Book Review: Secret Edinburgh By Hannah Robinson

Secret Edinburgh cover
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You may think that you know Edinburgh. Perhaps you’ve visited the famous castle on an ancient volcano, the old town and the Royal Mile, and the imposing Arthur’s Seat. But what about “secret Edinburgh”, the other side of the city, the bits that tourists (and even locals) rarely see?

The answer is in a new title – Secret Edinburgh: An Unusual Guide – from Jonglez Publishing. Here you will find a selection of “unusual, hidden or little-known aspects of the city”, ranging from the historic to the obscure to the frankly bizarre.

What Is Secret Edinburgh?

Cover of Secret Edinburgh, showing a cast iron sculpture of a person standing in the water

Secret Edinburgh is one of a series of city guides from Jonglez, “local guides by local people”. Written by Hannah Robinson, a lifelong Edinburgh resident, it brings together the city’s hidden treasures with bits of history and little-known facts.

Covering the city itself and the surrounding area, the book zones in on 160 different places, all of which are accessible to the determined visitor. As a bonus, there are extra entries for nearby places, and information panels give background information on subjects you probably didn’t even know existed…

You’ll find statues and murals, unexpected architectural details and hidden green spaces. There are reminders of Edinburgh’s minority communities and cultures, and gruesome relics of murders and medical experiments. And much more…

An Extraordinary Variety

There is an extraordinary variety of things to explore in this book. A massive heart-shaped growth of ivy hiding behind the Royal Mile (of course, there’s a story behind it). A grass labyrinth on Arthur’s Seat, and spooky underground spaces. And I’m still puzzling over the Mysterious Edinburgh Book Sculptures…

Two pictures of a mural in a tunnel, one with the artist standing next to a drawing of two men
The Colinton Tunnel Mural (images copyright Hannah Robinson)

The author brings the city to life with legends, snippets of trivia and quirky facts. As you explore you learn more about the city itself. Did you know that there was a Norwegian community in Edinburgh, or that a former industrial site has been transformed into the UK’s longest legal graffiti wall? And why is there a 19th century library in the Debenhams department store?

How To Use Secret Edinburgh

Secret Edinburgh is divided into areas, starting with the Old Town and the New Town, then moving into the outskirts. Each entry includes a detailed description and practical information as to how to visit. There are suggestions for other things to look out for nearby, and full colour photos for every entry.

A series of underground arches and a stone wall with a carved head
Underground vaults and a mysterious stone head (images copyright Hannah Robinson)

I can recommend this book for anyone who likes to explore curiously. However well you know the city you will find much to inspire and surprise you.

(And if you want to see more of Edinburgh have a look at this 5-day Edinburgh itinerary covering some of the well-known – and the less well-known – sights.)

Secret Edinburgh: An Unusual Guide, Hannah Robinson, Jonglez Publishing, 2021, 9782361953638

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I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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