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looking for offbeat/hidden Edinburgh

Heading to Edinburgh for a week in March with my teenage daughter. We have 8 full days, for 3 we have day trips already planned-leaving 5 days to explore Edinburgh (yippee). I am looking for ideas to see/do that are offbeat/hidden/unique-thngs that one might not find out about doing usual internet searchs. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
7510 posts

Maybe there’s nothing that the Internet doesn’t at least mention anymore, accurately or inaccurately, but something unique to Scotland is Irn Bru. Even if, like me, you’re not a big soda pop devotee, try one.

The “iron brew” soft drink is neon orange, tastes a bit like liquid chewing gum, but has proudly been made in Scotland for over 100 years, and is like not quite like anything the Coke or Pepsi people make.

Posted by
6113 posts

These days, everything can be covered by a Google search! You don’t say what you are interested in, so try googling “hidden Edinburgh” and see if any of those suggestions are of relevance to you.

Whilst not hidden, I enjoyed touring the Scottish Parliament building.

Irn Bru (available throughout the UK) is a disgusting drink and best avoided, as are deep fried Mars bars (chocolate), another Scottish delicacy.

Posted by
114 posts

What is she interested in? Might help provide you with some ideas.

There are books such as Hidden Edinburgh that have ideas but our favorite is Only in Edinburgh. That second book had some interesting sites that even my neighbors in Edinburgh didn’t know even existed!

Website: is what we use to find fun events when in city. They also have an email newsletter you can sign up for.

Good luck and have a fun trip!

Posted by
7510 posts

OK, so Irn Bru is undecidedly offbeat - use it to wash down a Deep Fried Mars Bar.

For a healthier Scottish specialty (Internet might have some awareness of this), enjoy real Scottish oatmeal.

Go to St. Gile's Church. Ask inside where John Knox is buried. Then, try to find him!
Learn about Deacon Brody and Maggie Dixon. Then, find their artifacts/relevant sites. Some important William Wallace and Robert the Bruce artifacts in the National Museum.

Lots of interesting tidbits all around. Take the RS walking tour (self tour with guide book) and do the Royal mile.

If you have no concern for your personal health whatsoever - you should go to a state fair here in the USA - where nearly everything edible gets deep fried. I think fair food trucks are forever trying to create a new and unique deep fried something to "stand out" from the competition. Deep fried Mars bars seem rather ordinary compared to State Fair food.

Can someone please explain the above comment about "real" Scottish oatmeal as it compares to oatmeal in the USA? Are particular ingredients added to oatmeal? Does Scotland have better oats?

Posted by
292 posts

Melissa, I’m currently doing my own research for my sightseeing in Edinburgh while I’m there for a RS Scotland tour in the Spring. This will be my first trip to Scotland so I don’t have any firsthand experience there, but take a look at this Atlas Obscura list of interesting things to do in Edinburgh:

Have a great trip! I hope that you’ll post a trip report when you return.

Posted by
472 posts

Sun-Baked, I had oatmeal with a stirred-in dram of whiskey once, in an RS-book B&B. Breakfast of some kind of champions!

Posted by
7510 posts

Well, to us Yanks, and to anyone who’s had fresh-squeezed orange juice from fruit picked right off a Florida tree, Irn Bru seemed pretty exotic.

As for oatmeal, at our London B&B this past fall, we were asked if we wanted porridge, and then were enthusiastically served oatmeal that was specifically Scottish (they showed us the packaging). The flavor and texture were superior, better than the last bowl of oatmeal at home featuring the smiling Quaker on the carton.

Irish oatmeal (Flahaven’s) seems to have something special about it, too, even though they’re just oats. Maybe there’s something about that latitude, the soil, the weather, or how they’re handled. Maybe it’s just eating oatmeal on vacation, but when in Scotland, have Scottish oatmeal!

Posted by
5320 posts

Does Scotland have better oats?

In a word....yes. Along with better raspberries, better beef and better whisky. Climate and soil conditions play a big role in the quality and flavour of a crop, it's why Italian tomatoes in general taste better than English tomatoes or why English asparagus tsates better than Kenyan asparagus.

I agree about different soils, conditions, farming practices. I have been to a few countries, tasted the food and thought "I wish I could get ____ in the USA." Ruined on a few things now - as my young daughter says. (Example: cantalopes are far better in Italy. I don't even look at the ones in USA grocery stores anymore.)

One thing in the USA I'm particularly proud of is our Florida orange juice. Grown in groves all around me. Lucky me for citrus!

Perhaps, it would be wise to eat Scottish oatmeal after the fried mars bar to clear-out the arteries (cholesterol).

Posted by
5320 posts

One thing in the USA I'm particularly proud of is our Florida orange juice. Grown in groves all around me. Lucky me for citrus!

Despite visiting Florida on a number of occasions I've never been able to find freshly squeezed orange juice for sale in stores. I've found plenty of the pasteurised stuff in cartons but they've never tasted that great. I love the large juice grinding machines you find all over Spain in supermarkets (and now they're appearing in the UK) where you can fill a bottle with freshly squeezed orange juice (and lemon, pomegranate etc). The shelf life is short but I find it doesn't hang around for long.