Places to Visit in Lesser Known Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood and Greyfriar’s Bobby statue are some of the most popular attractions for visitors to Edinburgh.  However, there are lots of other attractions which are less well-known but just as interesting and pleasant to visit. Here are a few of them:

Museum of Childhood

This can be found on the Royal Mile but is often overlooked by guidebooks. A treasure trove of old children’s toys, games, clothes and playthings.

The People’s Story

Housed in the Canongate Tolbooth at the bottom of the Royal Mile it houses collections which tell the stories of the working-class people of Edinburgh from the late 18th century to the present day using oral history, reminiscence and written sources.

The Pentland Hills Regional Park

Just south of Edinburgh these hills are the highest points around the city and are often covered in snow in the winter. There are many walks over the hills with an abundance of wildlife. There is also a dry ski slope should you want to try out a new pastime. Easily accessible on public transport.

Dean Village

Situated five minutes away from Princes Street, visitors can find the Dean Village, a beautiful oasis right by the Water of Leith. In the past the village housed mills of various kinds, and the remnants of the industry can still be seen today. Look out for mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies. Follow the walkway along the Water of Leith and you will come to the impressive Dean Bridge designed by Thomas Telford, and the classical temple of St Bernard’s Well.

Places to visit in Edinburgh Dean Village

Surgeon’s Hall Museums

Just a short walk from the Royal Mile, the Surgeon’s Hall Museums are a unique collection. Full of surgical tools, fascinating paintings and more than a few body parts in jars. Learn about the evolution of surgery throughout the ages and find how great Scottish minds brought us some of the medical breakthroughs we take for granted today. The present Surgeon’s Hall was designed by William Henry Playfair and completed in 1832. It is a category A listed building.

Gardens Dr. Neil’s Garden

This is located beside Duddingston Kirk on the lower slopes of Arthur’s Seat. Created from a wilderness by Drs Nancy and Andrew Neil. Two features of particular interest are the physic garden, which grows medicinal plants, and Thomson’s Tower. It was constructed in 1825 and was originally built for the Duddingston Curling Society. This was back when frozen lochs were the grounds for curling and other winter sports.

Kyoto Friendship Garden

This Japanese garden can be found in the grounds of Lauriston Castle in the Edinburgh suburb of Cramond. With bamboo shelters to picnic in, breath-taking views over Cramond Island to the Firth of Forth, avenues of blossom trees and calming water features. It’s no surprise that it is rated one of the top three Japanese gardens in Britain. The garden was created to celebrate the twinning of the towns of Edinburgh and the prefecture of Kyoto in Japan. It was opened in 2002. Its official name is ‘Castle Garden to Water and Beyond’.

Blackford Hill

This is an alternative hill with a view to the more well-known Arthur’s Seat. There are spectacular views of Edinburgh and beyond from the top. You will be able to see the Royal Observatory on the hill. At the foot of the hill on the north side there is Blackford pond which is home to lots of ducks and swans. On the south side there is the Hermitage of Braid. This local nature reserve is in a steep-sided river valley with mixed mature woodland, grassland, scrub, & marshland. Stroll along the Braid burn to the visitor centre and look out for the icehouse and the Agassiz Rock at Blackford Quarry.

The Caiy Stane

This stone stands on the side of the aptly named Caiystane View close to its junction with Oxgangs Road. It is believed that the stone was erected here around 3000BC to mark a ritual or burial place. The rear face of the stone carries a line of six indentations known as cup marks which seem to date it to the Neolithic era. Various cairns and kist burials dating back to the Bronze Age, 1-2,000 years later, have been unearthed in the immediate area at various times.

The Bore Stane

This stone sits high on a plinth built into the wall of the old Morningside Parish Church on the junction of Morningside Road and Newbattle Terrace. It commemorates a muster that is said to have taken place on the burgh muir where James IV set up his battle standard before marching down to do battle at Flodden five hundred years ago.

Morningside Wild West

Located in a side street just off Springvalley Gardens (in turn off Morningside Road) is a mini Wild West town. This street was built as an advertising feature for a furniture store called ”The Great American Indoors” that sold Southwest-style furniture. The store has long since closed, but the buildings remain. There’s a jail, cantina, saloon and general store.

Water of Leith

Lots of pleasant walks on various parts of the river, or if you are feeling more ambitious, start at Balerno and follow the well-marked path all the way down to Leith.  Also the peace and quiet and the wildlife can make you forget that the city is not far away. The Water of Leith Visitor Centre is a good place to stop around the half-way point. Public transport is available to reach your start/end point.

Cramond Island

This tidal island can be reached by a causeway which is covered at high tide. On the landward side, there is a noticeboard with the tide times. Allow plenty of time to venture across and explore this uninhabited island before the incoming tide cuts it off for several hours again. In the north east corner of the island, there are many WW2 remains- gun emplacements, stores, engine rooms and the terminus for the anti-submarine net.

Want to find out where all these things are? Check out this interactive map.

Also, read more on Edinburgh in the Autumn here

By Vivienne Hamilton