Leith (the People’s Republic of)

A Damn, Guid Leithin’

No blog of mine would truly be mine if it didn’t include a word or two about the delights of Leith, Edinburgh’s port and former independent burgh. My love affair with Leith began almost 20 years ago with a fateful bus journey in the company of a friend. We had been indulging in one of our favourite student pastimes of bus-hopping (the best way to get a sense of any city), when we chanced upon an area of town unknown to us. My first glimpse of Leith’s Shore was a revelation as I had no idea that a river ran through the city, never mind one that emerged to join the Firth of Forth in such a stunning way. The Victorian buildings and warehouses, greenery and sparkling river itself seemed to speak to me, and after spending some time checking out a few of its fine public houses, my friend and I agreed that there was just something friendlier and more relaxed about this part of town.

Reader, I married it and have lived here ever since. Expect to hear many a Leith tale here on this blog as it is my firm belief that everyone needs a damn, guid Leithin’ once in a while. So, jump on the No. 22 bus from Princes Street and ‘mon doon!

The Shore (the authentic, local experience)

The Shore is a cracking area, filled with pubs, restaurants (we have two of Edinburgh’s four Michelin-starred restaurants down this way), cafes and galleries. On a sunny evening, the best way to enjoy it is to make like us locals and head to Beets in Bernard Street and grab yourselves a couple of delicious Skye Red beers or whatever tickles yer tastebuds. Then head round the corner and take a pew on either the dockside itself (be prepared to limbo under the chains) or one of the benches further down past the Malmaison Hotel. It’s a prime spot for people-watching, the graceful swans glide by and it’s also a marvellous suntrap to boot!

Top 10 Pubs by The Shore, Leith

If after your Shore debut, you fancy a mosey into one of our local hostelries to partake of a few foaming ales, try the following:

1. The Roseleaf, 23/24 Sandport Place, Leith, EH6 6EW

This beauty of a bar oozes warmth and friendliness (Johnny, the owner is a dyed-in-the-wool Leither and is always full of the banter) and has an incredible menu. Try their signature cocktails served in teapots or book a Mad Hatters Tea Party and try on the hats which adorn the walls of the place.

2. The Carrier’s Quarters, 42 Bernard Street, Leith, EH6 6PR

The Auld Yin of Leith drinking establishments; a bone fide institution. This is sort of the ‘Cheers’ of its area … where everybody knows your name. It’s soup and a toastie deal is perfect if you’re on a shoestring budget and their Friday pie is legendary. The Carriers also does live music through the back room of the pub and hosts a regular open mic night.

3. Sofi’s, 65 Henderson St, Leith, EH6 6ED

This cosy, wee pub puts the local community at the heart of its endeavours and plays host to Clothes Swap evenings, Knitting Nights, Cult Film showings in its back room and is the very definition of dog-friendly. There’s only one, Scandi-influenced word for this place: pybbe. (Copyright G. Monaghan, 2020). Candle-lit and unusually for a pub, pleasant-smelling. Think the Belle & Sebastian of Shore taverns.

4. The Malt & Hops, 45 Shore, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6QU

Another characterful Leith drinking den beloved of us locals. This is Leith’s premier, real ale pub with an open, peat fire to warm yer tootsies if the weather takes a turn for the worst. The stovies (Scottish rustic, mince and potato stodge dish of national importance) and toasties are good belly-fillers, and doggies are always welcome.

5. The King’s Wark, 36 Shore, Leith, EH6 6QU

Another gorgeous, stone-walled, open fire, candle-lit gem which does delicious food (their seafood dishes are always great) and wines. The place reeks of history and even has an in-house apparition in its cellars … (Johnny Walker, the ghostly stalker?) Great pub for people-watching too as it’s right on the corner of The Shore.

6. Noble’s, 44A Consititution Street, Leith, EH6 6RS

Takes the crown for being the most aesthetically pleasing bar in the hood. A haven of mahogany wood panelling, comfy cushions and delightful ambience. When you’re ordering at the bar, be sure to look up to your left and behold its beautiful, stained-glass window proclaiming the motto of Leith, ‘Persevere’.  I even wrote a story about this place once which you can read on the Scottish Book Trust’s site here: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/reading/stories-of-home/story/eh6-girl It is also dog-friendly. Bonus 🙂

7. The Shore Bar, 3 The Shore, Leith, EH6 6QW

Lush ambience, floor to ceiling mirrors, great food, delicious wines and an open, cosy fireplace (can you see a theme recurring here?) = another front-runner for pybbe status. The best bit about this place is the enigmatic, singing barman who is also one of the loveliest individuals you could hope to be served by.

8. Cafe Tartine, 72 Commercial Street, Leith, EH6 6LX

More of an eating establishment I confess, but it has a lovely conservatory which again, welcomes pooches. The waiting staff are really lovely, efficient and helpful, and the crepes are superb. Great wine menu for those of you who love to partake o’ a glass of the Devil’s Ribena.

9. The Compass, 44 Queen Charlotte Street, EH6 7EX

Vast establishment which in spite of its size, still carries an undeniable sense of homely snugness and relaxation. Best bits? It’s stellar brunches and mesmerising fireplace. Another dug-friendly hangout.

10. Teuchter’s Landing, 1c Dock Place, Leith, EH6 6LU

This pub occupies the old waiting room of the Leith ferry, hence its name. They’re well known for their mugs of food – haggis, neeps and tatties, stovies and macaroni cheese and impressive whisky bar. You can take the Hoop of Destiny challenge to try to win yourself free whisky by landing your ring on a bottle of uisge beatha. Best of luck ‘cos it’s harder than it looks!

As a further orientation aide, here’s a handy map to help you find your way around.

Now relax, raise your clink-clanks to Leith and all who sail on her. Enjoy!

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