A Little Exploring: Leith

Leith, Edinburgh, UK

Hello friends and welcome to a new series I'm calling "A Little Exploring". It's been on my mind for some time to create a collection of mini Edinburgh neighbourhood guides. One reason I've put this off for so long is that there are already so many wonderful Edinburgh guides! So, rather than this being a definitive guide to a particular neighbourhood, these mini guides will be filled with my favourite places to eat, small businesses to visit and attractions to see. Therefore, I've only included places I've been to or come highly recommended by close friends so if I miss out your favourite small business or attraction, please leave it in the comments as I'd love to add it to my to-visit list.

If this is your first visit to Leith, I hope this guide will give you a rough idea of where to start and if you're more familiar with the area, the "A little more exploring..." section at the end might be of more interest. Happy exploring!

A Little Exploring: Leith

Welcome to Leith! For those who enjoy a little background, Leith was an independent burgh until it merged with Edinburgh in 1920 (much to the outrage of Leithers who voted 26,810 to 4,340 against the merger) and, for many centuries, it was Scotland's premier port and home to a wide variety of flourishing industries including shipbuilding, flour milling and biscuit making.

An introduction to the neighbourhood...

Leith Walk – The Leith Walk area is the most densely populated area in Scotland with nearly 26,000 people residing within an 800 metre radius! For the past few years, Leith Walk has been a bit of a mess but, thankfully, the tram works are finally coming to an end and walking down Leith Walk is no longer an obstacle course. Leith Walk is the perfect place to begin, I’d recommend wandering down the street and popping into the various small businesses. Be sure to check out the Leith Walk Police Box, a quirky pop–up space.

The Shore - Sitting on the shores of the Water of Leith, The Shore is one of Leith's most scenic sights and known for its great eateries. The banks of the Shore are lined with a range of beautiful old buildings and in the warmer weather, there’s a wonderful atmosphere as many locals and visitors sit alongside the water or enjoy alfresco dining at the restaurants and pubs.

Constitution Street - If you find the hustle and bustle of Leith Walk a little too much for you, Constitution Street will provide some welcome respite from the crowds allowing you to admire the mix of historic buildings. The street is also home to a range of local eateries.

A must-see attraction...

The Royal Yacht Britannia is a grand floating palace that served the Royal Family for 44 years. The impressive ship has travelled more than a million nautical miles and is considered one of the most well-known ships in the world. Today, the Royal Yacht sits beside Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre and welcomes visitors aboard to explore its five decks. The self-guided tour will guide you through the Admiral’s Quarters, Crew Quarters, State Apartments, the Bridge, and there’s even the option to enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in the Royal Deck Tea Room.  

A spot of independent shopping...  

(Just a couple of my favourites, I’ve really tried to limit myself!)  

Bookshops of Leith  – I struggled to choose just one bookshop so here are a few favourites. First, sitting at the top of Leith Walk, Topping & Company Booksellers (pictured below, 2 Blenheim Place) is spread out over two levels with tables to sit and enjoy a complimentary drink. Typewronger Books (4a Haddington Place) is a cosy nook that stocks a range of books including local authors. Next, Elvis Shakespeare (347 Leith Walk) is a wonderful fusion of rare vinyl and secondhand books. Argonaut Books (15 Leith Walk) sits near the Foot of the Walk and is another fantastic bookshop with a small cafe. Lastly, Edinburgh Community Bookshop (179 Great Junction Street) sells secondhand books to raise funds for various local charities.

Valvona & Crolla (19 Elm Row) - Valvona & Crolla is a charming family-run business and a cornucopia of Italian deli produce, pastries, bread and wines. There’s even a restaurant tucked away in the back. 

Pascal & Co (20 Albert Place) - Named after the owner's beloved pooch, Pascal & Co is a delightful vintage store filled with a lovingly curated selection of vintage clothes and retro home decor sourced from Scotland, France, Italy and beyond.

Druid Edinburgh (5 Dalmeny Street) - Druid creates small-batch, hand-poured botanical candles using premium ingredients, blended together with perfume-grade fragrance and coconut wax.

Handsel (336 Leith Walk) - Handsel is one of my favourites to pop into when looking for a gift. I'm always impressed by their range of home and lifestyle products.

Logan Malloch Ltd (13 Leith Walk) - Logan Malloch is another beautifully-curated contemporary gift store with a wonderful bookish nook to the rear of the shop. 

The Leith Collective (Ocean Terminal) - A brilliant store stocking over 300 makers and artists' work. A really interesting space to browse as you never know what you'll come across!

TBCo (170 Great Junction Street) - A beautiful shop filled with a range of stylish scarves and cosy blankets as well as beautiful homewares and a children’s section.

*There's also a host of charity shops dotted along Leith Walk!

A bite to eat...

 William & Johnson Coffee (Custom Lane) - I love their hot choc.

Embo (29 Haddington Place) - cosy lunch spot.

Sicilian Pastry Shop (14 Albert Street) - great for lunch on the go!

 Roseleaf Bar CafĂ© (23 Sandport Place) - great lunch spot and amazing red cappuccino.

 The Pastry Section (143 Great Junction Street) - a must-visit!

Toast (65 Shore) - amazing sweet treats.

La Casa (297 Leith Walk) - a lovely dinner option.

Photos (Roseleaf, Toast, Pastry Section, William & Johnson)

A little more exploring...

Leith Murals - As you explore Leith, there's a good chance you'll spot at least one of its murals. A few of the murals date back to the 80s and are complemented by an influx of new murals from 2013 onwards, thanks to LeithLate’s mural project. If you’d like to visit all of Leith's murals, LeithLate has created a mural map, tap here to see it.

Pilrig Park - Pilrig Park is a popular park with locals and it's a great spot to enjoy a picnic or soak up a bit of sun in summer. The large, open space is also home to Pilrig House. The historic house was once the home of Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather and uncle. The well-known author spent time there as a child and went on to mention Pilrig House in his novels Kidnapped and Catriona!

Lind & Lime Gin Distillery (24 Coburg Street) - A recent discovery of mine (thanks to Lothian's Edinburgh Bus Tours), Lind & Lime was established by two friends. The distillery features a bar, tasting area, and shop as well as running tours and experiences.

Coburg House Art Studios (15 Coburg Street) - I have to admit, I've yet to visit Coburg House but it sounds too good not to include. Once a granary warehouse, Coburg House has been a thriving hub of artists, designers and makers for over 20 years. The shop is open every weekend and it hosts regular exhibitions as well as open studios.

Out of the Blue Drill Hall (36 Dalmeny Street) - Another really interesting space is Out of the Blue Drill Hall. It was once an army drill hall but was transformed into a community hub and venue in 2004. Keep an eye out on their website as they host regular events and exhibitions. 

Photos (Pilrig House, Out of the Blue, Leith Aquatic Mural, Lind & Lime)

See you in the next guide!

Spoiler: It'll be a New Town guide.


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