CityXplora's Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour Review
We could tell from the moment that we stepped onto Waverley Bridge that CityXplora's Christmas sightseeing journey around Edinburgh was going to be anything but sleigh bells and candy canes. This isn't to say that the atmosphere was off-kilter, even if there wasn't a snowflake in sight and Scotland's traditionally deranged climate had instead cooked up a mild and windy December night. Trust us that, weather aside, this is an astounding city that shows its elegant half no matter what the skies throw at it. You could say that the upside to being a Gothic/Georgian masterpiece is that if it rains, you look broody and mystical, and if it's sunny, well, you're just fabulous.
What made our festive foray slightly different was that it didn't centre on the bustling Christmas fair taking place just within earshot of the station, but an austere looking double-decker bus. Skulking in the parking bays at the northern end of the bridge this eerily bedecked, black routemaster lay in wait for tonight's guests. We were one of a wider group that had been invited along to hear its sinister tales and brave its reputedly haunted sightseeing route.
Right from the offset the actor/guides of the Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour began to set the scene for the evening. Their getup was delightfully dark, their greetings spine-tingling yet inviting, and overall first impressions were worthy of a Vincent Price flick. Our main host for the night, Jasper, was a wonderfully convincing and ever-so-slightly Gilliamesque character whose fascinating commentary kept every passenger laughing. Facts wove seamlessly with witty humour and audience interaction was everything you could've asked for.
If you too decide to take the tour during Christmas then be sure to tell Jasper to get this festive hat on, or you'll tell management! If our experience was anything to go by he'll know what you mean.
The bus feels like a character in its own right, with simple yet effective special effects playing a vital role throughout the night. The speakers and screens kept a nervous smile on our group's faces when 'sinister happenings' came about, and there was more than one passenger whose legs shot up at the sight of an 'uninvited guest'.
Rolling past Queen Street Gardens and down onto Lothian Road we eventually came to our first and only walking portion- The graveyard of St. Cuthbert's Church. Here's where Jasper explained in rather chilling detail the origins of the terms 'graveyard shift' and 'dead ringer'. If you hear the tinkle of a little bell or ghostly noises from six feet under be sure to inform everyone.
Our night of frights continued along the Grassmarket, where it quickly became apparent that bus driver Angus wasn't quite as sane as he seemed. Don't worry, we're still in one piece! Next was a drive up North Bridge, first point on the tour that everyone realised rogue spirits had made their way onboard, and their malevolent intentions felt.
The supernatural goings-on continued apace as we made our way towards Holyrood Park, site of numerous grizzly murders and witch burnings throughout history. The tour's ghostly stowaway also began to manifest in a brilliantly vivid display thanks to special effects and the showmanship of the guides. This continued towards the riveting climax, which won't be spoiled here, but will vouched for as bags of fun.
So what's the verdict? Highly recommended for anyone who's unfamiliar with Edinburgh and loves a bit of comedy sightseeing. The Edinburgh Ghost Bus guides are excellent entertainers and showed a great capacity for improvisation throughout, especially during one particular road closure- we still can't tell whether that was scripted!
If you're an Edinburgh native or very familiar with the city like we are then some of the stories will be common knowledge, but this is offset by the various other tales and facts hidden beneath the surface. While Halloween is their busiest time the Ghost Bus Tour melds well with Edinburgh's Christmas atmosphere, conjuring up impressions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and other classics.