Shopping in Scotland: Step away from the Top Shop

  • Student Guide
  • 10 September 2009

Never mind the high street. Independent shops in Edinburgh and Glasgow are bursting with personality and student-friendly bargains, says Kirstin Innes

‘Shopping?’ I hear you moan, ‘I won’t be able to afford to go shopping! I’m a poor starving student now!’

You tell me that in four years time when you’ve blown your loan on as many different wardrobe changes as there are cheap drink nights down the union, my friend. Stepping off the high street and exploring the locally-run independent shops in a new city is not only a great way of getting your bearings, but can also provide valuable clues to the hidden personality of the city. There’s a whole world of great local music shops, young upcoming fashion designers and street artists just pulsing away there. There you go: it’s not ‘wasting money’. It’s an investment in the culture of your city.

Most of Edinburgh’s indie shopping pleasures are located in and around the Old Town: a good idea is to start at the West Port and Grassmarket, where you’ll find not only a treasure trove of vintage clothing and second-hand book shops, but increasingly (perhaps due to the proximity of Edinburgh College of Art) some of the most exciting young designers and artists in the city. We particularly like boy/girl boutique Godiva and street art mecca Analogue. The exciting indies continue all the way up Victoria Street, where brightly coloured hipster boutiques and galleries poke out between the rather more expensive foodie shops. Take a deep breath and hold your nose as you cross the tourist thoroughfare of the Royal Mile, and you’ll find the youthful vibe of Cockburn Street, full of punky cheap clothes and at least two brilliant record shops.

Glasgow has less of an obvious shopping trail. Although you’ll find a great selection of funky little places selling books, music and clothes in and around Great Western Road and Byres Road at the heart of the West End, and a wander round the vintage clothes and junk shop-studded wonderland of Ruthven Lane (off Byres Road, opposite Hillhead Underground Station) is always recommended, such is the city’s commitment to shopping that there are gems to be found everywhere. For example, We Love To Boogie is a new vintage shop near the Art School, catering specifically to the sort of off-beat bygone fashion that the students of that venerable institution love. Across town, in the musician and artist paradise of the East End around the Tron Theatre and the 13th Note pub, you’ll find streets crammed with comic book stores, a world-class record store run by a Scottish musical legend (Monorail, run by Stephen Pastel) and second-hand paradise Mr Ben’s. With all that variety, why would you ever want to go high street again?

You can find information on indie shops across Glasgow and Edinburgh on our online independent shopping directory ( It’s well worth the effort, trust us.

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