Edinburgh’s Winter Hidden Gems

20 December 2021

Snowy City View From Calton Hill

Visiting Scotland’s capital in winter and looking for interesting places you won’t find in the usual guide books?

Look no further. Our Winter Gems Guide explores some of the best places to watch the sunset, get cosy when it’s cold outside and takes a look at the hidden gems best enjoyed during the winter months.

Sledging in St Marks Park

If you’re lucky enough to catch some very rare snow on your visit to Edinburgh and want to go sledging, then St Marks Park on The Water of Leith Walkway is the perfect spot. As you zoom down the hill, be sure to take in the amazing view of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle overlooking this picturesque part of the city.

Water Of Leith Sculpture

Don’t be alarmed if you see a man standing in the water - that’s one of celebrated artist and sculptor Antony Gormley’s Standing Man statues. Forming part of his 6 TIMES artwork, six of these towering figures were placed all over Edinburgh in 2010. Maybe you can find all of them on your winter walks?

Explore Antony Gormley’s 6 TIMES Trail > 

St Margaret's Loch & Ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel

St Margarets Loch In Winter

Especially in winter, climbing windy Arthur’s Seat doesn’t seem like the most appealing thing to do. Fortunately, there’s St Margaret’s Loch, that will give you an amazing sunset view as well. Formed in 1856 by Prince Albert, it is now home to many ducks, swans and geese.

If you look towards Arthur’s Seat, you’ll see the ruins of St Anthony’s chapel. Built in the 14th century, the chapel is said to be connected to nearby Holyrood Abbey. It’ll make you feel like you’re walking in winter wonderland.

New Calton Burial Ground

Many people will have seen or visited the Burns Monument at the foot of Calton Hill, but you can actually take an earlier turn and visit New Calton Burial Ground.

Established in 1817 as an overspill and functional replacement to Old Calton Burial Ground, it was a precursor of the Victorian “Garden Cemetery” when ornamental planting and well-designed landscapes became the fashion.

A real who’s who of Edinburgh society, this graveyard contains many notable past residents, including architect Archibald Elliot who created Edinburgh’s Rutland Square, Regent Bridge & Waterloo Place; World Drafts Champion, Richard Jordan; and Thomas Stevenson, renowned lighthouse engineer and father of author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Built on a steep hill with distinctive terraces, the most stunning feature of this graveyard is its outstanding views over the Scottish Parliament, Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Park – perfect for taking in the Edinburgh vista in all it’s winter glory.

It could be considered somewhat macabre, but a wander round Edinburgh’s historic graveyards are a great way to uncover more about the city’s past and its people. From faithful pups to vengeful poltergeist, there’s certainly one or two tales lurking between the headstones. Discover more in our guide, Tales from Beyond the Grave > 

Newhaven Harbour

Newhaven Harbour

A beautiful spot to watch the sun setting after a busy day is the small, but perfectly formed Newhaven harbour.

A traditional harbour and fish market, fishing has been part of this small coastal community since the earliest people settled here. By the 16th century, the village had become a prominent port, and between 1572 and 1890 it was a major centre for oyster fishing. In the mid 1830’s an average of 20 million oysters were exported from Newhaven each year, and 1.7 million consumed within Edinburgh!

With the advancement of road & rail networks in the 19th century, the port grew, with cod, herring and crab making up a large proportion of the fishmongers sales and fishmarkets were built to accommodate the growing trade.

The Newhaven Harbour

Today, you can still visit the old fishmarket, which are home to a variety of top-class eateries, including The Fishmarket for some great fish and chips cooked to order or Loch Fyne Restaurant & Bar for a variety of  superb fresh fish & seafood.

National Museum Roof Terrace

National Museum Of Scotland Roof Terrace

When in Edinburgh, you probably want to get a good view over the city to capture that perfect photo.

Good thing The National Museum of Scotland has a secret roof terrace. Warm yourself up with a hot chocolate from their café, explore Scotland's fascinating history or say Hi to Dolly the cloned sheep. Afterwards, go to the top floor of the museum and enjoy some breath-taking views of the castle and beyond. It’s also a perfect spot for watching sunsets.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle (1)

Escape the hubbub of city life and breath in nature’s fresh air at Edinburgh ‘other castle’, Craigmillar Castle. 

Dating from the 14th century, the castle has hosted some of the most iconic figures in Edinburgh's history over the years, including Mary Queen of Scots, who famously used the castle as a safe haven in 1566.

A wander around the surrounding park offers great views of Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle, just a couple of miles away. 

Dean Village, Stockbridge & The Water of Leith

Dean Village(Image Credit: VisitScotland Kenny Lam)

If you love architecture or simply want to find a quiet space to relax, Dean Village, which sits along the Water of Leith, is the perfect spot for you.

Once home to mills of various kinds, the remnants of the industry can still be seen today - look out for mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies. The most striking building in the village is Well Court, which was built in the 1880’s as housing for local workers.

For the ideal winter wander, start in Dean village, then let the Water of Leith carry you on past beautiful gardens in suburban-like greenery. Find yourself in the pretty district of Stockbridge, where you can warm up with a perfectly brewed coffee and a fantastic selection of independent gift boutiques and shops.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Botanic Gardens

With a history dating back nearly 350 years, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a treasure trove of the natural world.

With an extravaganza of plants from around the world, it offers a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of modern life, with highlights including the Rock Garden, Alpine Houses, Woodland Garden, Rhododendron Collection and the Scottish Native Plants Collection.

A pleasure for all the family, the gardens - or The Botanics, as they are affectionally known - also offer superb panoramic views of the city skyline.

Dominion Cinema

Dominion Cinema Morningside

What better way to escape the dreich weather than by settling down to watch the latest blockbuster.

Built in typical 1930s Art Deco style, Dominion Cinema in the Morningside area of Edinburgh is one of only two independent cinemas in Scotland and since its opening in 1938 it has been transporting movie goers to cinema paradise with a wide range of film genres.

South Queensferry

South Queensferry Credit Visit Scotland(Image Credit: VisitScotland)

If you love charming architecture, stunning views and cosy restaurants, then South Queensferry, or Queensferry as it’s known locally, should be at the top of your to-do list.

A short train ride from Edinburgh Waverley, a walk through this quaint town reveals lots of quirky shops and independent boutiques, perfect for finding that unique gift, alongside cafés and restaurants which line the main street - the ideal spot for relaxing while admiring the iconic Forth Bridges that cross over to Fife.


Looking for more events taking place in Edinburgh over the winter months? Head to our What’s On for some inspiring ideas >