Today, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Edinburgh on their first official appearance together in Scotland. Their schedule includes a trip to the Edinburgh Garrison to hear the One o'clock Gun and a visit to Social Bite, a cafe that supports the homeless. This evening they will attend a reception at the Palace of Holyroodhouse to celebrate Scotland's Year of Young People in 2018.
The fleeting visit will see the couple miss out on some of the Scottish capital’s best sights, however. Edinburgh has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for its Fringe Festival, and its visitor numbers have skyrocketed. Yet there are some lesser-known spots still to be found in the historic city where it's possible to escape the crowds.
According to Telegraph Travel’s Edinburgh expert Linda Macdonald, Dunbars Close is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. "It is easy to miss the entrance to this drowsily peaceful hidden garden, a few steps off The Royal Mile just past Canongate Kirk", she said. "Created by the visionary Sir Patrick Geddes as one of a network of Old Town gardens, it was immaculately restored in the late 1970s. A beautifully kept recreation of a 17th-century garden, it is a series of small, delightfully private rooms."
It’s easy to forget that Edinburgh also benefits from a great coastal location. If you'd rather spend your time splashing through the shallows and sinking your feet in the sand than weaving through the milling crowds, head to the beach. To the east of the city centre, Portobello Beach, or ‘Porty’ is a favourite with the locals and promises all the old-fashioned nostalgic charm of the British seaside – including a long stretch of sand and a traditional promenade.
If you’re prepared to drive a little way, a trip to Seacliff is a must. On the shores of East Lothian less than an hour from the city walls, Seacliff is a bit of a local secret. Here you’ll find a small harbour offering views of Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock, as well as a pristine beach that’s even more beautiful in fine weather.
History lovers should add Gilmerton Cove to their list of ‘must-see sights’. It’s not an attraction that you hear about very often, but it's certainly interesting. A 300-year-old network of underground tunnels and rooms hand-carved from sandstone, the cove is a mystery to archaeologists who struggle to explain its existence – although there are plenty of theories. Tours of these intriguing subterranean passageways are by appointment only, so be sure to book in advance.
If you don’t want to contend with the crowds and are looking for an alternative to Edinburgh Castle, medieval Craigmillar Castle to the south of Holyrood Park is worth a visit. The castle is surrounded by pretty gardens and Mary Queen of Scots stayed here twice. The building remains in remarkably good condition, meaning that you can explore from the depths of the basement to the roof of the tower house.
If it’s a sense of peace that you’re looking for, Holyrood Park is surprisingly quiet. As the masses head upwards towards Arthur’s Seat, turn off to wander the lower slopes. Here, you’ll have an expanse of what feels like wild land almost to yourself. This is a favourite of author Ian Rankin. He told Telegraph Travel: "You could be in the Highlands, but you’re still in the middle of a city. It’s an extraordinary thing, and there’s nowhere else in the world that’s quite like that."
Another must for visitors to Edinburgh is the Water of Leith footpath. "It is one of the loveliest walks I have ever taken in a city," said Michael Kerr, writing for Telegraph Travel. "The path hugs the river, winding past a stone wall sleeved in lichen and through tunnels of mature trees." This pretty river walk extends for nearly 13 miles if you’re feeling adventurous.
If you like a long walk, try the shore path from South Queensferry to Crammond. A peaceful stroll skirting the city limits, it stretches along the coast for six and a half miles and is a firm favourite with our experts.
"Starting under the Forth Rail Bridge opposite the Hawes Inn, pass Hound Point beach, Barnbougle Castle and stately Dalmeny House," says Linda Macdonald. "Spot kingfishers on the River Almond before arriving at Crammond Brig on the edge of the city, or detour to historic Crammond Village for tea at the harbourside café."