Leith – one of the best places to live in the UK by The Times in April 2019. Leith, a buzzing port district, is the old maritime centre of Edinburgh and most famous as being the last resting place for The Royal Yacht Britannia. The port’s shipping heyday is behind it now, but the popular dockside restaurants, bars and shops have a unique charm and make Leith a vibrant place to explore.
Waterfront seafood bistros and traditional pubs abound. The Royal Yacht was an ocean-going royal residence, clocking up over 1 million miles, and showcases elaborate state apartments and an onboard Rolls-Royce. An iconic symbol of the Queen’s role as the head of the Commonwealth, the Royal Yacht Britannica has hosted many a grand state function and glitzy reception on the high seas. Though now decommissioned from active duty, you can still experience the splendour of this grand dame of the sea, and visit the Royal Apartments where the Queen used to take her tea.
So what does make Leith one of the best places to live in the UK?
Shopping in Leith
Leith’s shops are an eclectic mix. Off-beat eco-friendly shop Flux is a top spot for unusual gifts, while Georgian Antiques provides loads of opportunity to browse one of Scotland’s largest antique emporiums. Ocean Terminal, designed by Terence Conran, houses all the big names.
Leith Walk and Elm Row, stretching from Leith up into town, is lined by a highly varied collection of shops, including bakeries (try the cakes at the Sicilian Pastry Shop), food shops and charity shops. For the book worms among you, McNaughtan’s Bookshop is ideal whether you’re on the look-out for a special present or fancy a good while just browsing. Meanwhile, book and music fans should check out Elvis Shakespeare and Vinyl Villains.
If you’re in the area on Saturdays, Leith Market runs from 10am to 4pm at Dock Place, with a special Vegan Quarter on the first Saturday of every month.
Located in the heart of Leith, the Custom House is a thriving showcase of the best and brightest of today’s creative talent. Built in 1812, its sweeping halls host a dizzying range of events and exhibitions, from the Scottish International Photography Festival to workshops on upcycling and furniture-making. Even better, entry is completely free.
Tucked away out of sight from Leith Walk, one of the most dynamic creative hubs in Edinburgh keeps a low profile – The Out of the Blue Drill Hall. Through the doors of this renovated Victorian army barracks is a buzzing art centre dedicated to empowering community spirit and artistic expression in Edinburgh and beyond. With regular art exhibitions and traditional crafting workshops, as well as flea markets and film screenings, Out of the Blue is a true embodiment of Leith’s spirit of fun and togetherness.
Water of Leith Stroll
The riverside Water of Leith Walkway and Leith Walk, a busy street with food and thrift shops, link the area with the city centre.
Running alongside the river, which stretches from the Pentland Hills and into the port of Leith, is a beautiful sylvan walkway. Despite running through the centre of the neighbourhood, the forested walkway feels like a different world from the bustle of Leith itself. This beautiful, quiet route is much beloved by locals, and is suitable for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Wildlife enthusiasts should keep their eyes open for native herons and otters splashing about in the river.
Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, there are plenty of eating and drinking options in Leith. You don’t have to look far to find a great pub and the stylish Shore area in Leith is full of them, including The Kings Wark (which also happens to do some of the best burgers in the city), Nobles and Leith Beer Co.
Make sure to stop by the chintzy, charming Roseleaf Bar for a cocktail in a china teapot or fantastic homemade pub food.
Seafood lovers should check out Fishers on the Shore. Love cake? A visit to the mouth-watering Mimi’s Bakehouse is a must or pick up picnic supplies from the authentic Italian institution that is Valvona and Crolla on Elm Row.
It won’t surprise anyone to learn Edinburgh as a whole has some amazing whisky bars, and one of the best of can be found in Leith. Teuchters Landing has been listed in many food and pub guides over the years and offers over 90 varieties of Scotch whisky (as well as 17 beers on tap and 20 wines by the glass). The food is also getting good press, with mussels and macaroni and mull cheese featuring as crowd-pleasing favourites.
If you’re more into beer than whisky, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to the world-class brewing and distilling programme at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh has experienced a renaissance in independent breweries. These beer artisans are determined to perfect the classics and push boundaries, resulting in some of the most exciting craft breweries in the world – and most of them are in Leith. From Stewart Brewing’s taproom on the waterfront to permanent lines from Pilot’s brewery on Jane Street, you’ll be drinking globally renowned ales all within a few streets of one another.