Scotland has a bit of reputation when it comes to the weather! If you live here, you know that there can be gloriously sunny, crisp days when it is a pleasure to be alive. However, it does rain sometimes, even in the summer, so here are some of my favourite places to go on those wet days!

  1. The National Museum of Scotland

This magnificent building is on Chambers Street, just 15 minutes’ walk from Princes Street in the city centre. Free entry.

Magnificent main hall of the Edinburgh Chambers Street museum
The National Museum of Edinburgh

There are interactive things for kids (and big kids!) including machines and massive stuffed animals; fascinating Scottish historical artefacts displayed in creative ways; original temporary exhibitions; plus it is warm; there is a decent cafe; free wifi ….

Frieze of Greek figures found in National Museum of Scotland
Atalanta and Hippomenes

…. jewellery, spacecraft, dinosaurs, Buddhas, death masks and the bizarre and wonderful Millennium Clock made by Tim Stead and others, which clatters and whirrs every hour, plays Bach and is just a must-see.

Huge Buddha sitting, right hand raised, eyes closed
Giant Buddha, National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street

2. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Whilst being equally grand and beautiful, in contrast the inside of this building is made of darker wood with a silent sweep of staircase. Look up in awe at the iconic painted panels of Scottish queens and kings all around its walls.

The facade of the Portrait Gallery with towers and statues
The National Portrait Gallery, Queens Street, Edinburgh

Do not miss the shrunken heads in the bijou library; the originally flavoured scones in the cafe; or the modern portraits such as the brooding Naomi Mitchison (novelist), sexy Michael Clark (dancer) and David Mach’s collage of Gavin Hastings (Rugby player). Free entry.

3. The Filmhouse

Home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can view the best of independent cinema here on Lothian Road.

The Usher (concert) Hall, steps and facade
The famous Usher Hall opposite the Filmhouse on Lothian Road, Edinburgh

With 3 screens showing work from around the world, and a lively cafe where there is often a very interesting art exhibition, you can also browse and buy from the idiosyncratic film shelves, and the tickets are affordable.

3. The Dovecot cafe by Leo’s

The Dovecot is a weaving gallery where tapestries are being woven while you walk around it!

A row of 4 chairs with Orla Kiely fabric
Orla Kieley chairs at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh

Found in the old Infirmary Street swimming baths (where there is also a small gift shop with original ware), the highlight is the amazing viewing gallery where you can watch the Master Weavers at work. This cafe, brought to you by Leos Beanery which has its own outlet at 23A Howe Street, EH3 6TF, serves delicious cakes, yummy savouries and good coffee. Free entry.

4. Glenogle Swimming Baths

These restored Victorian baths have a modern sauna and gym with Pilates and yoga classes.

Two ducks swimming on the Water of Leith, Edinburgh
A lovely day for ducks!

Located in the crook of the Water of Leith, among the attractive colonies housing area which is very near the trendy Stockbridge part of Edinburgh, you can exercise and relax, with or without children, calming your nervous system as you float, and emerging clean and sparkling afterwards.

5. Waterstone’s bookshop

skillfully written essays about the Scottish landscape , birds and sea mammals
Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World by Kathleen Jamie

Waterstone’s is part of a national chain of bookshops and is quite grand in its own way, the initial flight of stairs splitting to take you right and left to the different departments and the mezzanine floor to the cafe which has a great view of Edinburgh Castle. You can cosy down in a warm carpeted corner and transport yourself into the world of Trainspotting (Irvine Walsh’s gritty novel set in Edinburgh’s Leith) or Hogwarts of course (the Harry Potter books written in part at the Elephant House cafe by J.K. Rowling).

Book cover of Madeleine Bunting
Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey

6. St Mary’s Cathedral

Get away from the noise and crowds for some quiet contemplation in St Mary’s Episcopalian Cathedral. See the contemporary and colourful stained glass, especially the Paolozzi window; and the radiant glow of ‘The Presence’, a painting by the Edinburgh artist A.E. Borthwick from 1910.

The steeples of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
St Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh

7. Central Library

Funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, look out for the stunning ceiling of the George Washington Browne room, the hidden Fine Art library (wooden tables and chairs as you would imagine from your childhood), and a substantial local history / Scottish section.

Decorative tiles on the stair wall of the central Library, Edinburgh
Get Wisdom – tiles at Central Library, Edinburgh

Downside: the toilets are in the basement, but, upside, you get to see some lesser known art as you wind your way down there.

Finding wifi

And, finally, I know when I am travelling I need to keep in contact with friends and family and if I am having trouble with my phone I need wifi: Try the Fruitmarket Gallery cafe where you can also see contemporary art exhibitions of the highest calibre.

Silhouette of the Edinburgh Castle on the Mound
Edinburgh Castle after the rain

The National Museum of Scotland is at Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF. Tel: 0300 123 6789. Link above

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Open daily, 10am-5pm. Free admission (Charge for some exhibition). 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD enquiries@nationalgalleries.org

Filmhouse. 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ. Box Office: 0131 228 2688. Open from 10am – 9pm daily

Dovecot Studios Ltd 10 Infirmary Street EH1 1LT +44 (0)131 550 3660
Gallery & Shop open Mon-Sat: 10.30am – 5.30pm.Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony open Mon-Fri 12-3pm and Sat 10.30am-5.30pm

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