A short history of the Association

The roots of the Edinburgh Festival Voluntary Guides Association go back to 1947. That was when Sir John Falconer, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the driving force behind the first Edinburgh Festival, appealed for local people to volunteer to run walking tours of the Royal Mile for the many visitors that were expected to attend the Festival. Twelve volunteers stepped forward. The tours, which were advertised in the Festival's official Souvenir Programme, attracted large numbers of visitors and received favourable mentions in the press.

Further volunteers were recruited for the 1948 Festival, at which point the group was officially constituted as the Edinburgh Festival Voluntary Guides Association, with John Bowman, a former City Water Engineer, serving as its first president. We have been running tours as part of the International Festival and the Festival Fringe ever since.

In those early year, the Festival Society took responsibility for approving our volunteers and for providing secretarial and financial assistance. A meeting place for the tours was provided in Cannonball House, near the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

In 1985, the Festival Society discontinued its support. Fortunately, the Department of Extra-Mural Studies at Edinburgh University stepped in with an offer of both secretarial and financial help, an arrangement which was to last for seven years. This was mainly thanks to the enthusiastic support of its former director, Basil Skinner, a well-known local historian and campaigner.

In 1998, in order to increase our public profile, we became officially part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe rather than the International Festival.


Since 2003, the Association has been entirely self-supporting. We receive no public funding of any kind, but are instead financed by donations and by the charges we make for custom tours outside the Festival season.

In 2013, we were obliged to move our base out of Cannonball House - after 67 years. Thanks to the support of the City of Edinburgh Council, we now use the City Chambers as our meeting point.

In 2019, the Association became part of the Edinburgh's Open Streets project, in which most of the Royal Mile and other streets in the Old Town are closed to traffic – and therefore open to visitors on foot - on one Sunday afternoon each month. These afternoons have provided us with an excellent opportunity to run our tours in a traffic-free environment.


In 2020, we suffered our biggest setback – along with many hundreds of other organisations and individuals – when the entire festival season was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this we managed to provide a very much reduced programme of tours in 2020 and with more tours in 2021. In 2022, we look forward to offering a wider choice of tours once more. That means that we have managed to provide a service as an integral part of Edinburgh's summer festivals every year since 1947. We have no doubt that we will be back in full in 2022 and for many years to come.