Weird me out in Edinburgh
June 20, 2012 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Last time you helped weird me out in London. Now help me go beyond the usual tourist activities up north in Edinburgh, please.

Pretty much just what it says on the tin. Point me in the direction of interesting, unusual things to do in Edinburgh next month. As mentioned in my London question...

I'm looking for quirky, off-the-beaten-path places to go and things to do. Something like Philadelphia's Mutter Museum, or Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum, or NYC's Peanut Butter and Co. Shops, restaurants, museums, activities, all appreciated.
posted by MsMolly to Travel & Transportation around Edinburgh, Scotland (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It is a tourist attraction but Mary King's Close is a very creepy experience. Highly recommended.
posted by hardcode at 8:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Surgeons' Hall Museums.
posted by misteraitch at 8:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Camera Obscura for sure.

There are a few fun literary tours.

Take a hike up to Arthur's Seat (not super weird, but a beautiful view).
posted by stompadour at 8:27 AM on June 20, 2012

2nding Mary King's Close and Camera Obscura.

Taking a walk across the Forth Road Bridge or underneath the Rail Bridge at either end.

A late night walk through the Grassmarket or along George Street at the weekend affords a view of the British drunken reveller in his/her natural habitat.
posted by neilb449 at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2012

Mr. Wood's Fossils Shop
posted by argonauta at 8:56 AM on June 20, 2012

Edinburgh is a pretty small city, with an old centre. It's well worth reading up on the history of the place as there's a whole history of weirdness.

Greyfriars is fascinating, and possibly dangerous
There are plenty of tours off the beaten path.

If you are in the area, Roslin chapel is worthwhile, particularly if you know a bit of the history (The Da Vinci Code wasn’t all fiction…)

The café has the best coffee in the area, and there are some beautiful walks in the glen.

It all depends on what you consider weird really. Scotland is the land where men traditionally wear kilts, where spiced sheep stomach is a delicacy and where the achievements of the national football team is a great source of pride...
posted by BadMiker at 9:03 AM on June 20, 2012

Other oddments:

This is an interesting book. Edinburgh is built on seven bridges. This is one long bridge.

The heart of Midlothian; dont step on it, watch out for locals spitting on it.

Museum of Scotland: lots of strange old things in here, but there are trays of exhibits which are too 'sensitive' to display; cauls, bezoars etc.

Edinburgh Castle; as well as the Stone of Destiny, supposedly the Lai Fal, but possibly just a toilet lid there is also Greyfriar's Bobby; the devoted little dog who stayed by his master's grave, now stuffed and mounted.

St Giles Cathederal; at least one 'magical' body has been found in the foundations.
posted by BadMiker at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2012

The Innocent Railway Tunnel is quite cool, feels a bit like a magic tunnel to the countryside.

The Edinburgh University Anatomy Museum is open infrequently, but well worth a visit - you can come face to face with Burke (of Burke and Hare) as they have his skeleton.
posted by Coobeastie at 9:36 AM on June 20, 2012

Walk along the Water of Leith. It offers a lot of beauty and tranquillity right in the heart of the city. I would starting your day out with a visit to the Modern Art Gallery - then follow the river down stream through Dean Village. You might want to stop at Stockbridge for some shopping or a snack. Look out for the Anthony Gormley statues as you make your way towards the Forth. Your trip will end up by the Shore in Leith - a great place to grab a meal and look around. There is a good supply of buses and taxis to take you to either end of the walk. If you would like a longer walk then you can go upstream as far as Balerno. Since you wish to be wearded out I would recommend a stop at Warriston Cemetery.

The spookiest place I can readily think of off the beaten track in Edinburgh would be Barnton Quary Secret Bunker. But not easy to visit
posted by rongorongo at 9:39 AM on June 20, 2012

Seconding the suggestions above, especially Warriston Cemetary, but most of the gates for this are locked; either crawl through a hole in the wall on one of the cycle paths that cross the graveyard or head north and enter through the more modern cemetary at Warriston Gardens.

The Museum of Edinburgh, towards the Parliament at the bottom of the Royal Mile is crammed full of weird bits and pieces relating to the history of Edinburgh. I much prefer it to the big Royal Museums on Chambers Street.

While on the Royal Mile try heading down a few of the closes - some of them feature hidden away gardens, tea-rooms etc.
posted by sarahdal at 10:10 AM on June 20, 2012

Hey MsMolly! Read some Ian Rankin mysteries, then sign up for a tour based on them: I've done the first and will be doing the second when in town in early July. See you there!
posted by mpemulis at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2012

I recommend seeing any gig at Douglas's House. Both for hearing great music and being a guest in an Edinburgh house turned venue, brilliant experience. Ticket price goes fully to the artists; also BYOB.
posted by yoHighness at 4:15 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tourist-ish but a little off the beaten track: Literary Pub Tour. We don't do tours generally, but this was a lot of fun.
posted by smalls at 1:07 AM on June 21, 2012

How aboutGilmerton Cove? Not a cove in the coastal sense, but a series of handcarved, underground passageways in a residential area. They are hundreds of years old, and nobody knows who dug them, or why, though speculation has included a drinking den or smugglers' lair. You can take tours in small groups, and the cottage above them is a small visitors' centre. Not many people know about them, but they were apparently voted the top Edinburgh attraction on TripAdvisor.

Portobello beach is only 15 minutes from Princes Street on the bus, but hardly visited by tourists. It's more of a "walk along the beach" place than a sunbathe and swimming spot, but the prom has a couple of nice pubs, the Espy and the Dalriada and an active beach life including sailing club, coastal rowers, year-round outdoor swimmers, a Victorian swimming baths (including Turkish baths) and throngs of kids on bikes, dog walkers etc.
posted by penguin pie at 10:07 AM on June 21, 2012

The river Forth is an interesting place on which to take to a boat. There are the tours out to tranquil Inchcolm Island and the sea bird paradise of Isle of May for example. If you are able to sail - or keen to learn - then Port Edgar is a good place to visit. You could either take a sailing course or offer to help crew on somebody's yacht - people who turn up on the clubs racing days with waterproof gear are often able to get a sail. The club sails out beneath the Forth bridges giving you a very unusual view of them. If you don't want to take to the water directly then I would recommend a train trip to Aberdour - small village in Fife - reached in a scenic trip over the bridge. You get sandy beaches and great views of the capital city.

A car would probably be necessary - but Scotland's Secret Bunker scores high on cold war spooky (warning - siren sound on page).
posted by rongorongo at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2012

There is a small weather tower on the top of blackford hill that you can climb up (not strictly legal).

Eat at the tail end on Leith walk, proper fish and chips fried in dripping.

There is no open container rule in Edinburgh so get a fancy bottle of booze, drink it on the benches at the port of Leith then grab the lunch menu at Wisharts or the Kitchin.

If your feeling flush after your michelin starred lunch pay (£25) to go to the One Spa in the Sheraton, there is a rooftop jacuzzi and you can see the Pentlands. Also massive ozone pool and huge thermal suite.

Walk out to Cramond Island and scurry about the old WW2 fortifications (check the tidal times first). Grab a Lucas ice cream from the shop at the mouth of the river first.

If you have a car drive out to Tynninghame and check out the bay, amazingly picturesque where you can also see the nuclear powered reactor from there. Also if you are into Geology the conglomerates visible along this beach rest unconformably on the Silurian sandstone below. While out there pick/eat some fruit from Belhaven fruit farms.

Check out the recently refurbished Museum on Chambers st. If your into arts there are several smaller local 'hipper' galleries - Superclub, Whitespace, Out of the Blue, Old Ambulance Depot. Depending on what time of year there are also many festivals.

Seconding the water of leith - to bad the Gormleys were removed after a couple were stolen (scrap metal eh!).

I would go to the Trossachs- check out Monachyle Mhor amazing drive and stop and see a creepy graveyard where Rob Roy is buried.

Try some whisky while you are here - the best tasting is with the Jolly Toper (Mark). The raffle at the end is particularly good.

Dates would be helpful as well!
posted by camerasforeyes at 5:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Art's Complex is a massive old government building that has been converted into studios for artists and makers of all kinds, occasionally they have exhibitions and open days which include a wide diversity of things, some of which you wouldn't see readily in a mainstream gallery or exhibition.

Summerhall is an emerging place for unusual performances etc. I've heard good things about It's Funtime, which a kind of quiz show, and been to a few of the Edinburgh Secret Society events, which have a great mixture of magic, science, psychology, history etc.
posted by Jabberwocky at 6:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

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