Slums of Victorian Edinburgh tour

Tour times >

Meeting place >

Inside the main gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QQ
Special editions of this tour will be announced on our Facebook page. Booking essential
Do you think you can handle our most specialised Edinburgh guided tour? Are you ready for our stories of life on the very 'lowest' rung of Victorian Edinburgh? Will you be able to handle tales of incredible injustices and hardships for Edinburgh's poor?

The Improvement Act - An opportunity missed?

We’ll learn about the Ragged School before seeing the result of the Improvement Act…and learn about what it cost Edinburgh in lost history and heritage. You’ll get to see what Edinburgh once looked like, find out why it changed and then you’ll have an opportunity to consider whether the right things happened for the right reasons. Like many things in history, the answer isn’t black and white.
Your local Edinburgh guide will take you around locations linked to Edinburgh's Victorian past. Your tour focuses on the life of the poor, and it doesn't hold back on the stories of how our Victorian ancestors managed to survive life on the’ lowest rung’ in Scotland's capital city. This two-hour guided tour will cover the poorhouse, lodging houses, the locations of some of the most poverty-stricken houses and of the most crime-ridden streets the Old Town had to offer. We also look at the measures put into place to 'improve' the quality of life for Edinburgh's powerless poor. This isn't the cheeriest tour we've ever planned, but it is a fascinating quest to uncover a part of Edinburgh's history which seems to have been forgotten about.

The Grassmarket lodging houses

No ‘Victorian Edinburgh’ tour would be complete without a look at life in a lodging house. The lodghing-houses give us some of the lighter and more amusing stories of the lives of the poor at this time. We also include a Grassmarket ‘then-and-now’ comparison at the same time.

Greyfriars Kirkyard - The worst place to start!

Your Victorian Edinburgh tour starts in Greyfriars Kirkyard. We might do our very own Greyfriars Kirkyard tour, but your guide will explain why this is the very worst place to start our tour, and this let’s us get straight into our story. We will start by launching you right into the unfairness of Victorian poverty. We know how to weave a fascinating story around even the grimmest of subjects, and we won’t disappoint on this tour.

Entering the worst slum streets

We then enter Edinburgh’s “Abyss” “Slumming it” was a term coined to explain the habit of generally well-meaning Victorian men and women who wanted to take tourist type trips into the heart of slum dwellings. Your local Edinburgh tour guide will take you right there. He’ll use fascinating eyewitness stories to help you imagine the past as we walk around Blackfriars Street and St Mary’s Street, exploring what whilst we discover what life was once like in these very respectable areas today. And the truth is shocking…
Life ‘at the bottom.’ We will look at crime, alcohol abuse, extreme poverty, an uncaring society, police abuse, prostitution and dilapidated buildings. We will also explore an incredible amount of sectarianism and racism using the testimonies of the people who lived in these very streets. But there are also heart-warming stories, stories of co-operation and compassion which shine through to this very day.
One of our Victorian poverty archive images. A long-lost close from the Old Town. Victorian poverty in the Old Town of Edinburgh. We visit this location on our Victorian slums Edinburgh walking tour. Exploring the locations of some of the Victorian lodging houses in the Grassmarket.

Tickets and prices >

£8 concession £2 children under 16 (although we’d say tour is ‘parental guidance’)
£10 standard
Two poor Edwardian children in Bakehouse Close.
Serious stuff!
Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd , 28/2 Bridge Road, Edinburgh, EH13 0LQ
Copyright Historic Edinburgh Tours 2019 Registered in Scotland I SC 454482
YOUR ‘SLUMS OF VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR’ HIGHLIGHTS
“Robert put together a two-hour bespoke walking tour for me and my husband. It formed an invaluable start to my research into the old town during the Victorian period, which is the setting for my next children's book. Robert is extremely knowledgeable about Edinburgh's history and a very personable, eloquent guide who avoids the sensationalism of the typical tourist patter. I'd absolutely recommend one of his tours - you won't regret it!” Sharonnewell01 TripAdvisor review - 17/10/2018
BOOK NOW BOOK NOW
“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.” TripAdvisor review by AG660 - September 2019

Tickets and prices for a scheduled tour >

Meeting place >

Inside the main gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QQ
Your local Edinburgh guide will take you around locations linked to Edinburgh's Victorian past. Your tour focuses on the life of the poor, and it doesn't hold back on the stories of how our Victorian ancestors managed to survive life on the’ lowest rung’ in Scotland's capital city. This two-hour guided tour will cover the poorhouse, lodging houses, the locations of some of the most poverty-stricken houses and of the most crime-ridden streets the Old Town had to offer. We also look at the measures put into place to 'improve' the quality of life for Edinburgh's powerless poor. This isn't the cheeriest tour we've ever planned, but it is a fascinating quest to uncover a part of Edinburgh's history which seems to have been forgotten about.
£8 concession £2 children under 16 (although we’d say tour is ‘parental guidance’)
£10 standard
Do you think you can handle our most specialised Edinburgh guided tour? Are you ready for our stories of life on the very 'lowest' rung of Victorian Edinburgh? Will you be able to handle tales of incredible injustices and hardships for Edinburgh's poor? .

Tour times >

Special editions of this tour will be announced on our Facebook page. Booking essential
Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd , 28/2 Bridge Road, Edinburgh, EH13 0LQ
Copyright Historic Edinburgh Tours 2019 Registered in Scotland I SC 454482
Slums of Victorian Edinburgh Tour
Greyfriars Kirkyard - The worst place to start! Your Victorian Edinburgh tour starts in Greyfriars Kirkyard. We might do our very own Greyfriars Kirkyard tour, but your guide will explain why this is the very worst place to start this tour, and this let’s us get straight into our story. We will start by launching you right into the unfairness of Victorian poverty. We know how to weave a fascinating story around even the grimmest of subjects, and we won’t disappoint on this tour.
YOUR SLUMS OF VICTORIAN EDINBURGH TOUR HIGHLIGHTS
HISTORIC EDINBURGH TOURS ARE RATED FIVE-STARS ON TRIPADVISOR
“VICTORIAN POVERTY TOUR 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. We would certainly love to come back and do Robert's other tours with him on another visit to Edinburgh.” TripAdvisor review by Sean B - July 2015
The Grassmarket lodging houses No ‘Victorian Edinburgh’ tour would be complete without a look at life in a lodging house. The lodghing-houses give us some of the lighter and more amusing stories of the lives of the poor at this time. We also include a Grassmarket ‘then-and-now’ comparison at the same time.
The Improvement Act - An opportunity missed We’ll learn about the Ragged School before seeing the result of the Improvement Act…and learn about what it cost Edinburgh in lost history and heritage. You’ll get to see what Edinburgh once looked like, find out why it changed and then you’ll have an opportunity to consider whether the right things happened for the right reasons. Like many things in history, the answer isn’t black and white.
Entering the worst slum streets We then enter Edinburgh’s “Abyss” “Slumming it” was a term coined to explain the habit of generally well-meaning Victorian men and women who wanted to take tourist type trips into the heart of slum dwellings. Your local Edinburgh tour guide will take you right there. He’ll use fascinating eyewitness stories to help you imagine the past as we walk around Blackfriars Street and St Mary’s Street, exploring what whilst we discover what life was once like in these very respectable areas today. And the truth is shocking…
Life ‘at the bottom.’ We will look at crime, alcohol abuse, extreme poverty, an uncaring society, police abuse, prostitution and dilapidated buildings. We will also explore an incredible amount of sectarianism and racism using the testimonies of the people who lived in these very streets. But there are also heart-warming stories, stories of co-operation and compassion which shine through to this very day.
“I came away with a clear sense of what life was like in Victorian times in my own town, understanding that there are still those out there who are at risk, and that I should count myself very fortunate, indeed, for the simple pleasure of having a roof over my head... Cannot recommend this highly enough” Pegasus1956 TripAdvisor review - 9/9/2019
Call us : +44 (0)7590 026 077
Call us : +44 (0)7590 026 077