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private tours

Discover Edinburgh's history through architecture

Tour within your own household, or spend time with friends and family.

Our Edinburgh private tours are available daily to three of its most distinguished locations – Old Town, New Town, and Dean Village. 

You will discover Edinburgh through the lens of its most influential architects and uncover the origins of Scottish design, all the while hearing about the conflicts, controversies, and personalities involved in the development of Edinburgh.

Private tours are a perfect way to learn about Edinburgh as a family, as you set the pace. With small tasks and stories, our guides will make sure your children have fun on the walk.

Family Discount

Use code FAMILY at check out for a 30% discount for families with children under 15. Family tours are shortened to a maximum of 1.5 hours. 

Moderate activity level. Stairs and uneven surfaces.

All private Edinburgh tours from £108 per tour

Family discount 30% with code FAMILY at checkout

Free 48h cancellation

Dean Village

2h | Architecture and history tour of Dean Village

Accompanied by your architect-guide, stroll the lush valley of the Water of Leith and discover:

  • Where are any visible signs of the former industrial activity in Dean Village?
  • Which Scottish castle is the Well Court design based on?
  • Why did the Lord Provost pay for the Dean Bridge out of his own pocket?
  • Why do Georgian orphanages look like extravagant country mansions?

You will marvel at the goddess Hygiea within a Neoclassical mineral water temple, then take in the 1830s stonework of Dean Bridge designed by Thomas Telford.

You will discover the picturesque Baronial legacy of the ancient milling village, that still contains the old bridge, tollbooth, a mill, and a weir, all formerly controlled by the Baxters (bakers) incorporation.

We will chart the fate of Dean Village from industrious prosperity to complete disrepute, to becoming the most desirable residential district in Edinburgh.

While discussing model Victorian social housing we will wander into the Well Court, funded by the owner of the Scotsman Newspaper.

Lastly, we will make our way through a chic 19th-century Dean cemetery to spot the tombstones of some of the most architecturally influential men in Edinburgh: Lord Cockburn and William Playfair.

We will finish off with (two!) exceedingly glamorous Georgian orphanages now converted into modern art galleries.

Architecture of Money

2h | Architecture and history tour of New Town

On your walk with an architect-guide, connect the dots on what you know about the largest Georgian planned town development in the world:

  • What guided the designers of the New Town?
  • How much were the New Towners’ fortunes connected to slavery?
  • Why was so much of the now listed Georgian New Town demolished?

Through the masterplan drawn by the young James Craig and buildings by celebrated British architects such as Robert Adam, we will unfold the cultural context of Scottish Enlightenment, as well as the economic and political influence of the Union.

We will spot one of the first semi-detached houses in Scotland, and walk the remaining original mews lanes that served the grand townhouses in the Georgian era. For an exclusive insight into the chic Georgian lifestyle, you will enter a private park – available only with us – or if your aunt lives on Queen street!

While walking its ordered, symmetrical grid of streets lined with Neoclassical tenements (yes, tenements!) we will learn the purpose of the New Town’s sunken basements and underground vaults. Finally, you will grasp the origins of typical Georgian details as your guide introduces fanlights, elegant ironwork of the original New Town street lights, and a palette of sandstone finishes.

Hidden Castles

2.5h | Edinburgh Old Town Tour

Explore the fascinating historical and modern architecture in the atmospheric Old Town, from a handpicked sample of brilliantly restored original buildings to award-winning contemporary architecture such as the (in)famous Scottish Parliament.

On a walk with your architect – guide, rewrite what you thought you knew about Edinburgh Old Town:

  • Is the Old Town really that old?
  • What medieval Scottish castles inspired Victorian Edinburgh buildings? How do I spot the copies?
  • How can you tell if the new building fits well in its historical context?

Unpeel the Old Town layer by layer. Compare your contemporary Edinburgh with old maps and drawings. Discover how sweeping changes in Old Town fortunes have impacted its changing looks: explore how the city evolved from a fortress to a market-town, dense with timber skyscrapers, from a cradle of the Enlightenment to an overcrowded slum, to a near complete overhaul into a picturesque Victorian fantasy. Learn why Edinburgh Old Town still has space to build new architectural gems right in the heart of the Old Town. 

Finally, your architect-guide will teach you how to come to terms with the building of the Scottish Parliament. PS you might even start to appreciate it!  

Custom Tours

Please get in touch to discuss your idea. We are always happy to help!

Cobble Tales have passed the COVID-19 assessment.

We are part of the ‘Good to Go’ scheme and will be restarting tours from the 18th of July under the latest guidelines:

  • Book online for contactless payment.
  • Tours outdoors only, in large open spaces.
  • Physical distance of 2m during the tour.
  • Guides do daily wellness checks.
  • Guide and all participants wear face coverings on a tour.
Covid-19 safe experience badge good to go for Edinburgh history tour