9 of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh

Sick of tourist traps? Here are some weird and wonderful Edinburgh activities to try instead

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd January 2018, 3:39 pm
Updated Friday, 26th January 2018, 3:19 pm
From gelato to ghost bus tours, here are some unique ways to spend your time in Edinburgh
From gelato to ghost bus tours, here are some unique ways to spend your time in Edinburgh

Whether you're local or just visiting, it's easy to get tired of Edinburgh's most popular tourist attractions.

For something a little different, here are nine quirky things to do in Scotland's capital that are a little out of the ordinary.

See the skin of a sinner

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Infamous the world over, William Burke and his partner in crime, William Hare, robbed graves and murdered their way across Edinburgh in the 1800s, in order to deliver fresh corpses to anatomist and doctor, Robert Knox.

After Burke's execution, his body was publicly dissected, and some of his skin was used to make a pocketbook.

You can visit the pocketbook (and all sorts of other gruesome artefacts) at the Surgeon's Hall Museums on Nicolson Street.

Be warned, though - it's not for the faint of heart.

Visit: Surgeons' Hall Museums, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW - museum.rcsed.ac.uk

Master the Segway

Although Edinburgh doesn't offer Segway tours like other European cities, there is a dedicated Segway course on the outskirts of the capital, in Musselburgh.

Open between April and October, the woodland track is located on a large estate, surrounding a historic villa.

Get to grips with your Segway with a brief introduction, then set out on your own to explore and enjoy the ride.

Visit: Segway Events, Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh, EH21 6RY - segwayevents.co.uk

Ponder the mystery of the miniature coffins

Though Edinburgh's National Museum has countless fascinating exhibitions and items on display, their miniature coffins have to be the most intriguing.

Discovered in 1836 by a group of young boys, the 17 small wooden coffins - each with an intricate carved figure inside - are rumoured to be connected to the Burke and Hare murders in some way, but their true backstory still remains a mystery.

Decide for yourself by paying the museum a visit - it's totally free.

Visit: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, EH1 1JF - nms.ac.uk

Get intimate with insects

With everything from butterflies and millipedes to snakes and tarantulas calling Edinburgh's Butterfly World home, this isn't one for those who don't like creepy crawlies.

However, if you'd like to see these creatures up close and personal, and even get the chance to hold one, this is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

It's ideal for little ones, but fully set up for big kids too.

Visit: Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World, Melville Nursery, Dobbies Garden Centre, Lasswade, EH18 1AZ - edinburghbutterflyworld.com

Take a dip

Although not advisable during the winter months (unless you have a wetsuit to keep you warm), there are a surprising number of opportunities for wild swimming in and around Edinburgh.

Portobello Beach, Threipmuir Reservoir in the Pentland Hills, and South Queensferry are all popular spots.

Just make sure to keep your wits about you in the water, and don't swim in bad weather, or if the local authorities have advised against it.

Become an ice cream expert

Gather some friends, and book a private gelato tasting evening with Edinburgh's chief ice cream expert, Mary of Mary's Milk Bar.

During the hour-long class, you'll learn all about the history of Italian gelato, and exactly how it's made.

Enjoy a glass of wine or a prosecco sorbet float upon arrival, and sample at least three types of gelato during the class. Mary will talk you through the differences between artisan gelato and industrial ice cream.

Evenings will begin at 7pm and cost £15 per person. Advance booking is required.

Visit: Mary's Milk Bar, 19 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS - marysmilkbar.com

Travel back in time

Saved from demolition in 1934, this 500 year old building is perfectly preserved and set up exactly as it would have been during the 17th century.

One of Edinburgh's more unusual museums, Gladstone's Land immerses its visitors in life in Edinburgh's Old Town when merchant Thomas Gladstone owned the property.

Gladstone extended and re-modelled the space to attract wealthy tenants for his opulently decorated apartments, as well as for the high end grocer and cloth shop on the ground floor, and the tavern located in the basement.

Visit: Gladstone's Land, 477B Lawnmarket, EH1 2NT - nts.org.uk

Pop your skates on

Deliciously retro, The Boardwalk inside Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Leith houses its own roller rink, where visitors of all ages can skate to their hearts' content.

It's fun to skate with friends, or there are lessons on offer for anyone who wants to dedicate a little more time to the sport.

The Boardwalk also has facilities for skateboarders and BMX bike riders.

Visit: The Boardwalk, Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, Ocean Drive, EH6 6JJ - boardwalkleith.com

Board a funeral bus

A ghost tour with a difference, The Ghost Bus Tours team collect passengers from Waverley Bridge in their black 'Necrobus' and take them on a spooky journey around Edinburgh.

Sharing grim and gruesome stories from the city's past, as well as pondering on some paranormal mysteries, the knowledgeable tour guides are sure to keep you entertained.

Interesting for tourist and residents alike, this is an ideal activity for a rainy night when you'd rather not be traipsing around on a walking tour.

Visit: Waverley Bridge, EH1 1BQ - theghostbustours.com