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How well do you know your city?
We’re willing to bet there are a couple of stunning secret places you’ve never heard of, even if you’re a longtime resident.
Edinburgh City Editor Alex Watson sneaked some snaps of her favourite un-sung local landmarks.
Feel free to check them out for yourself… as long as you can keep a secret.
Wild West, Morningside
There isn’t much left of Edinburgh’s Wild West these days, but the remaining cantina and jail are still worth a visit. This odd but authentic replica street is hidden directly behind Morningside Library and was built in the mid-1990s as part of an advertising campaign for a furniture business.
Kyoto Friendship Garden
Explore the grounds of 16th century Lauriston Castle in Cramond thoroughly and you’ll eventually stumble upon the Japanese Kyoto Friendship Garden, which opened in 2002. Created to celebrate the twinning of Edinburgh with Kyoto in Japan, the garden has blossom trees, calming water features and zen galore for those lucky enough to find it.
2 Wellington Place, Leith
While it might not look like much, literary greatness occurred behind this Edinburgh front door. There’s no plaque on the wall outside, but Scottish author Irvine Welsh wrote his debut novel Trainspotting in a top floor flat here at 2 Wellington Place in Leith and – as you probably already know – set the book in his own neighbourhood.
Concealed just off bustling South Bridge, Dovecot Studios was once a Victorian swimming pool and now houses a 100 hundred year old tapestry studio. You can visit here to watch the talented weavers at work, peruse some art in the attached gallery or just enjoy a tasty cup of Stag Espresso coffee somewhere slightly off the beaten track.
Tom Riddle’s grave
The grave of Thomas Riddell in Greyfriars Kirkyard is rumoured to have inspired JK Rowling when naming the villainous Lord Voldemort for her Harry Potter book series. Although Rowling’s spelling (Tom Riddle) is slightly different, she did a lot of writing at a nearby café on George IV Bridge so she may well have borrowed the name from this two hundred year old gravestone.
National Museum of Scotland’s Rooftop Terrace
The slightly labyrinth-esque nature of the National Museum of Scotland makes this view a little tricky to find, but the search is definitely worth it. Head up to the Museum’s rooftop terrace on a clear day for breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city and beyond – perfect for both sketchers and sun-worshippers.
Dr Knox’s Enigma
Tucked between the Royal Mile and Cockburn Street on the steeply staired Warriston’s Close, Dr Knox’s Enigma is Edinburgh’s newest live escape game. Step into the infamous Dr Knox’s office and attempt to solve a themed mystery within the hour time limit alongside family, friends or colleagues. The attention to detail here will blow you away, and finding the front door is your first puzzle.
Water of Leith
Stretching over twenty miles from Balerno to Ocean Terminal, you’ve no doubt heard of the Water of Leith before, but have you ever explored its green and leafy banks? Often forgotten in favour of the Union Canal, the river flows through much of central Edinburgh and offers a peaceful escape from busy city streets surrounding it.
Meat Market Arch
More than 130 years after it first opened, the spirit of the Edinburgh Meat Market proudly lives on through its original entrance archway. Located in Fountainbridge, the fully-restored arch now stands a little further west than it did when the market was in operation, but otherwise this re-vitalised relic looks exactly as it did in 1884, stone bull heads and all.
If you take a walk along the River Almond in Cramond you’ll soon discover the striking Cramond Falls – Edinburgh’s answer to Niagra. Although nowhere near as big as their Canadian counterpart, these Falls are just as beautiful and calming to watch on a sunny day.
Round the corner of unassuming Craigentinny Crescent and you’ll be greeted by the sight of this enormous and ornate mausoleum, known as the Craigentinny Marbles. Now surrounded by bungalows and the Craigentinny Bowling Club, the tomb was built in the mid-1800s to house the body of local book collector and politician William Henry Miller. Miller specifically asked to be buried 40 feet below the ground and – some say – face down. There’s even a song about the whole bizarre situation, written by Edinburgh musician Neil Pennycook.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery Library
You might have visited the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to see exhibitions like the BP Portrait Award on display before, but did you venture upstairs? If not, there’s a lot more to discover in the world’s first purpose built portrait gallery. Their library has shelves of books stretching to the ceiling, as well as an impressive collection of busts and masks of some famous faces. It’s a little creepy, but in a really awesome way.
The Royal Observatory
You’d be forgiven for never venturing up Blackford Hill in Edinburgh’s south side, especially if you don’t live around that area. If you do make a special trip up, though, you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful Royal Observatory building on top of the hill, as well as the jaw-dropping city view from the summit. Built in 1896, the observatory has been at the forefront of astronomy ever since.
All images: Alex Watson