Leith is an area like no other. The district of Leith rests on the shores of the Firth of Forth, at the mouth of the Water of Leith. Boasting its own distinct character, Leith is a hub of lively eating and drinking spots, creativity and cultural diversity.
Having served as the port of Edinburgh for hundreds of years, the area’s original harbour dates back to the 14th century and has been visited by many travelling kings and queens, including Mary Queen of Scots and King George IV. The area has been redeveloped since 1980 and it now boasts some of the finest restaurants, bars and shopping that Edinburgh has to offer.
Things to do
As Edinburgh’s port, Leith is still busy with an influx of cargo from all over the world. The redeveloped docklands are a pleasant place to take a walk and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. The most popular tourist attraction in Leith is probably the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal. The Leith Links is also a lovely park with a large play area for kids.
You’ll find more than one Michelin starred restaurant in Leith and some of the finest seafood that Scotland has to offer. The Shore is a great destination for dining out and you’ll find a string of tempting restaurants at Commercial Quay. Alongside the finest Scottish cuisine, there are some notable exotic options too, especially if you enjoy Indian food. If you head up Leith Walk you’ll find some cheaper, casual options from a tasty burrito to traditional fish and chips.
Anyone who has read Irvine Walsh’s Trainspotting will feel they know all they need to know about Leith and steer well clear of it. Yet today’s Leith would be barely recognisable to the 1993 characters of the book.
Over the past decade what was a typically rough-edged large seaport has turned into something very different. Leith has not neglected its history.
Obvious examples of this remain in the form of Andrew Lamb’s House, built in the early 1600s on the site where Mary Queen of Scots dined on her return from France on 19 August 1561.
A number of other buildings remain from the later 1600s, while the South Leith Parish Church contains the core of an earlier church built in 1483. There looks to be every chance that Leith will manage that very difficult trick of reinventing itself for the Third Millennium while still retaining much of its distinctive character.
Though Leith can be easily reached by bus, one of the best ways to visit is to take a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway.
This charming footpath borders the river from Balerno to Leith and emerges at the Shore, an upmarket area lined with bistros, stylish bars, traditional pubs and first-rate restaurants.
The mile-long Leith Walk links the district with the east end of Princes Street and offers a shopping experience like no other in the capital – locals proudly boast that there is little to nothing you won’t be able to find on this street.