Hidden Edinburgh - 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)

Edinburgh is more than Arthur’s Seat and that festival. There’s another side to the historic Scottish capital – hidden Edinburgh.

1. Raise a glass to Scotland’s famous writers

The one for: hearing the story of Scotland’s literary greats in the pubs they once frequented

Writing and Edinburgh go together like strawberries and cream. Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott are among the writers to have found inspiration here.

The narrow lanes of the Old Town invite exploration. The craggy hilltops and sea views introspection. The pubs bohemian intoxication.  

There’s no wonder UNESCO named it a City of Literature. Cock an ear to Edinburgh’s literary history, told by a pair of raconteurs in the very Old Town pubs frequented by writers way back when.

Thesps Clart and McBrain preside over the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour. Sign up for side-splitting, super-interesting stuff.

2. A hidden garden dubbed Edinburgh’s best kept secret 

The one for: stepping from the bustle into an oasis of green calm 

There’s only one thing better than an amazing garden. And that’s an amazing secret garden. And right there in the bustle of one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets is one of the best secret gardens of them all.

The Archivists’ Garden sits off Princes Street in a courtyard. It shows how history, people, everyday life and mythology have all been affected by plants and flowers. 

In days of yore, new parents planted an apple tree for a boy, for example. Other interesting things: Plants played a part in the story of Scotland’s most famous export - tartan, and were used as emblems of different family clans. Expect to see the names of the odd famous Scot crop up too. 

The design of the garden reflects how our memory works. It all sounds terribly serious, but even if you don’t get it – it’s a great place to eat your lunch.

3. Let them eat cake at Lovecrumbs

The one for: a big, fat slice of cake in what has to be the best-named café in Edinburgh

Lovecrumbs. Even if they served nothing but dry crackers (which they don’t) we’d still love it. Cakes are the name of the game here. And, like the name, the cakes are pretty damn good.

Our fave is the salty peanut butter tart – what’s not to like? Wash it down with an artisan coffee and you’re laughing all the way to sweet-tooth heaven.

Have lunch first though – there’s not a sandwich or savoury in sight. This is all about the (love) crumbs.

4. Visit the Greyfriars Bobby statue 

The one for: patting one of the most famous dogs in the world – or at least its statue 

Ready for a real soppy dog tale? Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier owned by a local policeman. He toddled alongside the master every night, through wind, through rain. He really was man’s best friend.

Then when the policeman died, the doggy spent 14 years sat by his grave. Through wind, through rain again.  

We know, it’s a tearjerker. Disney thought so, and made a film of the story. The statue was erected in tribute. Come and give him a pet and have your pic taken next to him on Candlemaker Row.

 5. Yee-haw! Go cowboy at Wild West Morningside

The one for: pretending you’re John Wayne in Stagecoach 

Surreal is a word often over-used but not in this instance. Step off this Edinburgh street and into an alleyway designed like the set of a classic western movie.  

There’s everything a true cowboy needs: a saloon for a drink, stables for his horse and a jail to throw the bad guy in.  So why’s it there? It was originally built to advertise a store, The Great American Indoors.

It’s oddly quiet now; like the bit in a western film before the two stars face each other off in a showdown. All you need is a Stetson and some spurs. Oh, and a horse. Good luck with that.