Although it was originally a separate town, Leith has served as Edinburgh’s port since the 14th century. The port sits in the north of the city on the Firth of Forth and you’ll find that the surrounding Leith area has plenty to offer for visitors. If you only have a few hours in Edinburgh and you don’t want to take on the crowds in the city center then you can explore the various attractions near the port.
Royal Yacht Britannia — Photo courtesy of Roy Tait
The first obvious stop is the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is moored at the Ocean Terminal Mall. This was the private yacht of the royal family and it is a study in luxury. You can enjoy a tour to experience the sumptuous accommodation that the royals enjoyed, and even have high tea onboard. The adjoining mall, through which you enter, offers a wide array of shops and restaurants, and there’s even a cinema.
Leith has been redeveloped in recent years and it is known for its choice of excellent restaurants. Head along to The Shore, which is like an old harbor area, with a mixture of medieval tenements and modern designs. You can enjoy a pint or a whisky at The King’s Wark, or sample some delicious seafood at the the Ship on the Shore. It’s a great area for sunny days and you’ll enjoy sitting outside and soaking up the rays as they glint off the surface of the Water of Leith.
The Shore — Photo courtesy of Jim Barton
For a shopping experience you won’t find anywhere else, head up Leith Walk, the main thoroughfare into the city, where you’ll come across a strange mixture of delis, cafes, pubs, and antique shops. There’s something there for everyone, and it’s far enough off the tourist track that you’ll meet some real locals. At the top you’ll find it joins the east end of Princes Street which marks the city center.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town during the Leith Festival in June then you’ll enjoy a varied array of events in over fifty venues throughout Leith offering arts, tours, music and food. If you arrive in August then make sure to take in the multicultural event that is the Mela Festival. You’ll find that these events offer a real alternative to the more famous festivals in the city center and they’ll give you a unique insight into the character of Edinburgh and its population. This is the real Edinburgh and it’s a lively and fun atmosphere that you’re sure to enjoy.