What Lies Beneath? Uncover Edinburgh’s Secrets

Rocco Forte Hotels

Edinburgh was once described as “a mad God’s dream” by Scottish poet and writer, Hugh MacDiarmid. The capital is steeped in ancient secrets hidden within its aural traditions, etched into its walls and buried underneath its cobbled streets.

With an ear to the ground David Musk, our well connected Concierge who has welcomed guests to The Balmoral for over a decade, shares concealed mysteries only an Edinburgh native would know.

Best for… the underground explorer

(Blair Street Underground Vaults, 6-minute walk from The Balmoral)

Have you heard of a city hidden beneath the city of Edinburgh? Underground chambers, hidden down shadowy side alleyways in the Old Town, lead the intrepid explorer down into vaults where criminals once ruled, running illegal activities such as gambling and fermenting bootleg alcohol.

Concierge David Musk says, “My team can book you a guided tour to explore these subterranean spaces, echoing with spine-chilling stories.”

Best for… the brave-hearted

(Samhuinn Fire Festival, 4-minute walk from The Balmoral)

Paranormal activity and strange nocturnal happenings – bewitching Halloween is the one time of year a portal opens into the otherwise impenetrable underworld.

Honouring Celtic traditions, the devilish Samhuinn Fire Festival occurs on the most fearful night of the year, 31st October. Conjuring spirits and ghouls, evocative fiery performances and ritual dances usher in the chilling transition to winter and tell a stand-off between the Winter and Summer Kings.

Best for… beach retreats

(Seacliff Beach / 45-minute drive from The Balmoral) 

Picture Edinburgh and you may well imagine its prominent castle, royal palace or The Balmoral’s famous clocktower. But did you know the Scottish capital has long stretches of sandy beaches? A few miles from the city centre is Portobello Beach, a charming seaside suburb with two miles of sand for swimming and sunbathing as well as a promenade you can stroll along in all seasons.

More secluded and yet only 45 minutes’ drive from The Balmoral, is hidden gem Seacliff Beach a world away from the popular beaches closer to the capital. Your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views of the clifftop ruins of 14th century Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock, or the ‘Scottish Alcatraz’ – the island home of a hermit saint, seabirds and treasonous prisoners.

Best for… fables and raconteurs

(Scottish International Storytelling Festival, 7-minute walk from The Balmoral)

Shared through word of mouth, stories are how Scottish myths travelled from the Highlands to islands. Rarely committed to print, these whispered secrets are at the heart of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, an annual autumnal gathering of modern day minstrels and bards.

Even Edinburgh’s statues talk as storytellers spin yarns at venues across the city, from a community garden at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to a roving story wagon.

Best for… light fantastic

(Castle of Light, 7-minute walk from The Balmoral)

Believe the stories and you’ll be convinced there are secret passageways connecting Edinburgh’s formidable castle to different parts of the city. Legend has it, a young piper was sent into the tunnels and instructed to play as he walked but his music fell silent and he mysteriously disappeared, leaving the tunnels still waiting to be discovered.

With early sunsets signalling the change of season, magical lights illuminate Edinburgh Castle as well as the city’s secrets, adding sparkle to your winter sojourn in Scotland.

From hidden cities to eerie walks and folklore to magical lights, Edinburgh keeps her secrets well hidden but all will be revealed under the expert guidance of our affable Concierge David Musk at concierge.balmoral@roccofortehotels.com or +44 131 622 8827.

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