The 17th-century Greyfriars Church (Greyfriars Kirk) is one of Edinburgh’s most historically important churches. The National Covenant was signed here in 1638, plunging Scotland into civil war. Exhibitions in the Kirk Museum document the church’s history, while the surrounding graveyard houses the tombs of notable historical figures.
Situated not far from the heavily trafficked Royal Mile, Greyfriars Church is commonly encountered by tourists exploring the atmospheric Edinburgh Old Town. Many visitors explore the church and Greyfriars Kirkyard, the cemetery adjoining the church, during guided tours. Some guided experiences take place during the day and focus on the notable figures buried there, such as poet Allan Ramsay and architect William Adam. Guided ghost tours take place as night falls and focus on the mysteries and ghost tales associated with the site. Free lunchtime music concerts are performed on select Thursdays throughout the year at 12pm.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Greyfriars Church is a must for history buffs, Harry Potter fans, and ghost hunters.
- Bring an umbrella or rainproof jacket as Greyfriars Kirkyard is exposed to the elements.
- Getting into Greyfriars Kirkyard requires wheelchair users to traverse some cobblestones. Once inside the grounds, there are tarmac paths and level access to the church itself.
How to Get There
Greyfriars Church is located in Edinburgh Old Town. Walking from Edinburgh Waverley station takes 10 minutes and involves several steep hills. Alternatively, ride bus numbers 23, 27, 41, or 42 to George IV Bridge, which is just across the road from the church entrance.
When to Get There
The best time to visit Greyfriars Church is from April to October, as the church is open Monday through Saturday during these months. In winter, Greyfriars Church is only open on select Thursdays. Greyfriars Kirk graveyard is open 24 hours a day, year-round, but is most pleasant during the warmer, sunnier summer months.
The Legends of Greyfriars Kirkyard
Though the graveyard attracts Harry Potter super-fans who come to see the real-life Tom Riddell tomb that is thought to have subconsciously inspired J.K. Rowling when choosing Voldemort’s real name, Greyfriars Kirkyard is most well-known as the setting of the true-life tale of Greyfriars Bobby. According to locals, a faithful Skye terrier dog named Bobby reportedly stood guard at the grave of his master for more than a decade. When the loyal dog died, he was buried just outside the church where a statue of him still stands.