12 Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Escape Reality.

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Edinburgh, but what happens once you’ve ticked off all the usual suspects? There are only so many times you can admire the castle before you start to get bored.

If you venture slightly off the beaten track, however, there are plenty more unusual, interesting and lesser-known things to do. Whether you live in Edinburgh or are just visiting, here are a few of my must-do activities and attractions.

1. Drink in an old veterinary hospital

Edinburgh is full of weird and wonderful bars, and one of the most unusual is The Dick Vet at Summerhall. It used to be a veterinary training hospital for the University of Edinburgh, and there are still lots of reminders of the building’s former life.

The bar is decorated with old vet equipment, skulls and specimens, old books and there’s even an operating table where you can pull up a chair and enjoy a drink. The Dick Vet is particularly good for a visit during the summer as they have a nice courtyard to sit out in, and there’s always lots of festival stuff happening at Summerhall.

1 Summerhall Place, EH9 1PL – more info here

unusual things to do in edinburgh - escape reality

2. Test your problem solving at Escape Reality*

If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a Crystal Maze champion, here’s your chance to prove how good your problem solving skills really are. Escape Reality is an immersive escape room based in Fountainbridge, with six different themed rooms to choose from.

There’s everything from an abandoned asylum to a Jumanji-esque jungle to escape from, with a time limit of 60 minutes to complete the challenge. There are plenty of games and puzzles to solve with your team of between two and six players. Escape Reality also have a bar, so you can relax with some drinks after you’ve escaped.

1 Fountainbridge Square, EH3 9QB – more info here

3. Go on an underground ghost tour

Edinburgh is well known for being haunted, and your best bet for experiencing some paranormal activity is on an underground ghost tour. Even if you’re a sceptic, the tours are a lot of fun and show an interesting and unusual side to Edinburgh’s history.

There are several tour companies to choose from, including Mercat Tours who offer tours around the spooky Blair Street vaults. The tour finishes with a wee dram to help you recover from any ghostly experiences you might have had.

Mercat Cross, High Street, EH1 1RF – more info here

unusual things to do in edinburgh

4. Visit a secret garden

If you fancy escaping from city life for a wee bit, there are plenty of green spaces around Edinburgh. Dr Neil’s Garden is one of the most unusual, and it’s also very well hidden.

This secret garden, which overlooks Duddingston Loch, is full of picturesque corners. It even has a Physic Garden which is full of plants associated with medicinal use. Don’t forget to head down to the water to see the swans!

Old Church Lane, Duddingston, EH15 3PX – more info here

5. Watch films at a retro cinema

The Dominion Cinema is well worth a visit for a luxurious film-watching experience. It’s an art deco cinema which has been kitted out with comfy sofas so you can relax and enjoy your film. They even offer VIP table service, with prosecco and popcorn brought straight to your table.

I’m also a big fan of the Cameo Cinema, a cinema with an old school vibe, specialising in indie and cult films as well as selected new releases.

18 Newbattle Terrace, EH10 4RT – more info here

6. Discover the macabre at Surgeons’ Hall

One of Edinburgh’s more unusual museums, Surgeons’ Hall is full of macabre specimens and old medical equipment. Not for the faint of heart, the are plenty of things floating in jars to have a look at.

The museum also highlights Edinburgh’s connections with the development of modern medicine, which is really interesting from a historical perspective. Also look out for one of the museum’s most infamous objects – a pocketbook made from the skin of William Burke (of Burke & Hare fame).

Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW – more info here

best cocktail bars in edinburgh

7. Seek out a secret bar (or two)

Rather than fighting for a seat in Edinburgh’s most popular pubs, head away from the usual locations and try to find a secret cocktail bar. Bryant & Mack is one of the best. It’s a speakeasy style bar disguised as a private detective agency, serving up interesting cocktails from a teeny tiny hidden bar.

Other secret hidden gems to look out for include Hoot the Redeemer (a 1950s carnival-themed bar), Panda & Sons (disguised as a barber shop) and Bramble (an award-winning cocktail bar that’s pretty hard to find unless you’re in the know).

89 Rose Street North Lane, EH2 3DX – more info here

8. Go for a rooftop swim

Did you know Edinburgh has an outdoor rooftop swimming pool with views of Edinburgh Castle? Head to One Spa (inside the Sheraton Hotel) and that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Enjoy a day of pampering with their range of luxury beauty treatments and massages, followed by a dip in the heated rooftop Hydropool, and some relaxation in the saunas and steam rooms of the Thermal Suite.

8 Conference Square, EH3 8AN – more info here

9. Have coffee in a cat cafe

Whether you’d like to own a cat but can’t have one, or just want to spend some quality time with feline friends, Maison de Moggy is ideal for an unusual day out in Edinburgh.

Book in for a session at the cat cafe and spend an hour or two socialising with the cats over a cup of tea and slice of cake.

17 West Port, EH1 2JA – more info here

john lewis edinburgh

10. Visit Edinburgh’s other castle

We all know about Edinburgh Castle (it would be pretty hard to miss it, eh?!), but did you know there’s another castle in the city? Craigmillar Castle is just a short bus journey from the city centre.

The castle is ruined, so it’s perfect for exploring on a sunny day – find the ruins of rooms like the great hall and the prison. There are also fantastic views of the city from the castle’s tower.

Craigmillar Castle Road, EH16 4SY – more info here

11. Walk the Water of Leith

If you’re the outdoorsy type, head for a walk along the Water of Leith. It’s an easy walk which can be as long or as short as you want, so it’s perfect whether you’re a seasoned walker or just fancy a bit of fresh air.

It runs all the way from Balerno to Leith, but I think the prettiest section is around the Dean Village and Stockbridge. There’s also a wee visitor centre near Slateford if you want to learn more about the history, wildlife and ecology of the Water of Leith.

24 Lanark Road, EH14 1TQ – more info here

12. Explore an abandoned island

Cramond Island is a small island in the Firth of Forth, accessible by foot along a causeway which only emerges at low tide. On the island itself, you’ll find some abandoned fortifications from World War Two.

Time your visit carefully and you can enjoy a scenic walk over to the island, before making it back to the foreshore and stopping off for a pub lunch at the Cramond Inn.

Cramond, EH4 6NS – more info here

What are your favourite unusual things to do in Edinburgh?

Gillian

Freelance social media and digital marketing consultant with a penchant for writing blog posts, drinking sickly sweet cocktails and exploring the cobbled streets of Edinburgh.

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