Mary King's Close

The Real Mary King's Close

Useful Information

Location: Edinburgh
Open: JAN to MAR Mon-Fri, Sun 10-16, Sat 10-21.
APR to OCT daily 10-21.
NOV to DEC Mon-Fri, Sun 10-16, Sat 10-21.
Tours every 20 min. Closed 25-DEC.
Fee: Adults GBP 8, Children (5-15) GBP 6, Students GBP 7, Seniors GBP 7.
Groups (15+): Adults GBP 7, Children (5-15) GBP 5, Students GBP 6, Seniors GBP 6.
Classification: SubterraneaCellar
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=60 min.
Address: The Real Mary King's Close, 2 Warriston's Close, Writers' Court, Edinburgh, EH1 1PG, Tel: +44-8702-430160. Group reservations: +44-8702-411414.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1753 the Burgh Council decides to build the Royal Exchange.


A close is a narrow road or alley in old Edinburgh. Along the ridge between Hollyrood House and the Castle runs High Street, also called the Royal Mile, on top of the ridge. In a right angle to the High Street, both left and right, numerous parallel closes go downhill. Dozens of them still exist, but many more have been destroyed during centuries of city development.

The houses to the left and the right of the closes were small medieval houses, built of rocks and framework, up to seven stories high. The ceiling was narrow, and a huge amount of people lived in the houses. The space between the houses was used to dry the laundry and to dispose the sewage. The water was running down on the surface into the loch which was located north of the castle rock, where now the railroad tracks run. During heavy rains the rain water entered the houses and made the floor - at least in the ground floor - wet and slippery.

Mary King's Close is one of those closes, and was named after Mary King. She was the widow of a wealthy merchant, and she could have lived from that money very comfortable. Instead she moved to Edinburgh and started her own business. And so, in a time when women had very little rights and were not regarded to be able to work themselves - except doing the household and the laundry, she became one of the most successful merchants of the town.

The close was one of four which had to be destroyed to build the Royal Exchange, now the City Chambers. Because of the steep incline of the castle hill, there was a gap between the lowest cellar floor of the new building and the ground. At the upper end, the houses were destroyed and the basement built on the rocks. At the lower end, the lower floors of the buildings were left, strengthened by additional arches. And by a coincidence the the facades of the houses along Mary King's Close remained almost unharmed. The lower part of the close is different from the upper part, as it was originally unaffected. It was covered by an extension of the building during the 19th century. And so there is the possibility to see a house of a much later period.