I used to think I knew Edinburgh. I’ve been traveling here since I was five, after all. But on recent trips I’ve discovered that while I know the Royal Mile and Princes Street well, I’ve missed out on a lot of the less obvious parts of the city. So I’ve made a point of going back to discover under-the-radar Auld Reekie. I doing so, I’ve found secret Edinburgh. And it’s beautiful.


Secret Edinburgh

The difficult thing about finding secret Edinburgh is that there’s not much motivation to do it. The city is so pretty that even the touristy parts dazzle me. I could walk up the Royal Mile, meander down Victoria Street, and take in Edinburgh Castle on every trip and not tire of it all.

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

But I’ve made three trips to Edinburgh in the last six months, and on each one I’ve uncovered a secret or four. Some are hiding in plain sight, others have taken a bit of exploring to find. But they’ve all given me a new appreciation for a city I didn’t think I could love more than I already do.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

View from the Scott Monument

Starting with the view from the Scott Monument. Despite being the star of Princes Street Gardens, I never knew I could climb it for panoramic vistas of the city. When my boyfriend suggested we do it, I thought he was joking. When I realized he was serious, I wondered how I had traveled to Edinburgh so many times without knowing about it.

View of Edinburgh

So we went. And we climbed. And we swooned (or I did, anyway). The views of the Old Town, the castle, and the buildings climbing the extinct volcano are amazing. Seeing Princes Street Gardens and the Scottish National Gallery and getting close to the Georgian facades of the buildings on Princes Street is breathtaking.

View of Edinburgh

Mary King’s Close

But going up isn’t the only way to be enchanted by the city. Going down has the same effect. On one trip to Scotland I took a tour of Mary King’s Close, another part of secret Edinburgh hiding in plain sight. Located underneath buildings off the Royal Mile, this subterranean warren of 17th-century streets offers insights into the city’s past and evokes a lost era.


Away from the bustle, the third place I’ve discovered in secret Edinburgh is Stockbridge. This neighborhood is in the city center, but it’s just far enough from the big attractions that it manages to keep a low profile.

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Stockbridge is worth exploring for cobbled stretches like Circus Lane that challenge London’s loveliest mews for the title of “Prettiest Street in Britain”.

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Terraced houses line the roads like well-trained soldiers, and there’s no shortage of lovely cafes, shops, and restaurants on St Stephen Street.

Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Dean Gardens

Next to Stockbridge lies Dean Gardens, a beautiful green space bisected by the Water of Leith. The very name of the river enchants me, and as soon as I see it I’m besotted.

St Bernard's Well, Edinburgh

Beyond the river, Dean Gardens is full of surprises. St Bernard’s Well looks straight out of antiquity. Its neoclassical columns surround a statue of Hygieia, the Greek Goddess of Health. It sits on the site of a natural spring discovered in the 18th century, and adds an air of romance to the park.

St Bernard's Well, Edinburgh

Beyond the well are high bridges and fairy-tale woodlands, all of which combine to make this one of the most beautiful places in the city.

Dean Village

But just outside Dean Gardens is perhaps the prettiest place in all of secret Edinburgh. Dean Village is straight out of a storybook, from the bucolic river to the half-timbered cottages.

Dean Village

Once known for grain milling, Dean Village is now home to some of the city’s most beautiful historic buildings and an abundance of charm.

Dean Village

The maze of mews above it is equally picturesque, full of houses with high windows and colorful doors. Cobblestones round out the scene with their signature patterned lines, and the whole place is lovely.

Mews in Edinburgh

There’s more of secret Edinburgh to discover, though, and I look forward to getting off the beaten path again on my next visit. If I can tear myself away from the main attractions again.

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24 Comments on Lady Unveils the Secrets of Edinburgh

  1. Love Stockbridge and Dean Village! It’s where my sister lives so I spent a lot of time in that part of town, some really great restaurants there too (must do a post sometime!).

  2. I finally went to Dean Village a few months ago but I was rushed and the weather wasn’t great, so I’m dying to go back! I’m glad someone has FINALLY climbed Scott Monument hahaha, I’ve been wondering for years whether it’s worth it and no one I know or meet has ever done it! And it’s one of those things I never get around to on my short visits. Stockbridge is also on my list. 🙂 There’s a street somewhere as well that’s all old Western style, I can’t remember exactly where it is but I want to see it! Leith is also lovely. 🙂

    • Wow, a Western style street sounds great! I hope you get to explore it soon (and that you get better weather for Dean Village next time). The Scott Monument is definitely worth a climb. It amazes me how few people do it.

    • Hi 🙂
      The Western style street it’s located in the neighborhood of Morningside, on a tiny area behind Marks&Spencer. It’s quite famous but it’s not a great thing to be honest. But you should go just to walk along Morningside Road and Bruntsfield, and if you still have some energy left, you can should Blackford Hill and go to see the views from the Royal Observatory 🙂

  3. Edinburgh is so beautiful! I’ve lived here for four months but have yet to discover these places, thank you for the tip! Definitely gonna have to do some exploring when i’m back in the new year 🙂

  4. I love Edinburgh but I never got round to seeing more than the usual tourist hotspots (which are a joy to see too!) every time I’ve been there. But thanks to you, now I know where I’m going next I’m up there 🙂

  5. in month of april onwards there is a boat cruise which takes you to three places to see seal. Its not very popular but must have.

  6. My favourite part to easily escape the crowds is the Royal Botanical Gardens, then walk from there to the National Gallery of Modern Art by the river (going through some spots mentioned by you).

  7. Hi I love your post off the love lost Edinburgh I work with Edinburgh council and even I have not found most off the lovely places that you have found

  8. These are some of the best ideas I’ve seen yet. I’m leaving in a week to Ireland and my cousin booked cheap tickets to Scotland for 4 days. Flying into Edinburgh and departing from Glasgow. She’ll be driving of course! If you have other pointers on maybe places to stay I’d be much appreciated! Thanks sara

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