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A top secret weekend in Edinburgh

The top 7 lesser known things to do in Edinburgh on your weekend away

The Water of Leith walkway (isoLord)

1. The Victorian baths

Glenogle is one of a handful of gorgeous, tiled Victorian swimming pools still open to the public. A multi-million pound refurbishment of the baths has been promised but hasn’t materialised yet – now is the time to go if you want to see it in its full historic glory.

The baths can be approached via the Stockbridge Colonies – originally built to provide low-cost houses for workers in the 19th century and now one of the most sought-after places to live in Edinburgh.

2. The culinary tardis

Scotland has plenty of pubs with restaurants, but the Compass Bar on Queen Charlotte Street is one of its few authentic gastropubs. Complete with smart, pared-down decor – mismatched wooden chairs, exposed stone, olive paintwork, wooden floors – it serves an imaginative menu that changes each day. What’s most remarkable is that the food comes from a kitchen less than 2m long.

3. The overlooked museum

Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons on Nicolson Street celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2005. A visit to the medical museums, Surgeon’s Hall and the Pathology Museum, is a fascinating, yet wince-inducing, way to marvel at centuries of medical progress.

Often overlooked by visitors, the collections here are grisly but fantastic and the museums’ volunteer guides are all cheerful former doctors. Displays cover the discovery of antisepsis and anaesthesia, the development of false teeth, and the Burke and Hare murders. Former student at the college, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, based Sherlock Holmes on his teacher, Joseph Bell.

4. The Swedish bar crawl

Leith may be rougher around the edges than Stockholm’s elegant waterfront but that hasn’t stopped Swedish entrepreneurs, Anna and Mike Christopherson, from bringing Nordic cool to Edinburgh’s old port district. Two and a half years after opening their first bar, Boda, they now run two more – Sofi’s and Victoria. Nothing like your standard pub chain, each is a variation on the Swedish shabby-chic theme, with antlers on the walls, candles on the tables, moose sausage on the menu and friendly staff.
(Boda 229 Leith Walk; Sofi’s, 65 Henderson Street; Victoria, 265 Leith Walk)

5. The boutique B&B

Set in Pilrig – a leafy, visitor’s no-man’s-land between the city centre and Leith – swish Ardmor House gives you boutique hotel treatment at B&B prices. With Ardmor’s four-star service, cooked-to-order breakfasts and free WiFi, you’d be paying much more if staying in the New Town. And it’s only five minutes by bus from the city centre.
(74 Pilrig Street; www.stoatsporridgebars.co.uk)

6. Where Irvine Welsh wrote Trainspotting

Fans of Edinburgh’s most provocative writer should head to 2 Wellington Place in Leith. There is no commemorative plaque to point the way, but it was here – in a top-floor flat, in the early 1990s – that council housing officer Irvine Welsh wrote his seminal novel (it takes its name from the nearby Scotmid supermarket site, formerly Leith Central Station). If you want to see more sights from the book, sign up for one of Tim Bell’s Trainspotting tours. (www.leithwalks.co.uk)

7. The hidden path

The Water of Leith Walkway is a project started in the 1970s and an open secret among Edinburgh’s residents – relatively few visitors find their way here. It offers a 19km walking and cycling route along a wildlife-rich riverside path (you can sometimes see otters and kingfishers). It cuts discreetly through the city centre and is well worth making a detour to. If you don’t want to walk the whole path, follow the section that runs from Stockbridge to the Gallery of Modern Art. This scenic stretch is home to the strange, fairy-dell-like Dean Village where, from the 12th to the 19th centuries, water mills ground meal for the area. (www.espc.com)

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