Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, but for any visitor looking for oddities and strange attractions, it's so much more. The rich history of Edinburgh is seen in its streets where you'll find obscure landmarks and things to do that you won't be able to find anywhere else in the world. 

    Nothing makes your Edinburgh trip quite as memorable as visiting its most unusual offerings. Here are great things to do in Edinburgh off the beaten track.


    Writers Museum

    Explore strange exhibits

    The building of the Writers Museum in Lady Stair's Close dates back to 1892 and was crafted to look like a medieval structure. It has an iconic facade that's both creepy and alluring. Within this museum, you'll find relics and artefacts from three famous Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

    Among the items included are Scott's printing press, Stevenson's riding boots and a cast of Burns' skull. One of the more interesting pieces is a Samoan ring that was gifted to Stevenson with the name 'Tusitala' engraved on it, which translates to 'teller of tales'.

    Read more

    Location: Museum, Lady Stair's Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)13 1529 4901


    Burke & Hare Murder dolls

    See the famous murder dolls

    Seeing the Burke & Hare Murder dolls simply counts as among the fun and different things to do in Edinburgh. In the early 19th century, there was a series of murders in Edinburgh committed by William Burke and William Hare known as the anatomy murders, because they killed people then sold their bodies to a local anatomy school. 

    Several years after the murderers were apprehended, a set of dolls was found in Holyrood Park. While no evidence demonstrates exactly why these dolls were created, considering their likenesses to each of the murder victims, it is thought that they're funeral effigies meant to assuage Burke's guilt. Regardless of the truth, they present an unsettling sight that can be viewed at the National Museum of Scotland.

    Location: Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)30 0123 6789


    The Witches’ Well

    Immerse yourself in local lore

    Enter the Witches' Well, a fragment of Edinburgh's dark yet intriguing past. At Edinburgh Castle, you'll find a wide array of history and lore, but nothing is quite as impactful as this site. It's a remnant from one of the darkest chapters in Scottish history, marking the site where hundreds of accused witches were burned at the stake.

    The cast-iron fountain and plaque that currently stands at the site honour those who paid the ultimate price during the 15th- to 18th-century witch hunts. The plaque itself is an unsettling work of art featuring a snake entangling the heads of Aesculapius and Hygeia along with a foxglove plant. The plant is especially impactful imagery because it can be used for medicine or poison depending on the dosage.

    Read more

    Location: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, UK

    Open: April–October: daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm. November–March: daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)13 1310 5114


    photo by Lila (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Gilmerton Cove

    Wander the mysterious cove

    Gilmerton Cove is home to a labyrinth of underground passages with a purpose that has been a mystery to archaeologists for more than 2 centuries. What could it have been used for? You can learn about some of the most popular theories with a tour of these underground passages and their 7 rooms. 

    Hand-carved from sandstone, the cove's passages are notably impressive, yet they still give off a strange atmosphere that's only intensified when you learn about some theories for their use. Some say it was once a smugglers' lair, while others postulate that it was a hideout for the aristocratic order known as The Hellfire Club.

    Read more

    Location: 16 Drum St, Edinburgh EH17 8QH, UK

    Open: Tours available Saturday–Sunday at noon and 2 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)7914 829177


    photo by John Dale (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Dolly the Sheep

    Take a picture with a clone

    Remembering Dolly the Sheep, a scientific achievement was reached back in 1996, with the first successful clone of a mammal being born. While Dolly has since passed on, you can see her remains at the National Museum of Scotland. Dolly may look a bit out of place in the science and technology gallery of the museum, but knowing the scientific significance of her mere existence can contextualize its otherwise odd appearance. 

    In reference to other sheep, however, Dolly looks exceedingly ordinary, further demonstrating the success of this artificial cloning.

    Read more

    Location: Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)30 0123 6789


    photo by Sgerbic (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Heart of Midlothian

    Glimpse the city's dark past

    The Heart of Midlothian represents Edinburgh's dark past with a simple yet impressive heart crafted within the street's brickwork. When you visit Edinburgh's High Street, you'll probably be enamoured with this extensive selection of restaurants and shops in the area. Unfortunately, the region wasn't always so bubbly and bustling. 

    This heart on the street represented the point of no return for poor souls headed to Old Tolbooth, the most heinous prison in all of the United Kingdom. While the prison itself was torn down long ago, the Heart of Midlothian remains as a reminder of the atrocities committed there.

    Location: 197 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PE, UK


    photo by Frank Winkelmann (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Wojtek the Soldier Bear Memorial

    See the famous bear memorial

    Within Princes Street Gardens, you can visit the famous Wojtek the Soldier Bear Memorial. This statue depicts a soldier standing alongside a brown bear, with an accompanying plaque offering context to this oddity. The bear featured is Wojtek, and he was a valiant soldier in the Second World War. 

    A group of Polish soldiers adopted a bear cub in Iran, and over the years, it grew to be a valuable member of their team. The bear grew up with them and learned to carry equipment, drink beer and even salute. Because pets weren't allowed into theatres of war, Wojtek was enlisted as a private and served as a supply runner until he retired and moved to the Edinburgh Zoo.

    Read more

    Location: Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 3AA, UK

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1315 297921


    photo by Gpwitteveen (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Sample craft chocolate throughout the city

    Sample craft chocolate

    If you're looking for quality craft chocolate, there's no better spot in the city than the Chocolatarium. When you visit this institution, you'll find some chocolates you're probably familiar with along with more obscure makes, with a total of 30 unique chocolate treats from more than 15 chocolate makers including Scottish and international crafters. 

    Some of the more unique flavours include camel milk, whisky and even Scottish haggis chocolate. In addition to the tasting, you can also learn more about the chocolate harvesting process and discover different techniques that showcase how chocolate is made.

    Location: 3-5 Cranston Street, Edinburgh EH8 8BE, UK

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)13 1556 7005


    Edinburgh Castle Dog Cemetery

    Honour service dogs

    At Edinburgh Castle Dog Cemetery, you'll find a memorial and resting place dedicated to the loyal canine companions of soldiers. The cemetery itself dates back to 1837 and contains roughly 20 headstones. While you can't actually enter the cemetery area, you can see it clearly from above. It's located just off the main path near the top of the castle and is surrounded by a tranquil, well-kept garden space. 

    Nothing shows the Scottish love for our furry friends among the aristocracy and working-class alike quite like a dedicated dog cemetery.

    Location: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, UK

    Open: Daily in the summer from 9.30 am to 6 pm. Daily in the winter from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)13 1310 5114


    Pickering's Gin

    Tour a historic distillery

    Pickering's Gin distillery is where you'll find some of the best gins in Edinburgh. It's the first gin distillery to open its doors in Edinburgh in 150 years, and it has made quite the impact. Its signature recipe offers an appealing full-bodied flavour with a perfect balance between bitterness and sweetness. 

    The gin crafted here is based on a recipe dating back to 1974 from Bombay as it features 9 Bombay botanicals engineered to perfection. You can take a tour of this distillery to get a glimpse of how it's all made.

    Location: Summerhall Distillery, Summerhall, Edinburgh EH9 1PL, UK

    Open: Monday–Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm, Friday from 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12 pm to 7 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1312 902901


    Start planning your trip

    Keep exploring


    United Kingdom

    Back to top