• In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. Theodore Roosevelt

Visit the Tolbooth, Aberdeen



The Tolbooth began as a 17th century gaol and courthouse. It is now open a a museum of local history, and visitors can see the original prison cells and paraphernalia related to law enforcement and civic history.


The Tolbooth was begun in 1616 and completed in 1629, under the supervision of a m,aster mason named Thomas Watson. Its most famous moment on the stage of history came in 1745 when the Duke of Cumberland put down a local Jacobite uprising, and posted his men the Tolbooth steeple to watch for rebels. After Cumberland defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, over 50 Jacobite soldiers were brought to the Tolbooth to be questioned.

There are waxwork figures in several of the cells, and recordings of actors creating an atmospheric experience, recreating what it was like to be confined here. See Jacobite coins, broadsheet propaganda, a flintlock pistol, and even witness statements used in the trial of the Jacobites.

But even the Jacobite episode pales by comparison with the events of the mid-18th century, when some of Aberdeen's leading merchants and magistrates co-ordinated a campaign to kidnap hundreds of local children. The children were kept in the Tolbooth, and other places nearby, before being transported to America and sold into indentured servitude.

Among the less salubrious articles on display is a 17th century guillotine blade, and a scold's bridle, used to silence a nagging wife. And if you have a queasy disposition don't even think of seeing the historical displays on torture in the medieval period.

Look for the small hole in the wall of the Gaoler's Room that looks out onto Union Street.

The Tolbooth served as a prison until the 19th century. When the new Townhouse was built for local government, the front of the Tolbooth was given a new facade in granite, so that its age is not immediately apparent from Castle Street. The rear of the building, however, shows its 17th century origins, and the bristling battlements that give it a formidable air.

Perhaps it is the Jacobite link, but the Tolbooth has gained a reputation as one of the most notorious haunted buildings in Britain. It has been featured in several TV programmes, most notably a 2009 episode of 'Most Haunted', and has been the subject of several paranormal investigations.

Immediately outside the museum entrance is the shaft of Aberdeen's original 17th century Mercat Cross.

Success stories

Clair Louise

Oct 31 at 14:53 pm
Done this many times well worth a visit

glitter dust

Apr 21 at 00:23 am
did this two years back after living in Aberdeen for over 10 years