The Bowhead House, one of Victorian Edinburgh's most photographed buildings. The John Knox House in the mid-nineteenth century.
Victorian Edinburgh was really a ‘tale of two cities’ - we’ve got the opulent and affluent New Town right next to the impoverished and packed Old Town. At one time the Old Town had been the key part of Edinburgh, by the mid- nineteenth century it was an area of extreme poverty. These two worlds clash when middle and upper class people went into the slums and reported back. It’s these eyewitness accounts which we will draw on heavily throughout this tour. Life in the slums will be brought vividly to life through excellent story telling, archive images and eyewitness accounts. This often forgotten period in time will be laid bare before you. This is our most emotionally hard tour and we think it is our most fascinating. Are you ready to ‘meet’ Victorian Edinburgh’s slum dwellers?
Your Victorian tour at a glance.
WE’RE GOOD TO GO!

COVID-19 AND YOUR SAFETY

Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd have successfully achieved the ‘Good to go” standard from Visit Britain which shows we follow current government COVID-19 guidelines and that we have processes in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. You can find out more about our COVID-19 policy here.
“My husband and I did this tour with Robert last night. It was RIVETING!! Robert's knowledge is extensive, and his manner is thoroughly engaging. The subject matter is hard, but we learned an enormous amount about this side of Edinburgh's history. Robert's preparation is obviously extensive and it shows. I cannot recommend his tours highly enough.” Starycats- Tripadvisor - December 2019
TRIPADVISOR REVIEWS = 100% WERE 5 STAR REVIEWS
Remember, this tour of Edinburgh is private - you can choose when it starts! We’ve also got some flexibility with distances and elevations on the walk Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these alternatives. Robert, your guide, has lived in Edinburgh all his life. He can suggest alternatives, where possible. In this Edinburgh walking tour, all your locations will take place within the Old Town. We’ve outlined all the story possibilities for your tour. We may not cover them all, it depends on where your interests lie. Remember, this is YOUR tour and we’ve got opportunities to accommodate the things you are interested in! Story 1 - Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful wee Skye Terrier. Since Greyfriars Kirkyard is the starting point for most of our tours, we usually cover the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Our Victorian Slums tour is a very different type of tour and the Greyfriars Bobby story takes on a different role. Greyfriars is a fascinating burial ground, but in this case, it’s the worst place to start a tour about the lives of Edinburgh’s Victorian poor. We’ll share why with you. It sets us off on a really great footing! Story 2 - “Gracious heavens!” The ‘Slums tour’ is a very emotional tour. It’s full of stories of injustice and inequality. We’ll look at an eyewitness account of a lady who lived in Edinburgh’s slums. It’s a really engaging story, for all the wrong reasons, and it helps us understand the mindset of the people who visited and wrote about the slums. Most of the stories we have of the slums are from these ‘visitors’, rather than from the people who actually lived in them. Story 3 - The Edinburgh Poorhouse Charles Dickens wrote about the Workhouse. The Poorhouse was the Scottish equivalent and just as grim and just as depressing. We’ll visit a street which lets us see the remaining section as we find out about life in the Poorhouse. Clue - it wasn’t much fun! You’ll hear about some very unpleasant links to Edinburgh’s medical experts and you’ll also discover what the hierarchy of poverty was. Story 4 - Making improvements Edinburgh was fortunate to have some people who wanted to make a difference. The City’s Medical Officer of Health- Sir Henry Littlejohn worked tirelessly to improve the lot of our slum dwellers. He was often helped by the Lord Provost, William Chambers. You’ll find out what diseases were causing problems, the very modern way Littlejohn mobilsed support and what improvements were made to the Old Town. Story 5 - Slum dwellings recreated - and why TripAdvisor wouldn’t have worked We’ll stop in the shadows of the city’s Flodden and Telfer Walls. This lets us catch one of the best views in Edinburgh and also gives us a space where we can recreate a typical furnished slum room. We’ll use eyewitness accounts to give you a bit of a taste of what life was like. Spoiler - imagine it’s bad, then multiply that thought! We’ll also spend some time talking about why TripAdvisor would have been a totally alien concept to Edinburgh’s slum occupants. Story 7 - Fun and sin in the lodging houses! This is quite a serious tour - although ‘serious’ does not mean ‘boring’. Robert, your Edinburgh tour guide, would’nt want to disrespect Edinburgh’s Victorian poor by making light of their stories. However, there is a need to make this tour work on all levels and the sites of the infamous Grassmarket lodging houses let us look at the stories of partying, of fun and of sin which took place in these popular dens. Story 8 - When an improvement isn’t an improvement We’ll move along the Grassmarket and then up the picturesque West Bow. Our tour doesn’t stop at the normal tourist spots and we’ll walk up the little steps to the Ovir Bow before stopping at the site of the old Bowhead House. We’ve got photos of this pretty building to share with you and we’ll also look at the story of the nearby Ragged School (which we can visit if you’re feeling like a wee hike). We’ll also look at how successful the Improvement Acts actually were. Story 9 - The Police Refuge Robert will take you down Castlehill and the HIgh Street and on to the site of the old Police night refuge. Here we’ll share some images of how this would have looked and we’ll take a moment to discover a few surprising things about how the police force handled the locals. We might also look some of the more amusing dodges used by some unscrupulous citizens to get money out of middle class visitors. Story 10 - One city, two worlds This tour of Edinburgh takes place in the Old Town, but as we pass North Bridge we can see the affluent New Town in the distance. The contrast between the two Edinburgh ‘towns’ is what we’ll look at here. You’ll most probably be surprised at just how little people in the New Town knew of the lives of people only a mile or so away in the Old Town. Stories 11 - Blackfriars Wynd Analyzed Our tour now changes as we approach the site of two of the very poorest streets in Edinburgh. The tour will now explore Blackfriars Street and St Mary’s Street. Robert will use eyewitness accounts, many from books called ‘Blackfriars Wynd Analyzed” and “Day and Nights in the Closes and Wynds of Edinburgh”. These books were written about the people who lived in the very places you’re now visiting. The full nature of the horrors of slum life will become apparent, as will the incredibly sectarian views of some of Edinburgh’s people. Story 12 - A nice sporting rivalry Often opposing sports teams have a shared past which is full of conflict. You’ll hear about the formation of one of Edinburgh’s current top football teams - Hibernian Football Club. This club was set up to help the lives of those in the slums. One of their big breaks came when Heart of Midlothian Football Club broke an embargo to play their new capital city rivals. The rest, as they say, is history. And what a history! Story 13 - Coming together Your Slums of Victorian Edinburgh tour finishes in the shadows of the John Knox House. We’ll share some images that show how this area looked in the Victorian times and we’ll talk about the importance of the Temprance Movement. A building next to the John Knox House was a well known Temprance Cafe. We’ll finish our tour with a heart-warming story about a ‘raffle’ held to raise funds for a local man in trouble with the law. We’ve gone into some detail with these notes, but the full stories are even more fascinating. This tour holds an average five-star rating and is the most popular of our Edinburgh guided tours.

YOUR PRIVATE VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR

LET US REVEAL THE STORY OF EDINBURGH’S LONG-LOST SLUMS

OUR ASSURANCES TO YOU

WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE US?

YOUR TOUR ITINERARY

WHAT WILL I DISCOVER ON MY SLUMS OF VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR?

Two girls in Bakehouse Close.

A FINAL WORD FROM ‘T.B.M.’

WHAT DID ONE MIDDLE-CLASS GENTLEMAN THINK ABOUT THE SLUMS?

James Thins, a famous Edinburgh bookseller, published a book called “Slum Life in Edinburgh, or Scenes in its Darkest Places’ in 1891. The author, known by the initials ‘T.B.M.’ gives us some incredibly detailed descriptions of the places he visits on his wander around the Victorian slums. Here is a little excerpt from his book; “One night, on chancing to open the door of a room in a Cowgate close, an involuntary exclamation of horror escaped our lips. It was a small apartment, in size about three strides either way, in the last stages of decay. The walls were brown with dirt. A dirty bedstead, covered with a few clothes in a state of filth harmonising with the general foulness of the room, stood in one corner ; a tumble-down table was propped up in another ; and through the smoke that filled the room we could indistinctly see, huddling round the fire, the raggedest and dirtiest group of human beings we ever set eyes on. ”
Robert, your guide, in the shadows of Edinburgh Castle.

TRIPADVISOR REVIEW OF THE SLUMS OF VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR

WHAT HAVE OUR GUESTS SAID?

SLUM LIFE IN

VICTORIAN

- PRIVATE TOUR

OF EDINBURGH

Discover what life was like for Victorian Edinburgh’s forgotten poor.

FIVE REASONS WHY WE THINK YOU WILL LIKE THIS TOUR!

WHY MIGHT YOU WANT TO DISCOVER THE LIFE OF EDINBURGH’S VICTORIAN POOR?

“I have been living in Edinburgh for 6 years so far, but he showed us “hidden” places I have never seen before and told us stories I have never heard. Robert was very knowledgeable and managed to bring us back in time through facts and stories, which were told in very fascinating way, but also through many illustrations which were very helpful to enhance our imagination. I was shocked how difficult was the life of poorest in Victorian times.” MirkaB - TripAdvisor review of the Victorian poverty tour - June 2019
“Victorian Poverty Tour”
Our 'Good to Go' certification from Visit Britain. Our 'Good to Go' certification from Visit Britain. Tick! We do this!
QUIBBLE-FREE REFUND We offer a full refund if you cancel your tour more than 12 hours before your tour is due to start.
Tick! We do this!
‘GOOD TO GO’ CERTIFICATION We have the Visit Britain ‘Good to Go’ sign that shows we’ve implemented COVID-19 safety features.
Tick! We do this!
FRIENDLY GUIDE - IN A KILT! Robert is your local guide. He was born in Edinburgh and has lived here all his life. He researched all our tours and has an excellent knowledge of Edinburgh’s history.
Tick! We do this!
ACCESSIBILITY OPTIONS If you have someone with mobility issues, please contact us in advance so that we can offer route changes.
Tick! We do this!
PERFECT FOR CHILDREN Robert, your guide, is a qualified primary school teacher and will help keep your children engaged.
Tick! We do this!
CONVENIENCE Your tour is private - you can choose when it starts. You can ask all the questions you want to!
CONTACT US robert@historicedinburghtours.co.uk +44 (0)7590 026 077 28/2 BRIDGE ROAD EDINBURGH EH13 0LQ Registered in Scotland - SC454482
ONLINE EXPERIENCES
© Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd 2020
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“The past is brought vividly to life through a combination of Robert's experienced story telling, with visual aides which tell the remarkable story of the buildings, people and events of his beloved city. The best spent two hours of a packed weekend for these two first-time visitors.” Pennyslad - Tripadvisor
“A BRILLIANT TOUR!”
QUIBBLE-FREE REFUND We offer a full refund if you cancel your tour more than 12 hours before your tour is due to start.
‘GOOD TO GO’ CERTIFICATION We have the Visit Britain ‘Good to Go’ sign that shows we’ve implemented COVID-19 safety features.
FRIENDLY GUIDE - IN A KILT! Robert is your local guide. He was born in Edinburgh and has lived here all his life. He researched all our tours and has an excellent knowledge of Edinburgh’s history.
ACCESSIBILITY OPTIONS If you have someone with mobility issues, please contact us in advance so that we can offer route changes.
PERFECT FOR CHILDREN Robert, your guide, is a qualified primary school teacher and will help keep your children engaged.
CONVENIENCE Your tour is private - you can choose when it starts. You can ask all the questions you want to!

YOUR PRIVATE

VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR

OUR ASSURANCES TO YOU

WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE US?

FIVE REASONS WHY WE THINK

YOU WILL LIKE THIS TOUR!

WHY EXPLORE A BURIAL GROUND?

YOUR TOUR ITINERARY

WHAT WILL I DISCOVER ON MY

VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR?

“If this is your first time in Edinburgh (actually even if it’s not), Robert’s talk is a brilliant way to start. He is a fantastic speaker, storyteller and personality. He delves back and forth in time, using great illustrations and photographs from his folder, and really makes the city come alive. One of the best walking tours I’ve ever taken; a really unforgettable experience.” Alcabe - TripAdvisor review of The Old Edinburgh Walking Tour - September, 2018
“Don’t miss this!”

Your Slums of Victorian Edinburgh walking

tour itinerary

Remember, this tour of Edinburgh is private - you can choose when it starts! We’ve also got some flexibility with distances and elevations on the walk Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these alternatives. Robert, your guide, has lived in Edinburgh all his life. He can suggest alternatives, where possible. In this Edinburgh walking tour, all your locations will take place within the Old Town. We’ve outlined all the story possibilities for your tour. We may not cover them all, it depends on where your interests lie. Remember, this is YOUR tour and we’ve got opportunities to accommodate the things you are interested in! Story 1 - Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful wee Skye Terrier. Since Greyfriars Kirkyard is the starting point for most of our tours, we usually cover the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Our Victorian Slums tour is a very different type of tour and the Greyfriars Bobby story takes on a different role. Greyfriars is a fascinating burial ground, but in this case, it’s the worst place to start a tour about the lives of Edinburgh’s Victorian poor. We’ll share why with you. It sets us off on a really great footing! Story 2 - “Gracious heavens!” The ‘Slums tour’ is a very emotional tour. It’s full of stories of injustice and inequality. We’ll look at an eyewitness account of a lady who lived in Edinburgh’s slums. It’s a really engaging story, for all the wrong reasons, and it helps us understand the mindset of the people who visited and wrote about the slums. Most of the stories we have of the slums are from these ‘visitors’, rather than from the people who actually lived in them. Story 3 - The Edinburgh Poorhouse Charles Dickens wrote about the Workhouse. The Poorhouse was the Scottish equivalent and just as grim and just as depressing. We’ll visit a street which lets us see the remaining section as we find out about life in the Poorhouse. Clue - it wasn’t much fun! You’ll hear about some very unpleasant links to Edinburgh’s medical experts and you’ll also discover what the hierarchy of poverty was. Story 4 - Making improvements Edinburgh was fortunate to have some people who wanted to make a difference. The City’s Medical Officer of Health- Sir Henry Littlejohn worked tirelessly to improve the lot of our slum dwellers. He was often helped by the Lord Provost, William Chambers. You’ll find out what diseases were causing problems, the very modern way Littlejohn mobilsed support and what improvements were made to the Old Town. Story 5 - Slum dwellings recreated - and why TripAdvisor wouldn’t have worked We’ll stop in the shadows of the city’s Flodden and Telfer Walls. This lets us catch one of the best views in Edinburgh and also gives us a space where we can recreate a typical furnished slum room. We’ll use eyewitness accounts to give you a bit of a taste of what life was like. Spoiler - imagine it’s bad, then multiply that thought! We’ll also spend some time talking about why TripAdvisor would have been a totally alien concept to Edinburgh’s slum occupants. Story 7 - Fun and sin in the lodging houses! This is quite a serious tour - although ‘serious’ does not mean ‘boring’. Robert, your Edinburgh tour guide, would’nt want to disrespect Edinburgh’s Victorian poor by making light of their stories. However, there is a need to make this tour work on all levels and the sites of the infamous Grassmarket lodging houses let us look at the stories of partying, of fun and of sin which took place in these popular dens. Story 8 - When an improvement isn’t an improvement We’ll move along the Grassmarket and then up the picturesque West Bow. Our tour doesn’t stop at the normal tourist spots and we’ll walk up the little steps to the Ovir Bow before stopping at the site of the old Bowhead House. We’ve got photos of this pretty building to share with you and we’ll also look at the story of the nearby Ragged School (which we can visit if you’re feeling like a wee hike). We’ll also look at how successful the Improvement Acts actually were. Story 9 - The Police Refuge Robert will take you down Castlehill and the HIgh Street and on to the site of the old Police night refuge. Here we’ll share some images of how this would have looked and we’ll take a moment to discover a few surprising things about how the police force handled the locals. We might also look some of the more amusing dodges used by some unscrupulous citizens to get money out of middle class visitors. Story 10 - One city, two worlds This tour of Edinburgh takes place in the Old Town, but as we pass North Bridge we can see the affluent New Town in the distance. The contrast between the two Edinburgh ‘towns’ is what we’ll look at here. You’ll most probably be surprised at just how little people in the New Town knew of the lives of people only a mile or so away in the Old Town. Stories 11 - Blackfriars Wynd Analyzed Our tour now changes as we approach the site of two of the very poorest streets in Edinburgh. The tour will now explore Blackfriars Street and St Mary’s Street. Robert will use eyewitness accounts, many from books called ‘Blackfriars Wynd Analyzed” and “Day and Nights in the Closes and Wynds of Edinburgh”. These books were written about the people who lived in the very places you’re now visiting. The full nature of the horrors of slum life will become apparent, as will the incredibly sectarian views of some of Edinburgh’s people. Story 12 - A nice sporting rivalry Often opposing sports teams have a shared past which is full of conflict. You’ll hear about the formation of one of Edinburgh’s current top football teams - Hibernian Football Club. This club was set up to help the lives of those in the slums. One of their big breaks came when Heart of Midlothian Football Club broke an embargo to play their new capital city rivals. The rest, as they say, is history. And what a history! Story 13 - Coming together Your Slums of Victorian Edinburgh tour finishes in the shadows of the John Knox House. We’ll share some images that show how this area looked in the Victorian times and we’ll talk about the importance of the Temprance Movement. A building next to the John Knox House was a well known Temprance Cafe. We’ll finish our tour with a heart-warming story about a ‘raffle’ held to raise funds for a local man in trouble with the law. We’ve gone into some detail with these notes, but the full stories are even more fascinating. This tour holds an average five-star rating and is the most popular of our Edinburgh guided tours.
Victorian Edinburgh was really a ‘tale of two cities’ - we’ve got the opulent and affluent New Town right next to the impoverished and packed Old Town. At one time the Old Town had been the key part of Edinburgh, by the mid-nineteenth century it was an area of extreme poverty. These two worlds clash when middle and upper class people went into the slums and reported back. It’s these eyewitness accounts which we will draw on heavily throughout this tour. Life in the slums will be brought vividly to life through excellent story telling, archive images and eyewitness accounts. This often forgotten period in time will be laid bare before you. This is our most emotionally hard tour and we think it is our most fascinating. Are you ready to ‘meet’ Victorian Edinburgh’s slum dwellers?

“Excellent tour that

captures interest”

Gail P - Tripadvisor
WE’RE GOOD TO GO!

COVID-19 AND YOUR SAFETY

Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd have achieved the ‘Good to go” standard from Visit Britain. You can find out more about our COVID-19 policy here.
Our 'Good to Go' certification from Visit Britain. Your Victorian tour at a glance.
BOOK  NOW
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© Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd 2020
Text/Call us : +44 (0)7590 026 077
Our 'Good to Go' certification from Visit Britain.

SLUM LIFE IN

VICTORIAN

- PRIVATE TOUR

OF EDINBURGH

Discover what life was like for Victorian Edinburgh’s forgotten poor.