands firmly around your drink. Many a tourist has experienced their pint sliding along the table suddenly and with great force at the wall, shattering glass and spraying beer everywhere. Don’t be another victim!
This is, of course, just a selection of the phenomenal, haunted pubs in Edinburgh but, we feel, should we include all of them, partakers of the pub crawls may well be joining the ghoully residents of these establishments either in very real terms or, at the very least, in appearance as the hangover from hell strikes the next day.
We hope you enjoy Starbar’s Halloween Pub Crawl (responsibly) and get to experience some of the spooky goings on in person!
Happy Halloweening everyone!