9 Lesser Known Hidden Gems in Edinburgh

February 22, 2017

Edinburgh Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

There’s no doubt that Edinburgh is a popular destination for travellers and expats alike. I’m so excited to be living in Auld Reekie once again, and I can’t wait to get out and explore these old streets even more. In the meantime, here’s some of my favourite hidden gems and lesser known spots in Edinburgh. Some of these you might find on longer lists of the top things to do in Edinburgh, but a few of them took me awhile to discover. These things may not rank as essential sights in Edinburgh if you’re only staying in the city for a short time, but they’re definitely worth getting off the beaten path for.

The Shore

Restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars on the canal in the north of Edinburgh wouldn’t be out of place in many European destinations, but for the very British buildings. What was once a bustling port area is now a great place for a night out, or a daily stroll. If you want to get out of Edinburgh’s city centre and see what some of the rest of the city is like then I’d recommend a trip down to the Shore. I love Mimi’s BakehouseΒ in the day for their delicious cakes and the nearbyΒ Roseleaf for their unique brunches and cocktail teapots. Not far away you can find a classic pub at Teuchters Landing with an outdoor area on the canal itself, and if upmarket is your style then there’s The Kitchin, with it’s Michelin Star. Who knew all these great places to eat were just to the north in Edinburgh, in such a pretty setting?! I think I came here once when I lived here on a working holiday visa. Now, it’s one of my favourite spots in Edinburgh.

The Shore, Edinburgh - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Dunbars Close Garden

Tucked away off the Royal Mile is one of Edinburgh’s best secret spots. Dunbars Close Garden is towards the bottom of the Royal Mile, and it’s a welcome respite from one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets. You might miss these gardens that have been around since the 17th century if you didn’t know they were there, because there’s just a simple gate and a small close leading to them. Next time you need a break as you walk between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, keep an eye out for it.

Dean Village

This may not be such a hidden gem of Edinburgh as the others as it’s become more well known, but it’s still a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy Edinburgh centre. It’s just a 10 minute or so from the end of Princes Street, but it feels like a whole new place. It too used to be an industrial area, full of mills powered by the Water of Leith and old industry buildings. Some of these can still be seen today, most notably Well Court, which used to house the mill works. Take a walk down to this hidden gem to see yet another side of Edinburgh, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

The Shore, Edinburgh - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Water of Leith

You might not realise it, but Edinburgh does have a river running through it, and it’s called the Water of Leith. It runs from the Pentland Hills to the port in Leith. The part that runs through Edinburgh goes through a variety of places, through Dean Village and Stockbridge and all the way down to the Shore. Unless you love walking and want to get back to nature without having to get out of the city, you may not really come across the Water of Leith. It’s a great way to get between different area of the city if you have the time though!

Stockbridge

Head north of Princes Street and you’ll find yourself going down to a neighbourhood called Stockbridge. It’s another place that has all the charm of a village. It’s full of specialty shops, great cafes and restaurants. One of my favourite places to pop in for a drink is Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen. On Sundays there’s a food market where you can sample delicious street food from around the world or come away with locally produced goods like cheese or cake (and who doesn’t love those!). It gets busy here on the weekends, but I love the vibe of the area and if you’re looking for somewhere to visit in Edinburgh out of the city centre and the tourist buzz then it’s a nearby and great option.

Plus, don’t miss a walk down Circus Lane, definitely one of the most picturesque streets in Edinburgh!

Circus Lane Edinburgh - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Union Canal

It seems like most the Edinburgh’s top hidden gems or lesser known places are related to it’s industrial past, and the Union Canal is no different. It was originally built to bring minerals, including the coal that darkened Edinburgh’s sky, close to the city centre. Now it’s a place that’s well-frequented by locals walking their dogs, exercising, or taking their children to different parks along it’s route. You can hire rowboats to glide along under old stone bridges, or enjoy a walk right along the canals edge. Start near the city centre near Tollcross and wander as far as you like. Or at least as far as one of my favourite pubs, The Fountain!

Union Canal Edinburgh - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Portobello Beach

Ok so I know you don’t exactly go to Edinburgh for the beach, but Portobello is a cute little seaside suburb that’s worth a visit if you’re not familiar with the UK seaside. Or to be honest even if you are! It has a traditional promenade and an arcade (please tell me I’m not the only adult who gets excited by these). Even on a rainy day the colourful houses at the end look charming, and you can duck into the Espy for some of Edinburgh’s best burgers, while you enjoy the view.

Cramond Island

This is one of the islands in the Forth of Firth, the stretch of water to the north of Edinburgh. The difference with this one is that at low tide a concrete pathway is exposed and you can walk to the island and back. It might have once been a Roman outpost, at one time it was used for farming as you can find the remains of a farmhouse there, and it was fortified during World War Two in the event that warships might try and enter the channel. Some of those buildings are still there and can be explored. Walking across to Cramond Island is definitely something a little different to do when you’re in Edinburgh. Just look at the tidal times carefully and keep an eye out, people have been known to get stuck over there for the night!

Cramond Island - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Gilmerton Cove

One of Edinburgh’s great mysteries is also one of Edinburgh’s coolest attractions. Gilmerton Cove is a series of underground caves just south of the city centre, and it’s just one of Edinburgh’s underground tours. Except unlike the Edinburgh vaults no one quite knows why these caves and tunnels were carved out however long ago. Some say they could have been related to Druids and witchcraft. Maybe it was a secret gentleman’s drinking club, or maybe part of an escape route from Craigmillar Castle. These handcarved caves even include a chapel. Tours are by appointment only, so make sure you plan ahead for this one!

Gilmerton Cove - Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

If you’re looking to see all the main sights in Edinburgh, check out Rabbie’s City Tour for a unique perspective on the top spots, and I wrote a HUGE post last year about ALL the things to do in Edinburgh.

There’s so many things to see in Edinburgh and I can’t wait to get out and explore my new home even more!

Have you visited any of these places in Edinburgh?

Sonja x

P.S. There is an affiliate link in this post, but as always, all opinions are my own!Β 

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Hidden Gems and Secret Spots in Edinburgh Hidden Gems and Secret Spots in Edinburgh

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28 Comments

  • Reply Bob February 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Looks beautiful. I have always wanted to visit. Maybe one day I will make it there. Gilmerton Cove looks like a cool place to visit.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 22, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      It’s a great place! These aren’t even the main things to see which are really beautiful as well, like Edinburgh Castle :). Hopefully you make it one day.

  • Reply Ellis February 25, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Beautiful pictures. I have never been to Scotland, but definetly want to go, especially after reading your post.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Thanks so much! There’s so much to see here, and not just in Edinburgh. The highlands are really amazing too!

  • Reply Daphne from Girlswanderlust February 25, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Wonderful photos of places in Edinburgh! The Gilmerton Cove underground caves look very interesting! I love this post and will definitely save it, so I can have a look at it again when traveling to Edinburgh.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Thanks so much! I’m glad it’s useful for you and hope you come soon, Edinburgh is awesome πŸ™‚

  • Reply Sophie Nadeau February 25, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Wow, you make Edinburgh look so beautiful! Also that cove looks really fascinating, would love to see it for myself and dig a little into the history (of what they have managed to find out so far)!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

      It’s such an interesting place! I want to go back again just to see it some more. There’s some stuff online about it but they are finding out more all the time.

  • Reply Daniela || Ipanema travels to February 25, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    It looks as if you go back in time! I love that face of Edinburgh. And here it come Edinburgh on my list! Thanks for inspiring me!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:47 am

      Me too, it’s such a fascinating place with all of the history. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Rohan Cahill-Fleury February 25, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Aww Edinburgh! Lived there for 2 years and it will have a piece of my heart. These are great spots away from the touristy places. I used to run along union canal, so nice on a rare Edinburgh sunny day!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:46 am

      I used to run along the Union Canal too! It’s a great spot for it, especially when it is nice! Edinburgh is the kind of place that gets under your skin πŸ™‚

  • Reply Megan | Red Around The World February 26, 2017 at 12:39 am

    These pictures look amazing! I’d love to go someday!

  • Reply Alice February 26, 2017 at 12:50 am

    I haven’t reached Edinburgh yet but it’s going to be soon for sure! I’ll definitely check out these little gems, Stockbridge and Dean Village look magical!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:44 am

      I’m glad the post helped! Hope you have an awesome time when you make it here πŸ™‚ I’m sure you will!

  • Reply Christina from Happy to Wander February 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Such pretty photos! I remember stumbling across Dean Village by accident when I got super lost (classic me) but it was such a happy find! Your post reminds me that I’ve barely scratched the surface with Edinburgh, so I gotta go back fooor sure!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Thanks so much! Haha you must have got quite lost! But a lucky find :). Hopefully you come back soon!

  • Reply Jessica C February 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

    So helpful! My husband is dying to get there but it just hasn’t worked out yet. But he’ll love this so I’ll have to pass it along to him. I’m loving the secret hidden garden. Oh! Just the idea makes me feel like that place is a storybook.

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Thank you! I hope that he’ll get here soon πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Now my desire to visit Edinburgh has been renewed all over again! All of these places look and sound totally delightful. I especially love the shot of the river running through Dean Village πŸ™‚ Can you recommend anywhere cheap (but central-ish) to stay? All of the accommodation options seem soooo expensive!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

      It really depends on what you like! I haven’t actually had to stay anywhere since I’ve always lived here or had friends to stay with, but I know some of my friends have stayed in great backpackers in the Grassmarket, or in Airbnb’s. The thing about Edinburgh is that everything is pretty central so look outside the immediate city centre to the west maybe, towards Dalry etc, for something a bit cheaper but within easy walking distance!

  • Reply Kathi February 26, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    What a great list! I hadn’t heard about all the places yet, so there’s definitely lots going onto my Edinburgh bucket list for the next trip – like finally walking along the Water of Leith and exploring Dean Village! Love that you included Teuchters Landing – I had a lovely pint in the sun there last summer during the festival πŸ™‚ Far away from the crowds in Old Town!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Thanks!! I’ll be using your blog to help me with Glasgow visits, I know next to nothing about it! It’s one of my favourite pubs :). I love that’s it’s just a normal little place but in a great setting. We’ll have to catch up sometime, maybe there!

  • Reply Noemi of Pinay Flying High March 12, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Edinburgh looks so gorgeous specially the Stockbridge area! I love the charm and feel of a small village than a huge city. Hopefully I get to visit it soon enough.

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 13, 2017 at 8:55 am

      It really is a lovely place! I hope you do make it, there’s so much to see πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ciara H March 19, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    From your recommendation I visited Stockbridge today! So beautiful and the market had such lovely food and treats. Also loads of quirky shops and cafΓ©s down along the streets. Thank you for your recommendation xx

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 20, 2017 at 8:26 am

      I’m so so happy to hear that and thank you for coming back to let me know! It’s really lovely to hear that my post was helpful to you. I love that area too!

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