Explore Edinburgh

5 Hidden Gems in Edinburgh

off the beaten path, Things to Do — By Christina Maria Paschyn on August 3, 2010 at 11:00 am
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Sick of being surrounded by dorky tourists in knee-high white socks and fanny packs? Head to these hidden gems in the city, whose delights only locals know to embrace.

St. Bernard’s Well

St. Bernard’s Well, located in the Stockbridge neighborhood of Edinburgh (just 15 minutes outside of the city center), is a Roman-style temple whose legendary and “miraculous” mineral waters are purported to have cured various ailments including even a case of blindness.

St Bernard's Well

Legend has it that it was originally discovered by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th Century, who drank from the well after suffering from a sickness and miraculously his health returned. It was rediscovered in 1760 by three school boys who were fishing nearby and soon after became a popular destination for followers of the ‘taking the waters’ fad. Purchased by Lord Gardenstone in 1788, the well was constructed to feature a marble statue of Hygieia the Goddess of Health standing underneath a lead dome (history courtesy of Fortune City).

According to EdinburghGuide.com, St. Bernard’s Well must be something amazing since many locals and out-of-town miracle seekers are willing to jump the surrounding iron gate (it is only open on special days, such as Open Doors Day) and brave the well’s reportedly sulphuric smell (not to mention the waters’ utterly foul taste). The best time to visit the well  is “an hour after a heavy rainstorm, when rainwater from the Pentlands thunders through the channels under the Dean Bridge.” It is located in a luscious, deep valley surrounded by parks on either side; the Water of Leith flows underneath.

Ye Old Famous Peacock Inn

The cozy fireplace in the Ye Old Famous Peacock Inn

Ye Old Famous Peacock Inn is a classy, quiet and quaint restaurant in Newhaven (a harbor and fishing village on the Firth of Forth within Edinburgh). Fittingly so, since many locals visit the Peacock Inn to taste some of the best fish and chips in the city. Come with your girl friends and enjoy an early evening fish tea party next to the inn’s cozy fireplace. This restaurant is certainly a hidden gem in Edinburgh – not many tourists  know of its existence!

Montpeliers Bar and Brasserie

Montpelier Bar and Brasserie in Bruntsfield – a neighborhood which boasts many trendy cafes and restaurants in general -  is a stylish and dynamic restaurant and bar. The restaurant recently revamped its image adding – in their own words – “a cluster of gigantic Chesterfield sofas, some luxurious tub velvet chairs (you might want to cancel any afternoon appointments prior to taking a pew in one of these fellows) and chic floral designs on the walls.”

Offering a range of foods from cheese boards to monkfish, the day and evening menus are delicious and for the most reasonably priced. It is a local favorite and usually crowded during most nights, particularly on Sundays. Some patrons have complained that the music is too loud, the service too slow and the diners too pretentious. But I say there’s no harm in putting on airs once in a while. Why not judge for yourself!

Canny Mans Pub

Although perhaps one of the most “unfriendliest” pubs in Edinburgh, Canny Mans is also only of the most dazzling – that is,  if you like vintage wines, whiskeys and cigars.

Be warned – if you look like a tourist you may not be let in! In the words of The Independent: “The onslaught on your confidence starts outside, where a sign reads: ‘no mobiles, no credit cards, no backpackers, no cameras…’ Inside, an intimidating maîtresse d’ guards the door with no less fury than Cerberus guarding the gates of Hell. If you manage to understand the ordering system (hint: write some code on paper, don’t for god’s sake try to talk to the waitress), you’re in. And it is worth it.”

Inside Canny Mans

Don’t let the seemingly plain exterior fool you. Inside, as the above-quoted newspaper review explains, you’ll be awed  by the “All polished glass and glittering tableware, the bar offers hundreds of whiskeys lined up like jewels along its back wall. The music is ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’. A stopped clock makes you want to stay for hours. This is pub décor and some: alongside the traditional mandolins and dusty jeroboams pinned to the walls are military uniforms, paintings, swords, prams and a boat.”

Dominion Cinema

Sometimes you just want to watch a flick no matter where you are. Why not put your feet up at the luxurious Dominion? This family-run cinema has a very cozy feel, entirely in keeping with the status of its owners. Enter the evocative 1930s art deco interior and choose between the four screens. Movies tend towards family films, but you will find the odd “18 or over” cropping up on the program. Light bites and refreshments are on sale in the cafe until the end of the show.

Although slightly more expensive than the standard chain-movie theater, the Dominion offers comfy chairs, leather double sofas – which I recommend for a romantic date – and electric recliners in screen halls one and two.

Want to carry this list with you? Download and print this guide on NileGuide now!

[Photo credits: St. Bernard's Well courtesy of City of Edinburgh Council; fireplace courtesy of the Peacock Inn; Canny Mans courtesy of bestpubs.co.uk]

Tags: "canny mans", "dominion cinema", "hidden gems", "montpeliers bar and brasserie", "Montpeliers", "peacock inn", "Scotland", "St. Bernard's Well", "ye old peacock inn", Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, newhaven, stockbridge

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