Only in Edinburgh

Picture of book cover on Edinburgh


I’m always on the lookout for new guidebooks for the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.  Books that offer something more than the usual visitor attractions.  I found this book in Bank House Living, Melrose a few weeks ago and knew I had to have it.  Based on personal experience walking through Edinburgh, “Urban Explorer” Duncan J D Smith, gives a new and unusual perspective.  He reveals the Edinburgh of secret gardens and haunted theatres, mysterious monuments and unexpected underworlds, industrial relics and unusual places of worship.

Only in Edinburgh

Only in Edinburgh is a comprehensive illustrated guide to more than 100 fascinating, unique locations, hidden corners and unusual objects.  His clever use of chapter titles captures your interest straight away.  On the way you find yourself captured by his stunning photography of yet another little-known attraction.  From historic homes and ruined churches to an Art Deco petrol  station (#92) and a library for poets (#28). Attractions include the ‘Innocent Railway Tunnel’ (#46), Arthur’s Seat Coffins (#35), Trainspotting in Leith (#73), and the Skating Minister (#57). But even for fairly mainstream attractions, the book is filled with all sorts of easy to miss details.  For example Edinburgh Castle Gatehouse, while looking old, is a combination of 1888 construction and a 1970s tunnel to allow military lorries to enter.  Or discover the cemetery for Soldiers’ Dogs or the  “Laird’s Lug”, a window for eavesdropping  conversations in the Great Hall.

This level of detail continues for some of the other attractions, such as the Museum of the Mound’s display of a million Scottish Banknotes (#8). Or the easy-to-miss marker in the pavement noting the location of Scotland’s last public execution (#10).  Or even explorations of the various nooks and crannies of the Old City itself, such as the remnants of the old town wall (#39)   Having lived in Edinburgh as a student and as a frequent visitor I thought I had discovered most of Edinburgh’s hidden treasures  – but it appears not.   I still have much to discover.

Gin & Coffee

And when your ready to sit down, lookout for the  Gin (#47) and coffee from  a Police Book (#91).  Or maybe follow in JK Rowling’s footsteps and have coffee with Harry Potter (#37).

So if you only buy one book for your visit to Edinburgh, this should be the one.  And who knows we may meet as we discover the lesser known joys of Scotland’s Capital City.

Here’s a link to a previous post on more books on Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders to help you plan your visit.

A bit more about The Urban Explorer

Duncan decided in 2003 to write and illustrate his own travel books after a career selling other travel writers’ books.   As a self-styled ‘Urban Explorer’, he has embarked on a lifetime’s adventure, travelling off the beaten track in search of the world’s hidden corners and curious locations. Duncan has so far traversed three continents in search of unusual places and people.  From the wartime bunkers of Berlin, the Baroque gardens of Prague to the souks of Damascus and the rock-cut churches of Ethiopia.  His ground breaking series of  ‘Only In’ Guides, cover 11 European Cities. Berlin, Budapest, Cologne, Edinburgh, Hamburg, London, Munich, Paris, Prague, Vienna, and Zurich.

What’s on July 2017

 Whats on July 2107


 In July we welcome the opening of the new Borders Sculpture Park, lots of outdoor theatre, music, culture and beautiful gardens.  The annual festivals of riding are well underway in the Scottish Borders.  They are a local tradition not to be missed, particularly if you like horses.  With fabulous weather forecast, pack up your picnic and head outdoors.


Antiques Roadshow, Floors Castle, Kelso 6 July, 09:30-16:30

Antiques Roadshow’s well-loved team of experts are visiting Floors Castle.  More than 30 experts will be on hand to offer free advice and valuations to visitors, who are invited to raid their attics and bring along their family heirlooms, household treasures and car-boot sale and charity shop finds. TD5 7SF.


Wind in the Willows, Thirlestane Castle, Lauder 12 July, Gates open at 17.00

Join Badger, Ratty and Toad for a perfect summer adventure, in this adaptation of the classic children’s novel.  Alive with music and song this family show is presented in costume and features a woodland parade during the interval for everyone to join in.  Bring a picnic or order one by emailing  Please bring your own rugs or low backed seating.  Tickets available through or call 01750 725480.  Adult £14/child £8/family (2 adults & 2 children) £40.  TD2 6RU


Monteviot House & Gardens, Jedburgh 1 – 29 July 

The present house began as an early-eighteenth century lodge built by the 1st Marquis of Lothian. Ambitious designs by Edward Blore were commissioned for a Jacobean-style mansion in 1832 but never completed, leaving the modest Georgian house and Blore’s elaborate Jacobean-inspired office wing side by side. In 1961 the interior was re-planned to the design of Schomberg Scott. The fine gardens include a rose garden, herbaceous shrub borders, pinetum, a water garden of islands linked by bridges, the Dene Garden, the Garden of Persistent Imagination, the Compass Garden and an arboretum. There are great views over the River Teviot. Gardens 12.00-17.00, House 13.00-17.00  (last entry 16.15).  Free parking & disabled toilets. (Closed Mondays).  TD8 6UQ


Romeo & Juliet Outdoors, Abbotsford House, Morris Garden, Melrose 15 July 19.00-21.30

Three Inch Fool Theatre Company return to Abbostsford to present the tragic story of the star crossed lovers.  Refreshments and BBQ  available, so make sure you arrive early to enjoy a picnic in the gardens (open 17.30).  Adults £14 / Friends £12.60 / Concessions & Under 17s £12 / Joint Ticket Offer: Joint Adult Ticket £24 / Joint Friends Ticket £21.20 / Joint Concessions and Under 17s Ticket £20
Contact Tel: 01896 752043


Borders Sculpture Park, Mellerstain House  Open Friday to Monday, 11.00-17.00

XXX launches Borders Sculpture Park as a new venue for innovative and engaging open-air sculpture. Comprising three remarkable, large-scale temporary installations by acclaimed artist , Steve Messam, this exciting project combines historic features with bold, contemporary sculptural practice on a vast scale. Set within the buildings and landscape, Messam’s inflatable fabric sculptures create a joyful and uplifting visual spectacle. He sets up a lively dialogue between past and present, adding an unexpected new dimension to familiar vistas and architecture. Tickets can be booked on the website £2.50-£5.00.  Hoebridge Cafe for delicious coffee.


Music at Paxton House 14 – 23 July

A 10 day feast of chamber music performed by outstanding musicians.  This year’s programme is bigger than ever, with music spanning the Baroque to the present and featuring some of the great masterpieces of chamber music.  Including Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations, Schumann’s Piano Quintet, and Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet, alongside more recent works by Sally Beamish, Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt.  Book online: or  0131 473 2000.


Border Union Show, Springwood Park, Kelso, 28 – 29th July

This annual  show includes competition for Horses, Ponies,Cattle, Sheep, Donkeys, Goats, Poultry, Rabbits, Shepherds’ Crooks, Horse Shoeing, Young Farmers Stock Judging and Industrial Arts, with over five hundred open classes. There are over 200 trade stands including farm machinery, crafts and gifts, motor vehicles, clothing, equestrian goods, food outlets and furniture retailers. The Food Fair with 50 stands of Borders and far and wide produce is full, as is the Exhibition and Craft & Gift Halls. As always there is the Children’s Fun Fair, Catering and Bars. These are open on both days and there is Main Ring family entertainment on the Saturday afternoon.  Tickets available online at  Adults £9, concession £7, children under 16 free. TD5 8LS