Things to do: Get A New Leith Of Life

  • The Midgie
  • 1 December 2008

Leith started its life as a municipal burgh connected to Edinburgh. It was then merged into the city in 1920 but still holds onto to its own identity. Isobel Leeson, who proudly describes herself as a 'Leither', explains why it's her favourite place in Edinburgh.

A little known fact is that Leith Links, Leith's park, is in fact the original home of international golf. Legend has it that in 1681 the Duke of York, later to become King James VII of Scotland, challenged two English noblemen to a golfing match after they claimed golf was an English sport. In true Scottish form, he won. This independent spirit is still very much in evidence in Leith, after all, this is the place where landlords still run their own pubs, competing against some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh, including the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart and the Kitchin.

Anyone who has read Trainspotting might feel they know everything there is to know about Leith and steer well clear of it. But hang on a minute: it was written over ten years ago. What was once a tough little sea port has become the hip home of the Scottish Government, Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal shopping centre, and some fantastic wee shops. Leith even has it's own yearly summer festival, started after it was unofficially twinned with Rio de Janeiro in 2007 as a stunt to promote the festival as a local rival to Edinburgh Fringe. OK, so Leith is a fair bit colder than Rio, and you're unlikely to see many bikini-clad feather-twirling ladies, but Leith has a vibrancy and life to it that makes it every bit as much worth visiting.

On a budget, there are lots of cheap food choices in the many waterside pubs, with drink prices invariably lower than most Edinburgh city centre pubs. Perhaps the most famous pub is the Port of Leith, the starting point of the Trainspotting Tour, thanks to its prominence in Welsh's novel. Or if you're feeling particularly nautical, you can spend the evening aboard Cruz, a moored boat that doubles as a floating bar.

The number 22 bus runs frequently from Princes Street and takes you to Ocean Terminal within 20 minutes. If you're feeling energetic, you can easily walk the two miles from central Edinburgh. The 22 bus comes every three minutes during peak times. Catch it from Princes Street.

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