The Vaults original use
The Vaults had a short lifespan being used by tradesmen until the problem of damp caused these trades people to abandon the dark and primitive premises. They were then used as a shelter by Edinburgh’s homeless until the squalid conditions meant they were moved on in the 1830s and the spaces filled in to avoid others moving in.
The Vaults lay largely forgotten for decades and were rediscovered in the 1990s, opening to the public in 1996. During the tour, visitors will discover the living conditions of those inhabitants and the links to the stories surrounding this mysterious area.
Time spent below ground during the tour
The first ten minutes it takes to reach the Vaults are above ground when the guide gives visitors a brief description of what to expect on the tour. Then the next hour is spent entirely inside the Vaults.
Is it dark with lots of narrow passages inside the Vaults?
The Vaults are lit by a combination of electric lights and candlelight to provide a safe environment while providing a mysterious atmosphere. At the narrowest point the corridor is 1.5 metres wide while the vaults vary from small box rooms to large high-ceilinged chambers.
If I, or one of my group feels uncomfortable about the tour can I/we leave?
Yes. If you do not wish to continue on the tour, alert the guide and he/she will take you back above ground.
Are there any people employed to jump out from hidden places to scare me?
This is not a feature of this tour. The purpose of the tour is to tell a story through the guide’s expertise in storytelling. The idea is to let your imagination run wild with moments of suspense in the art of telling a story.
You are permitted to take photos during the tour. However, videoing the tour is not permitted as this may be disruptive to other people on the tour.
The tours are all conducted in English. There are written translations available on request in French, German, Spanish and Italian.