Photographs by Colin Myers photography

Thistle Street Bar: Edinburgh Walking Tours

Welcome to the Thistle Street Bar: Edinburgh Walking Tours. You may wonder why the landlord of a traditional pub, famous for its warm hospitality, great local beers and Scotch malt whiskies is also about to launch walking tours in our capital city. The answer is because we have so many visitors from overseas who ask us about hidden places to visit, the history of our wonderful city and must-see locations. Being born and raised here, I know the city well, so it seemed a natural step to take small groups of visitors – no more than 10 people at a time – on guided walks to see the city through a local’s eyes. 

Our tours will also focus on two historical topics which have enthralled and fascinated me since I was growing up in Edinburgh.

The first tour, launching on Mon 26th June, will recount the true story of Scotland’s most infamous serial killers, William Burke & William Hare and the sixteen people they murdered over a twelve-month period in 1828 – a case which not only shocked the people of Edinburgh, but also around the world.

The second tour, launching later this year, will focus on the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House with an emphasis on the history of the House of Stuart, and of course, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

Read on to find out more about these tours and how to book. And, if you find yourself near Thistle Street, the oldest street in the New Town of Edinburgh, drop by and say hello.

Robert Shepherd


Thistle Street Bar

*Please note, due to the rough terrain and distance we will cover during our tours, they may not be suitable for people with physical challenges.*

William Burke & William Hare

Burke & Hare:
The West Port Murders

On 1st Nov 1828, the body of Madgy Docherty was discovered by lodgers under a bed of straw in Burke’s accommodation off the West Port near Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. 

Both Burke & his common-in-law wife Helen M’Dougal were arrested and tried for Madgy Docherty’s murder with the chief witness for the prosecution being Burke’s partner in crime, William Hare along with his wife Margaret Hare. Throughout the trial, and with the aid of Burke’s confessions, it came to light that a total of sixteen people: twelve women, three men and one child were murdered over a twelve-month period, for the sole purpose of selling their bodies to the flamboyant Edinburgh anatomist, Robert Knox.  

Our tour will follow in the footsteps of Burke & Hare from the sites of their long-demolished lodging houses at ‘Wester Portsburgh’ to the location of Surgeons’ Square where the ‘cadavers’ were delivered. It also aims to separate fact from fiction and through painstaking research from credible sources including court transcripts, police records and of course, Burke’s confessions, dispel myths that have long surrounded the case. We also aim to give a voice to those who were were murdered and give an insight into some of their individual stories rather than simply treat them as anonymous ‘shots for the doctor’.  

Please note, this is a historic tour of a dark nature and doesn’t involve gimmicks or ‘jump scares’.  

Grassmarket, 1800s

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

Royal Mile Tour:
The House of Stuart

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – 1.2 Scottish miles to be exact – which stretches from its defensive vantage point on top of an extinct volcanic rock to the Palace of Holyrood House beyond the Canongate is steeped in bloody history. It has seen murder plots, treachery, street riots, witch trials, plague and destruction by fire while one royal name remained throughout this darkest of times – the House of Stuart.

The House of Stuart began when Marjorie, the daughter of King Robert I (The Bruce), married Walter Steward, 6th High Steward of Scotland (Stewart deriving from Steward) and ended when King James VII & II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, an act which eventually led to the Jacobite rising and the fateful Battle of Culloden.

Walk with us across the centuries from Edinburgh Castle, down the length of the Royal Mile to the palace of Holyrood House. Together we will explore the buildings, closes and wynds while we relay true stories of the key players in the power struggle.

Learn about Mary, Queen of Scots and her claim to the crown of England which ultimately led to her imprisonment and execution. Find out about her son, James VI of Scotland and 1st of England & Ireland, whose paranoid obsession with witchcraft led to the execution of over 2,000 innocent people.

And, of course, hear about Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and his attempt to reinstate the House of Stuart on the British throne through the Jacobite rising of 1745.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Our tours are for people 18 years of age and over and are available NOW to book online with Eventbrite. Or, if you would like further information, please drop us an email to 

Close Menu