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Alternative Things To Do In Edinburgh: A Local’s Guide To Hidden Delights

Edinburgh is often painted as gothic. There’s often a harsh haar in the air that comes in off the sea, but it’s also a lush, green city making it the perfect destination for walking and adventuring!

The bus service is also pretty good if you don’t feel motivated to walk everywhere. It is after all a city built on seven hills…

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As my home city and Henry’s adoptive home, we know our way around the affectionately named ‘Auld Reekie’ and we’ve put together our favourite lesser known spots.

Get out of the city centre bubble and explore the city!

Please note any recommendations are based purely on our own experience and there are no affiliations in this post.

There’s lots of lovely walks to discover!

Dr Neil’s Garden

A true secret garden, this is hidden behind a 12th century church in Duddingston, a beautiful village at the foot of Arthur’s Seat.

The garden looks out into a lake…or loch!

Dr Neil’s Garden is the creation of two local doctors Nancy and Andrew Neil in the late 1960s, it was originally a therapeutic garden for patients, and it grows medicinal plants.

It overlooks a loch and it’s a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle of the city, you might even spot a heron!


To get here a 42 bus will bring you to Duddingston village or walk around Arthur’s Seat.

Hoopla Tip: Pop into The Sheep Heid Inn (a 600-year-old pub) for lunch or dinner after your visit and play a game of skittles, it’s just around the corner!

Cammo Estate

In the lush Barnton area, travelling in the direction of South Queensferry is this pretty park and nature reserve.

Fab picnic spot!!

Inside Cammo Estate are walled gardens, a grand house now in ruins and a water tower perched behind a hill, the perfect spot for a picnic.

It’s about a mile circular walk with gorgeous trees and buildings that have been transformed by vines and wild flowers, the grounds have been reclaimed by nature.

Hoopla Tip: If you take a number 43 bus to Barnton you can easily walk from the main road.

Cramond Village/Cramond Island

This isn’t a secret to locals but for visitors to Edinburgh you might not think to come out here.

A bewildered Hen and a beautiful view from Cramond island!

Another village which a suburb of the city and situated on the estuary of the River Almond is Cramond village and Cramond island.

Extremely popular with dog walkers, come here for quaint pubs and walk out onto the island in the River Forth when the tide is out to enjoy a different view of the city!

Hoopla Tip: Get the 41 bus here and check the tide times before walking out to the island.

Blackford Hill

In my university days I lived in Morningside as did a certain JK Rowling! It’s a posh part of the city, well known for its chic eateries and some of the best charity shops!

Blackford Hill_Edinburgh_Hoopla_Adventures_2019
Views for daaaaays!

Behind Morningside is Blackford Hill which is well worth the short climb for spectacular views over the city.

It seeps into the Hermitage Braids and is a local nature reserve. There’s also an old observatory which still holds public events today.

From here you can also head to Craiglockhart Hill which is where Edinburgh Napier University has a campus.

Get a number 11 or 15 bus here!

Hoopla Tip: This is a perfect spot for photos of the Edinburgh skyline.

Lauriston Castle

There’s probably no way that you’ll miss Edinburgh Castle on a short visit but for me Lauriston Castle conjures up blissful childhood memories.

The bluebell wood is so cute!

The Lord Provost has his annual garden party here and its home to the Edinburgh-Kyoto friendship (Japanese) garden. Don’t miss the bluebell wood either!

You can also take tours inside the castle and it has a café in a beautiful courtyard.

Hoopla Tip: It’s not too far from Cramond so you could combine the two places in one afternoon.

Water of Leith

This runs through the whole of Edinburgh, so really you can pick your starting point and walk along as far or little as you like.


Fairytale-esque buildings of Dean Village

In Longstone you can visit the Water of Leith Centre in a renovated old schoolhouse and see the Slateford Aqueduct which carries the Union Canal. Nobody ever comes up here, but there’s the aforementioned beautiful old acqueduct, a woodland trail and a cute country pub!

From Murrayfield to the city centre brings you to the prettiest part, Dean Village down to Stockbridge. This now “Insta-famous” destination is the perfect place to capture some fairy tale-esque buildings.

Stop off in Stockbridge for a walk down Circus Lane, cafés and vintage clothes binge in the charity shops!

Stockbridge is so beautiful!
The Shore and a Lothian bus!

For the ultimate slice of true Edinburgh culture head to The Shore area at the other (north) end of the river. Down here discover Leith, it’s varying styles of architecture and restaurants and cafes galore.

Hoopla Tip: On your travels visit Stockbridge for vintage/charity shop bargains and on The Shore, we recommend micro-roastery Custom House Lane for a coffee stop.


Edinburgh is a very walkable city but for most of these destinations a bus is to be recommended. The local bus service is Lothian Buses, they are very regular and go everywhere.

Custom Lane – good for a coffee!

Download the M-Ticket App to buy your bus tickets or pay with exact change on the bus.

Hoopla Tip: Don’t forget to thank the driver – a Edinburgh tradition!

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  1. Great read thanks. Check out our blog if you get tine

    1. Thank you so much!! 😊

  2. […] We hope you enjoyed our guide! For more Edinburgh tips read our guide to alternative spots in the city here! […]

  3. Great suggestions! I haven’t been to Dr Neil’s Garden or Lauriston Castle, but love everywhere else. Blackford Hill is definitely a hidden gem. 🙂 And the Water Of Leith is always a lovely walk!

    1. Absolutely! You definitely should get to both! 😊

  4. […] Once you’ve exhausted this festive list it might be savvy to know how to fit in with locals by reading our cultural guide to Edinburgh or discover the city’s hidden gems! […]

  5. […] Enjoy your visit to Auld Reekie and beyond, for more guides check out our mindful neighbourhood guide to Edinburgh and hidden attractions in the city! […]

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