Famous for its fringe theatre and summer time arts festival, Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Tattoo, the Royal Mile and other popular sights, there’s a lot more to Edinburgh than this and the city has plenty of hidden places and interesting nooks and crannies where you can get away from the crowds. Check out the accommodation options here and read on about alternative places to visit while you’re there..
Water of Leith Walkway
You can walk up Arthur’s Seat but if you want to stretch your legs a bit farther, you could take a stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway, through Balerno to Leith, just short of twenty kilometres away. Passing through the picturesque Dean village with its mills and refurbished millworker houses, there’s a Dean Village Walk if you want to discover more about the history of this small industrial village.
Dean also boasts a gallery of modern art just a few minutes from the path and an interesting old cemetery. Look out for Thomas Telford’s Dean Bridge that goes over the Water of Leith. At Cannon Mills, the Royal Botanical Gardens is another diversion you might like to make.
Leith is Edinburgh’s port district on the shores of the Firth of Forth. Since the ‘80s, this once seedy district has become vibrant with its pubs, restaurants, shops, parks and community events. This is where you can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia that was decommissioned in 1997. The walk to Leith is well sign-posted and there are lots of places where you can catch a bus back if you don’t want to go all the way.
For the twitchers and even those who have never gone birding before, why not take one of the summer tour boats that run from Newhaven and South Queensferry into the estuary to catch a glimpse of a wide variety of local seabirds. Go puffin watching, see the gannets brooding on the rocky cols and if you’re lucky, you may see seals sheltering in the rocks.
Crammond and Crammond Island
North West of the city near the Forth estuary is the village of Crammond with its Island that is joined by a short causeway. A submarine pen was built here during the Second World War. The village is attractive and there are a couple of good pubs. Visit the fifteenth century Crammond Kirk that was built close to the site of a Roman fort. This was built between 208 and 212 AD by Emperor Septimus Severus on an earlier Roman military settlement established, in a bid to keep the warring Scots under control. There’s a walk along the River Almond Walkway, which is especially pretty where it passes a waterfall that runs beside an old ruin.
Crammond’s literary claims to fame are that this is where Mr Lowther from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie lived and Miss Brodie spent most of her time, and it is also where the House of Shaws was located in Stevenson’s Kidnapped. J K Rowling now lives here.
Grassmarket and Victoria Streets
Often missed by tourists, the Grassmarket and Victoria Street are a couple of very interesting streets that are hidden behind Edinburgh Castle. Deprived and poor when the New Town developed across Princes Street, the Old Town has seen a revival in its fortunes and is now very fashionable.
The architecture of the Grassmarket is a mixture of styles dating form the seventeenth century. Home to an important weekly market for over 500 years, this historic area has now been largely restored. There is a whole collection of stories about the area which was notorious for its executions. A plaque commemorates the hanging of over a hundred Covenanters, most of who were buried in the neighbouring graveyard in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Eighteenth century Victoria Street was built to join the Royal Mile to the Old Town and connects to the Grassmarket. The shop fronts here form a particularly notable façade and it is an attractive place to go shopping for secondhand books, jewellery, antiques, funky vintage clothes, specialist cheeses and all sorts of handicrafts.
This historic cemetery at Greyfriars Kirkyard has been made famous for the story about Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier that refused to leave the grave of farmer John Grey, his master, upon his death. The keeper of the graveyard many times tried to evict the loyal dog from the side of his master’s grave, but the dog undeterred, stayed loyal for 14 years. Eventually the keeper built the dog a shelter and fed him. When the little dog died, he was not only buried in Greyfriars but a bronze statue was made that stands outside the gates of the graveyard.
Just a few minutes walk away is the former Nicolson’s Café. JK Rowling moved to Edinburgh in 1993, writing her first Harry Potter book in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (it was subsequently sold to become a Buffet King Chinese restaurant). Now the Spoon Café, there’s a plaque on the wall to mark the place where she spent so much time writing.
Stones of Scotland
Not ancient, but a recent addition to Edinburgh’s landscape is the “Stones of Scotland”, a circle of 32 pieces of rock that has been arranged in the Regent Road Park. It marks the spirit of the Scotland’s new parliament as a rock has been brought from every local authority area in Scotland. The rocks are placed on a bed of Scottish marble chips and encircled by a steel ring with a Scots pine tree standing in the middle of the circle. Each of the stones has a small plaque to tell you where it came from. With the Scottish Parliament and Arthur’s Seat in the background, the whole structure is quite beguiling.
Edinburgh has lots to offer, from the popular to the bizarre, the obscure to the obvious, Edinburgh has it all. As well as the usual gamut of ghost tours, whisky tasting, watching the daily Tattoo, there’s plenty to appeal that’s slightly off the beaten track too.