Uncovering the Dark History of Edinburgh Old Town and its Murky Murders

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Uncovering the Dark History of Edinburgh Old Town and its Murky Murders

by | Mar 29, 2023 | Activities, Edinburgh

Uncovering the Dark History of Edinburgh Old Town and its Murky Murders

Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, has a long and impressive history due to its time as one of the powerhouses of the British Empire. From its beginnings as a walled town in the 7th–9th Centuries, Edinburgh has grown and developed into an important political and cultural hub for the nation. Amongst its impressive historical sites and well-crafted cobbled streets though lies a much darker side to the old town; one which is rife with grisly murders and tales of death and despair. In this article, we will uncover the often untold stories from Edinburgh’s original old town and look at how these murders shaped its modern-day history and also explore why it has stayed such a popular destination for tourists over the years.

The Who, What and Where of Edinburgh’s Most Notorious Murders

Edinburgh’s old town has seen its share of grievous murders throughout its history, many of which have left their mark on the city’s culture and reputation. The most famous can trace their roots back to 16th–17th Centuries, when the city was undergoing massive expansion. As the population grew, so did wealthy merchants of the city, who benefited from the newfound money available. Throughout the old town, however, not all were lucky to have money on their side. Areas such as Greyfriars, as well as sections of the Cowgate, lay waste to violence and crime. This was, unfortunately, where many of Edinburgh’s most grizzly unsolved murders were committed.

The most infamous murder from this time period was Douglas Nogg, who was found brutally murdered on March 4th 1645 in a back alleyway near what is now known as the Grampian Quay. His body was found with evidence of several knife wounds, believed to be done with a short blade. Witnesses reported to have seen a tall woman in black walking away from the scene shortly before his body was discovered, but no suspect was identified before the case went cold.

The second and arguably most notorious of Edinburgh’s unsolved cases was that of Marjorie Brown, who was found dead in 1791 and is still considered by many to be Scotland’s first serial killer. On May 21st of that year she was dragged out of an alley in what is now called Bank Street, just off the Cowgate. Not long after her death it was swept around that she had been strangled to death, with four pieces of fabric tied around her neck almost as a signature or a display of power. It is believed that between 1707-1791 at least 16 women were killed under similar circumstances and since her death – no further victims have been discovered. Her mysterious killer has yet to be identified.

The third crime is that of Charles Hamilton who, although not an unsolved case, marks another grim chapter in Edinburgh’s history. On December 17th 1836 he went missing from his home in the centre of Edinburgh and was later found dead floating in the Firth of Forth less than 10 days after having disappeared. It was determined that his murder was in fact premeditated and he had been murdered by his business partner who had sought financial gain from his death.

Exploring Why these Unsolved Cases Remain so Popular

Even today, centuries after many of these heinous crimes were committed – the infamous tales are still discussed and celebrated by tourists across Edinburgh old town. Some believe this fascination comes from a tendency to romanticize tragedy while others simply appreciate a griping real-life story but whatever its cause may be, it is undeniable that these murders remain some of the most popular attractions for tourists today.

One major reason why these grisly stories are so enthralling for onlookers is their mysteriousness; many of these cases remain open today, with no real answer as to what happened to these victims or who was behind their unfortunate fate. This lack of closure provides a sense of uncertainty which only serves to heighten interest in these cases as postulations surrounding their cause are still made centuries after they happened.

Another major draw for visitors is the dark atmosphere that these unsolved cases provide throughout different parts of Edinburgh’s old town. For example; visitors will often explore the sights related to Douglas Nogg’s murder by taking guided tours through his former stomping grounds and in Marjorie Brown’s case – guided tours can often times even take you to the exact alleyway where she was last seen alive. Asides from this though; many parts of Edinburgh old town remain shrouded in tales from these other mysterious events with certain landmarks often [times becoming symbolic reminders][1] for some of their more grizzly tales – including the pub which Charles Hamilton co-owned with his murderer prior to his death being kept unchanged and open ever since his passing.


Finally, there is no denying that telling stories – even ones as dark as these – has a timeless appeal to them (at least when they are palatable enough). They captivate our imagination in ways that can offer tourism businesses an opportunity to explore them safely and risk free – everyone loves a good story; especially one with a tragic ending.

Exploring Private Tours with Murders Old Town History

In exploring Edinburgh old town’s more sinister tales – one major way for tourists to experience this unique side to this cosmopolitan city is through personalised private tours which specially focus on their grizzly history.

These types of tours allow visitors to learn more about these cruel events in an educational way and provide them with an experience tailored specifically to their interests. In addition to this – these types of tours also provide benefits such as being able to start whenever suits best or not rely on schedules like with regular tours. Private tours also often provide a lot more insight into certain stories – especially when paired with knowledgeable guides who know his or her way around the city’s rich history like the back of their own hand. They usually cover events such as the Douglas Nogg murder but also take visitors through other spots such as Greyfriars which played a promising part in Edinburgh’s early townships while also touching on other history such as Scotland’s rise during the industrial revolution or the country’s part during WW2.

Indeed, private tours featuring this dark side to Edinburgh old town remain incredibly popular amongst visitors from all over the world wanting an authentic experience that goes beyond just taking photos or visiting attractions, plus – thanks to modern technology – planning one does not even require having to be in Scotland for it! Most guided tours now offers visitors options such as private walking tours or even video calls which provides anyone wanting one with an incredibly immersive experience from wherever they might be; perfect for those wanting some Scottish insight without having to leave the comfort of their own home!


From Douglas Nogg to Marjorie Brown – Edinburgh old town remains as popular today due to its abundance in dark tales and mysterious stories just as it did centuries ago when they were first committed. People are drawn in by the unknown details regarding these stories which only heighten interest in them – making them an invaluable asset for educating residents and tourists alike on this part of Scotland’s history while providing these same people with entertainment and a sense or awe – turning gruesome deaths into curious occurrences rather than mere tragedies (where possible). Moreover – private tours which specially cover this darker history of Edinburgh old town offer a great experience for those wanting an extra immersive experience while also offering insight into other parts of Scotland’s past – something which more than demonstrates why this type of tour will remain one that always leaves people wanting more!

For those who want to explore this side of Scottish history through private tours filled with grizzly mysteries – head over here now and book your tour today!

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Uncovering the Dark History of Edinburgh Old Town and its Murky Murders

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