The Surgeons and Bodysnatchers TourBurke and Hare

About this tour

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the medical school at the University of Edinburgh was a hotbed of discovery, attracting the efforts of men like Robert Knox, Joseph Lister and James Young Simpson were instrumental in enhancing our understanding of human anatomy, the development of anaesthetics and countless other innovations.

However, there was a darker side to these advancements. Many of the medical techniques at this time remained crude and even barbaric. Worse than that vital medical research depended on the supply of fresh cadavers, and since the university was only granted four bodies a year for this purpose the professors had to improvise… Unscrupulous individuals and even gangs were paid to illegally remove freshly buried corpses from their graves. Some, most infamously William Burke and William Hare, murdered local residents and sold their (very fresh) bodies to the medical school.

Find out more about this fascinating period on our Surgeons and Bodysnatchers tour. Marvel at the palatial college buildings which still stand today, explore Greyfriars Kirkyards to see surviving evidence of the grave robbers activities and visit some of the very drinking establishments where Burke and Hare picked up their victims.

Meeting point & location


This tour starts from our Old Police Box (Tardis) on the Royal Mile.


This tour ends at our Old Police Box (Tardis) on the Royal Mile.


Where can I book this tour?

This tour can be booked online using the widget above, through our ticket office which you can call on 0131 220 6868, or at the office itself at Old Police Box, 9 Hunter Square, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1QS. It is recommended that you book because our tours can very easily sell out especially during the summer months.

Is there a lot of walking on this Tour?

With the exception of the Alternative Tour and the Ultimate Old Town Historical Tour, there is only a small amount of walking on our tours. However please wear comfortable shoes otherwise you will find the Old Town’s cobblestones rather unpleasant!

Can children come on this tour?

Children over five years old are welcome on all our tours, except for the Pub Crawl, the Extreme Paranormal Tour and the Ladies of Pleasure Tour, provided they are accompanied by an adult.

Is the underground wheelchair accessible?

Unfortunately our underground is only accessible via a flight of stairs. For more information about the underground visit our accessibility section.

Will this tour run in bad weather?

Our tours run in rain, hail, sleet or snow, so long as we have people booked on, willing to do the tour it will run. Please wrap warm though if the weather is not on our side.

For any other questions please contact us at 0131 220 6868 or through