If guts and gore don’t faze you, step into the Surgeons’ Hall Museums (Nicolson Street), part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Housed in a colonnaded William Playfair building, the site encompasses a pathology museum, history of surgery museum and dental collection. The museums reopened in 2015 following extensive renovations and display preserved body parts, an interactive dissection table and terrifying-looking, 19th-century dental instruments. If you’re in town on the last Saturday of the month, drop into the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum (Doorway 3, Medical School, Teviot Place), normally only open to medical students. You can cast your eyes over 19th-century life and death masks and gaze at the skeleton of infamous murderer William Burke.
Brew your own beer
Beer aficionados should make a beeline for local craft brewery Stewart Brewing (26A Dryden Road, Loanhead). In its Craft Beer Kitchen, the first of its kind in Scotland, you can choose from 50 recipes and spend two to three hours brewing your own ale. You need to be able to come back a few weeks later to bottle and label your beer, so if you’re not planning a return trip to the city soon, sign up for a tour instead. Guides fill you in on the nitty gritty of beer production, with plenty of opportunities for tastings and snacks. Prefer a wee dram? At Andrew Usher & Co (32B West Nicolson Street), a bar near the University of Edinburgh, you can create your own bottle under the guidance of a master blender, choosing from a selection of grain and single-malt whiskies.
Hop on a train to North Berwick, half an hour’s ride east of Edinburgh. The East Lothian coastal town is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre (The Harbour, North Berwick), where you can learn about the area’s birdlife, including puffins, kittiwakes and cormorants. Take control of live webcams for an up-close peek at the world’s largest colony of gannets on nearby Bass Rock. More than 150,000 of these birds gather on this massive rocky outcrop each year. The centre runs boat trips into the Firth of Forth for an even closer look at the rock. Zip across the water on a high-speed seafari aboard a 12-seater RIB or opt for a gentler ride on a 55-seater catamaran, keeping your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins. For a special treat, book a trip with a landing on the Bass Rock, allowing three hours ashore with an expert guide.
Ski and surf in one day
This might not be California, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ski and surf on the same day. A lack of snow doesn’t stop keen skiers and snowboarders from hitting the slopes at the Midlothian Snowsports Centre (Biggar Road, Hillend). Just south of the city in the Pentland Hills, it’s the UK’s largest artificial ski slope, with year-round skiing. Cruise down the two main slopes, try out tricks on the freestyle slope or practise your turns on the nursery slopes if you’re a bit wobbly. Don’t fancy skiing? Take a chairlift ride for views of the Firth of Forth or give tubing a go. Then head over to Dunbar, east of the city, where Belhaven Bay’s gentle swells make it a friendly spot for beginner surfers. Coast to Coast Surf School hires out boards and runs lessons if you need a few pointers.
Clamber over art
Forget hushed galleries with security guards monitoring your every move. Jupiter Artland (Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston), west of the city, is a sprawling art and sculpture park where you can walk through, run around and even climb on top of the artworks. A trail weaves through forest and open fields, revealing an eye-catching line-up of contemporary art. You can step into ‘The Light Pours Over Me’, a modern grotto lined with amethyst crystals, or climb up ‘Scaffold’, a massive wooden sculpture created by American artist Sam Durant. The centrepiece is Charles Jencks’ ‘Cells of Life’, a group of swirling grass mounds surrounding four lakes. The park is open from mid-May to late September and you can reach it by bus .