Get off the beaten path and explore Edinburgh

Is there anything more majestic than the sight of Edinburgh Castle against a blue sky and summer sun? The historic castle is the jewel in our city’s crown and while no trip to the capital is complete without a visit, you will certainly find yourself jostling for a prime position on the ramparts in the height of the summer season.

So why not get off the beaten track and escape the crowds at some of Edinburgh’s lesser known attractions? You’ll not only be able to enjoy some unique and pretty quirky experiences but have more opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals.

But as a visitor to our wonderful city, how do you find these wee gems? Luckily for you, we’re willing to share some of our top spots…just don’t be telling everyone else, okay?!

Hit up our seaside in the city

Portobello is a two-mile stretch of sandy beach easily accessible from the city centre. As it was an independent town until fairly recent times, it still has its own sense of community. The vibe is very much traditional seaside – take a stroll along the prom while slurping on an ice cream, taking in the sights and sounds.

You’ll find lots of independent shops – along with many fishmongers as you would expect in this part of the city – cafes and restaurants, and you may even be lucky enough to see the hardy souls from Row Porty out on the ocean waves. This group promotes the age-old sport of coastal rowing and will happily tell you more about their skiff racing endeavours – just ask!

Blood, guts and more

You’ve all heard the stories of ghosts and ghoulies from Edinburgh’s past…but what about some real-life gore? A visit to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums is simply a must if you are looking for a museum that offers a different take on local history. The museums consist of the History of Surgery Museum, The Dental Collection and the Whol Pathology Museum – and display no end of curious exhibits.

The collection started to grow due to public demand to see ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ and, having been open since 1832, its one of Scotland’s oldest museums. If bones, tissue specimens and surgical pathology are your thing, then you’re going to love it, especially the skeleton of one of the city’s most famous sons - grave robber William Burke.

Take a hike…without leaving the city

At just over 12.5 miles long, the Water of Leith Walkway offers an opportunity to go for a hike without leaving the city. The water originates at the Pentland Hills, weaves its way through Edinburgh and out into the Firth of Forth at Leith.

The walkway, which is cared for by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, can often give the impression of being deep in the countryside because of the greenery and wildlife that you will discover along the route. It also passes through some interesting areas including Stockbridge and Canonmills, and must-see attraction the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Not all heroes wear capes

Want to visit Edinburgh Castle but don’t want to get caught up in the swarm? We recommend that you explore the grounds where you will find a touching memorial to military dogs who faithfully served their country.

The small, triangular shrine is the final resting place of many regimental dogs, including Jess, band pet of the Black Watch 42nd Royal Highlanders, and faithful friends Yum Tum, Tim and Dobbler who travelled to far flung corners of the world with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Put yourself in the frame

Visit the new home of the Edinburgh Printmakers who are bringing art and creativity to the heart of the Fountainbridge area. You’ll find their creative hub in the old North British Rubber Company headquarters, which was saved from demolition by the local community.

Just as well that they put up a fight to save this architectural gem – the £11m project has created an international centre for printmaking and creative industries. Check out the year-round programme of public exhibitions, as well as workshops where you can get hands-on.

Cross the Firth of Forth on foot

There are now three crossings over the Firth of Forth – the recently opened Queensferry Crossing is for road vehicles, the iconic Forth Rail Bridge speaks for itself and the Forth Road Bridge, once used by traffic flowing to and from Edinburgh, offers a path for walking and cycling.

A walk along the bridge gives a very different perspective on the crossing, and of course there’s the opportunity to explore the settlements of South Queensferry and North Queensferry at either end – the latter being the home of top-rated aquarium Deep Sea World.