What to See in Edinburgh, Get Off The Tourist Path

Some Edinburgh Tips From Locals and what to see in Edinburgh

Are you wondering about things to see in Edinburgh that are little off the beaten track? How about exploring some of our local’s favourite locations? Well then, let’s find out about our unusual hidden treasures that lurk in this wonderful city…

The Botanic cottage Edinburgh, Leith

The Botanic Cottage in Edinburgh through an entrance in one of the beautiful sculptured hedges

So, after a hearty breakfast with us here at Parliament House Hotel it’s time to start your explorations! First on our list is the Botanic Cottage in Leith. Interestingly it was built in 1764-5 by two renowned architects of the time, John Adam and James Craig. And it is here that medical students of the past were taught botany during the height of the Scottish Enlightenment. Sadly, the cottage was nearly lost to neglect and vandalism. But luckily, a local community campaign brought it back to life. Now, rebuilt and restored to its former glory it is open to the public to visit. Here, educational activities, community sessions, and public events are hosted throughout the year.

Lambs House, Leith, Top of our unusual things to do in Edinburgh

The exterior of Lambs House Edinburgh, Leith

Next on our list is Lamb’s House, a spectacular historic A-listed building in Leith. Dating as far back as 1610 this residence was occupied by an Edinburgh merchant called James Lamb. Interestingly, it was here back in 1561 that he entertained Mary, Queen of Scots upon her return from France. Luckily, in 2010, before the house was bought by potential developers, conservation architects Kristin Hannesdottir and Nick Groves-Raines snapped it up. And as a result, it has been lovingly restored to its former glory, with exceptional gardens to enjoy.

Water of Leith Centre and Walk

Water of Leith Dean Village

Then there is ‘The Water of Leith Walk’ which is a famous walkway with our Edinburgh residents. Here you can explore this natural hidden gem. Follow the waterway as it flows through the city and out to a vibrant dock. 24 miles long, starting at the Pentland Hills, it winds through the heart of Edinburgh. And it finishes at the Firth of Forth at Leith – once Edinburgh’s industrial heartland. Notably, it powered over 70 mills, producing paper, fabric, and flour in its day. Furthermore, the river mouth was a vibrant dock and boat building industry.

But, today the river is now home to a wide diversity of wildlife. so you can enjoy a wide variety of plants and animals such as wild garlic, orchids, brown trout, heron, kingfisher and otters. For your enjoyment, it can be explored by foot or bike along the 12 and 3/4 mile Water of Leith Walkway.

Additionally, you must visit the Water of Leith Visitor Centre. Here you can enjoy the little cafe, free exhibitions and a lovely gift shop selling books and souvenirs.

Calton Hill Museum, Art Gallery and Observatory

Calton Hill Edinburgh Attractions from a birds eye view

Just above our hotel, further up on Calton Hill (the hill our Edinburgh city centre hotel is built upon) lies a whole host of wonders! Explore Edinburgh’s Folly (The National Monument of Scotland). To point out, this is memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died in the Napoleonic Wars and was built-in 1826. However, due to lack of funds, it was left unfinished in 1829, bringing its nickname of “Edinburgh’s Folly”.

Also, on Calton Hill is the beautiful 1818 city observatory. Inspired by a Greek temple of the Four Winds, the Observatory is a fascinating place of historic scientific discovery. Now an art gallery and museum, this is a wonderful place to add to your list of must-sees!

The Guildford Arms Pub, Top of Edinburgh Hidden Gems

Edinburgh Guildford Arms Pub Exterior
Image Licence Details, Image by Hynek Moravec

Just a short walk from the Parliament House Hotel and our home on Calton Hill you can enjoy the spectacular building of the Guildford Arms Pub. Opened in 1866 the building enjoys a magnificent Jacobean-style ceiling which dominates the public bar. Most of the original features remain, including ten traditional real ale fonts with their blue porcelain handles and an ornate restaurant gallery. Here wood panelling conceals a hidden room. This is said to have been a store for spirits and liquor, pumped up to the room from street level. A true hidden gem in the city of Edinburgh and a great place for quality ales and good food.

Craigmillar Castle, A True Hidden Gem of Edinburgh

The exterior fort walls looking in to Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh

A short taxi or bus ride away, Craigmillar Castle awaits. Just one mile outside the ‘old city walls’ this castle is famous for its connection to Mary Queen of Scots. Here she used the castle as a safe haven in 1566 before its owner, a year later became her jailer. And it is here where you can climb one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses enjoying fascinating features such as the fine great hall and prison. This Scottish castle enjoys wonderful views from the tower across Edinburgh, Holyrood Park and Edinburgh Castle among other landmarks. It’s easy to step back in time and get lost in the castles ‘nooks and crannies’ with its mysterious chambers. And after, why not pop along to Prestonfield House for an opulent afternoon tea with the peacocks.

Surgeons’ Hall Museum

Surgeons Hall Museum exterior

Another short taxi ride, or a pleasant walk from our Edinburgh Hotel, you will find the Surgeons’ Hall Museum. This award-winning museum is home to one of the largest and most historic pathology collections in the UK. And is one of the oldest Museums in Scotland! Interestingly, the collections began in 1699 after ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ were publicly sought for medical teaching. And now this place is a source of curiosity, set in a spectacular historic building. So this is definitely another place to add to your list of places to visit in Edinburgh.

What to see in Edinburgh… Need more inspiration?

If you need more ideas on what to see in Edinburgh, you must explore our other blogs and our Edinburgh Guide.