Screaming at Sawney Bean inside The Edinburgh Dungeon
It’s really dark and I’m on a boat in The Edinburgh Dungeon breathing as deeply as I can. I have my eyes closed and each index finger pressing in to each ear in case any sudden loud noises should make me jump.
At random intervals I squint open one eye or release the pressure on one ear just to get a grasp of the situation, and to see how close we are to being out of this part of the attraction. The whispers in the darkness make me shiver and a sharp light flash forces my head down to avoid locking eyes with any creatures of the deep.
We dock. The boat ride in to the cave of the Sawney Bean clan is over. I twist hesitantly to my right side, preparing to clamber out on to the dock, and that’s when I see her.
I’m not sure what noise was louder; the strangled scream that released itself from my tight throat or the panicked beating of my heart.
Head bowed in shame I join the queue of tourists filing on to the next part of the attraction and take a place net to a small boy, the youngest of the group, who giggles at me when yet another member of the Bean clan shuffles past me and forces me to cower on a stranger’s shoulder.
I am not handling this well.
What to expect at The Edinburgh Dungeon
Before a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeon, it can be easy to dismiss the experience as a cheesy tourist attraction, especially when compared to the more historical ghost walks on offer in the city.
As I soon found out the experience is far from cheesy, and on being confronted with the very first character of the dungeons, the Judge, you instantly start to feel less of a tourist and far more like a terrified and unjustly persecuted member of historic Edinburgh.
So, without giving too much away, what exactly should you expect…?
Getting over a fear of audience participation
I really hate any scenario in which I am called upon to participate. I’m not a five-year-old watching Punch and Judy and neither am I a drama queen who wants to be the centre of attention.
And yet within five minutes of getting caught up in the Judge’s courtroom I was laughing and participating like the rest. Whilst some of my giggles may have come down to nerves, the Judge was genuinely hilarious and on this occasion, also quite attractive… queue smiles all round!
Cuddling up to strangers
Obviously, the amount you cuddle up to strangers will depend on your tension tolerance levels. I have a very low level of tolerance for tension – in fact it turns me in to a trembling mess of a woman. Which would be fine if I wasn’t a solo traveller and 450 miles away from my mum comforting me.
So if you are a solo traveller like me willing to risk a pounding heart in The Edinburgh Dungeon prepare to wave goodbye to everything you were taught about stranger danger and get cuddling!
A gruesome history lesson
If you’re fed up of long and tedious walking tours but still want to know a little of a city’s history then The Edinburgh Dungeon is for you.
With an obvious focus on the underbelly of historic Edinburgh and Scotland the stories of the incestuous and cannibalistic Sawney Bean clan, the infamous graverobbers Burke and Hare, the haunting of the Green Lady and even the favoured victims of Jack the Ripper are brought to life with terrifying reenactments!
As you can tell from the introduction to this article, I found the boat ride more terrifying than exciting. But to demonstrate the grisly use of hangings as punishment to crimes we were shuffled into the ‘gallows’ and lifted until clearly guilty of a heinous crime.
Then we were dropped…! And this was fun, despite the look on my face!
A few reasons to visit The Edinburgh Dungeon
1. You should do something that scares you every day. And this will definitely scare you!
2. Entering the dungeon with all it’s over-exaggerated acting and terrifying tension takes you right back to being a kid again – which is really fun! Seriously, when was the last thing you did something silly?
3. If you didn’t know, it rains a lot in Edinburgh. Whilst you may not remember as much of the history as you would on a free walking tour in the city, you will stay dry and probably spend a lot more of that time laughing!
Tips for visiting The Edinburgh Dungeon
- I would give yourself at least two hours to go on the tour – they leave regularly (every ten minutes!) but you may have to wait a little in line and once inside it lasts just over an hour and a half.
- I would suggest booking tickets online as then you head straight down the pre-booked queue which was empty when I arrived just after 4pm on a Monday
- Do be careful pre-booking your tickets though as they are non-refundable and you must arrive within the arrival time stated on your ticket!
- Ticket prices are £11.25 but cheaper for students (with a valid ID) and visitors over 60 and under 15
- The Edinburgh Dungeon is located right next to Edinburgh Waverley Train station so if you get lost finding it ask anyone about the station!
- Opening hours change a lot throughout the year so click here to see an updated timetable
- You can’t take pictures inside the experience. This means if you do want a souvenir it will have to be from the gift shop at the end where they sell photos of you in the form of keychains, magnets and picture books.
Lots of love,