REVIEW – The Edinburgh Dungeon with children

*****

Market Street

Avoid with young children – too scary.

We try not to be negative at Edinburgh Spotlight, but having experienced the true horror of The Edinburgh Dungeon, we had to forewarn residents and tourists of our experience here.

Today was the last day of the February break for the mini-Spotlight members (aged 6 and 10) and we set off out to explore Edinburgh for the day. I had decided in advance that we would visit The Edinburgh Dungeon tourist attraction, mainly because the online price was £7.92 instead of £15.84 (walk-up price) for an adult. That’s the price without VAT, which is a strange booking system – why not just say it’s £9.50 a ticket?

Each of the children’s ticket was £7.06 and that was the off-peak, non-priority option!

£24 lighter in the purse, we headed down there as it opened in the morning and struggled to find our way to the ticket desk as it was so dark and no-one was there to point us in the right direction.  Before getting to the ticket booth, we were stopped by a staff member who got us to pose by some Edinburgh Dungeon stocks for a photo I knew would be available to buy at an inflated price at the end.

No smile from the ticket assistant who said ‘go down there’ as she pointed to her left and she didn’t inform us when the tour would start.  We sat in a very dim room with a handful of other tourists not knowing what was happening and this was when the 6 year old started getting nervous. I told him it was all pretend like the pantomime baddie which seemed to placate him a little.

Grabbing onto his sister’s hand (the first time in years!) we all followed the first ‘character’ through to the start of the experience.

At no time prior to the tour starting were we told what to do in case your child (or adult) was so petrified they had to get out of there immediately.  I had clocked the emergency exits if needed, but a bit of basic health and safety would have been nice.

I am not faulting the staff here, they played their part well and were extremely enthusiastic. In the Judge’s Court, audience participation was needed – and ‘Paul from Plymouth’ was not happy about saying ‘my name is Shirley and I’m a big girlie’ and that he liked to wear woman’s clothes.

Others took it as light-hearted fun, but some certainly didn’t. It was easy for us to understand the local accents, but the tourists did not know what was being said much of the time.

In the Torture Chamber, I wasn’t impressed with the character saying he was going to cut a man’s penis off (not the exact words used, but the 6 year old got the drift). Surely stopping at the tongue and fingers was enough?

The Cave of Sawney Bean had indecipherable audio for the children and as we sat ourselves in the boat , we were met with complete darkness as we shuffled along the water a few metres. The ghost music was atmospheric and the finale of the ride did make the wee ones jump.

The experience continued and I got bored very quickly as we were herded form room to room and had to keep reassuring the youngsters that it would ‘be over soon’. The 6 year old was terrified by this point and the bravado of the 10 year old had disappeared – she was also clinging on to me for dear life.

We passed through more rooms including a Mary King’s Ghost section (which was an insult to the real thing), a room about William Wallace and to the ‘ride of doom’. We opted to watch the Extremis ride, as did the other children on the tour, who feared what might happen to them.

We watched the others be dropped in the darkness and despite all being adults, these were the highest pitched screams of the tour so far. Speaking with one of them after, they said it would not have been suitable for the wee ones, despite both of them being tall enough to meet the minimum height requirements.

The tour finished in an optical illusion room full of mirrors which was fun, but was over far too soon as we were ushered out to the picture area where we were offered our photos from the start (£6.95 each) or a photo from the ride.

We took the lift to the mandatory walk-through the tourist shop, but by that time, we just all wanted to see daylight again. No acknowledgment from the staff member who was too busy on her mobile phone.

As we enjoyed our daylight steps onto Market Street, it was clear that the children were not impressed that they were subjected to such terror.  “You said it wouldn’t be scary” was the line I heard over and over.  “We would have never gone in if we’d known” said the other.

Considering the price options are from visitors aged 4 upwards I was shocked at the scary-factor.  This is NOT a suitable attraction for your average child. I am sure there are some in similar ages groups that would love it, but we are just here to forewarn you.

As I mentioned before, I can’t fault the quality of the actor’s performances as they can only work with what they are given, but for £24  (£39 walk-up price) for a little over an hour’s performance, we were sorely disappointed.

In need of a little pick-me-up we headed to the Castle (with Historic Scotland card) and enjoyed exploring the ramparts and looking at the cannons in the fresh air.

If we had been doing this as part of an adult group, I would perhaps give it 2 stars, but only if the tickets were bought at half-price.

Suitable for disabled? Read the Edinburgh Dungeon disabled information here.

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