The Skinny guide to Leith

Sparky, rambunctious and all together different from the Old and New Towns – here's our 2022 guide to the best that Leith has to offer

Article by Jamie Dunn | 30 Jun 2022
  • Leith

Leith is distinct from Edinburgh, made up of mini-districts each with their own character. Multicultural Leith Walk and Great Junction Street lead to the old port, home to the Ocean Terminal shopping complex and The Royal Yacht Britannia. Sandwiched between is The Shore, where you’ll find fine pubs and restaurants overlooking the Water of Leith. From there, it’s a short walk to seafront Newhaven. 

Go outdoors

Leith Links and Pilrig Park provide leafy escapes from the busy thoroughfares, while South Leith Parish Kirk has a gorgeous 18th-century kirkyard teeming with a prodigious family of squirrels. If aquatic views are more your thing, Wardie Bay is home to a lovely little beach popular with wild swimmers, and the path along the Water of Leith allows for a serene perambulation through the northwest of the city. And if you’re feeling adventurous, jump on a bike and make your way to the lovely village of Cramond.

Food

Leith boasts loads of great eateries where you can leave with change from a tenner and still be satisfied. Razzo (59 Great Jct St) should be your go-to for astonishing Napoletana-style pizza, although you’ll also find delicious, authentic pies at Origano and La Favorita (236 and 325 Leith Walk). Sticking with Italian, Cafe Domenico (30 Sandport St) is a lovely, old-school macaroni and gravy joint with chequered tablecloths, an intimate atmosphere and a reassuringly small menu. It also serves massive sandwiches, but even they don’t rival the hefty pieces from the heaven-sent Alby’s (8 Portland Ter).

One of the most exciting new restaurants in this neck of the woods is Sabzi (162 Ferry Rd), which serves up a vibrant and weekly-changing menu of Punjabi dishes that often take on a Scottish twist. Another of our favourite Indian restaurants down this way is the grill-specialist Desi Pakwan (61 Leith Walk). Here you’ll find flavourful on-the-bone curries and tender tandoori served in a welcoming atmosphere which is especially mouthwatering thanks to the aromas coming from the open kitchen. You’ll find a similarly low-key vibe at STACK (42 Dalmeny St), a tiny spot serving up wildly tasty dim sum.

Leith is not without fine dining joints though. Situated by The Shore, Heron (87-91A Henderson St) delivers on-trend, relaxed dining using local ingredients, while around the corner on Great Junction Street there’s Aurora (no. 187), a tiny spot with an ambitious menu. The pick of the bunch, though, is Roberta Hall’s award-winning cuisine at The Little Chartroom (14 Bonnington Rd) – getting in there is the hard part, though, given its massive waiting list.

On-the-go eats

Bundits (48 Constitution St) is a former pop-up turned permanent Leith fixture serving ​​smooth, fluffy bao buns with incredible Asian-inspired fillings – the Korean fried chicken is knockout. Street food of a Venezuelan flavour is served up at Orinoco (281 Leith Walk), where the comforting arepas are huge and packed with flavour. Right next door you have an absolute Leith institution: Storries (279 Leith Walk), a no-nonsense bakery whose delicious (and ridiculously inexpensive) Scotch pies have kept Leithers well-fed for decades.

Leith has an abundance of great bakeries, in fact, and coincidentally many begin with the letter K. For delicious pastries and cakes, there’s Krema Bakehouse (21 Leith Walk). Turkish bakery Kukina (356 Leith Walk) specialise in mouthwatering savoury pastries and bread dishes like gözleme, börek and lahmacun, while Kvasa are sourdough experts serving beautiful ​​bread and sweet treats – their sourdough focaccia is a stunner. Add to these Ks ​​hidden gem Bakery Andante (8 N Leith Sands), the exceptional Mario Patisserie (27 Henderson Gdns), Crazy Croissant (5 Bernard St) who sell… well, you can guess, and Mimi’s (63 Shore), famed for their knockout scones and huge selection of traybakes.

The Fishmarket (23A Pier Pl), the legendary chippy in Newhaven so good the council are building a tram network to its door, is another Edinburgh institution. And if you want to polish off any of the above with some gelato, head to Crolla's (1 The Shore), a late-night gelateria serving traditional (and some not so traditional) Italian ice creams and desserts.

Drinks


Smoke and Mirrors, Constitution St

You’ll probably be looking to wash all that delicious food down with a few pints, and that’s where Leith really comes into its own. Whether it’s an old-school boozer, elegant wine bar or snazzy cocktail joint you seek, this part of town has you covered. The Port O' Leith (58 Constitution St) is a local landmark and always lively, as is The Mousetrap (180 Leith Walk), which in normal times is one of the last pubs in the area to call last orders. The vibe is more relaxed at The Lioness of Leith (21 Duke St) and Leith Depot (138 Leith Walk). The latter is much-loved, not least for being the last hold-out on a block of real estate whose avaristic owners would like to tear it down to build money-making student accommodation.

Teuchters Landing (1c Dock Pl), as well as having a great name, is a warren-like drinking den that’s wonderfully cosy in the winter while its terrace overlooking the docks is much-coveted on finer days. The neighbouring Lost in Leith, which is both a bar and a fermentaria, has a full array of weird and wonderful beers.

Straddling Leith and Newhaven is Dreadnought (72 N Fort St), another no-nonsense boozer with a great beer selection and plenty of space for drinking outside. There’s atmosphere aplenty too at the small but perfectly formed Carriers Quarters (42 Bernard St) and similarly old-school ​​pub The Persevere (aka The Percy) (398 Easter Rd). Further up Easter Road you’ll find the Old Eastway Tap (no. 218), which specialises in craft beer, cider and real ale.

Past the inviting white and millennial pink exterior of Abode (229 Leith Walk) you’ll find a chic bar with a sharply curated wine, beer and spirit menu and life-giving cheese boards. We’re also keen on the dreamy Smoke & Mirrors (159 Constitution St). Through its fairy-light arch entrance, there’s an intimate bar bursting with character and great cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting selection than the menu at Nauticus (142 Duke St), where every concoction has a link to Leith’s rich history as a trading hub. The relatively new Bittersweet (24 Henderson St) offers a little slice of Italian aperitivo culture. And a bit further off the beaten track you’ll find The Bullfinch (2-4 Bath Rd), which boasts surprisingly fancy food and a fantastic beer garden.

Of course, it may be an espresso hit you’re after. Leith is littered with great cafes to while the afternoon away with a book or to caffeinate ahead of a busy day. First point of call should be The Hideout (40 Queen Charlotte St) – inside you’ll find a cosy room dressed in vintage furniture with tasty coffee, scrumptious cakes and a first-class breakfast game. More utilitarian in style is Williams and Johnson (Custom Lane, 1 Customs Wharf), all sleek concrete and streamlined furnishing. There’s nothing simple about its coffee, though, which is rich and delicious – the space also houses a small gallery at the back.

On Leith Walk you’ll find Artisan Roast (no. 72-74) and the similarly named Artisan Coffee (no. 274). If you fancy doing some plant shopping with your espresso, check out the leaf-filled Seb's Urban Jungle (no. 187-189), sister to Seb’s original Urban Jungle store on Easter Road (no. 101).

There’s also the brilliant Milk (Hawthornvale). Adjoined to Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and situated at the foot of Edinburgh’s Old Railway Path Network that runs from Newhaven to Balerno, it’s the perfect first stop for a day of gallery hopping or cycling.

Indie shops and markets


The Pitt, Pitt St

Beets (49 Bernard St) is the neighbourhood’s essential stop off for wines, spirits and an impressive craft beer selection. Crate diggers, meanwhile, should find their pick in Elvis Shakespeare (347 Leith Walk) and Good Vibes Records and Books (Constitution St). The great community bookshop Argonaut (15-17 Leith Walk) has arrived on the scene with a wonderfully curated selection of fiction, non-fiction, travel writing and graphic novels. And among the high street chains of Ocean Terminal you’ll find an indie spirit alive in the form of The Leith Collective, a retail space home to dozens of local artists all working together to promote their work and support the local community.

Two of Edinburgh’s best indie shops are found in this part of town too, namely Logan Malloch (13 Leith Walk) and Handsel (336 Leith Walk), both of which feature a nifty selection of prints, ceramics, cards, gifts and stationery. We’re also big fans of two new Leith galleries: Mote 102 (102 Ferry Rd) is a non-profit changing space offering support and a showcase to local artists and makers, while Sierra Metro (13-15 Ferry Rd) is a coffee house and gallery space where people can gather, work and connect with exhibitions and drink some fine java.

Leith is also home to some of Edinburgh’s best food markets. The recently-opened Leith Arches (6 Manderston St) is already a firm favourite thanks to its mix of tasty street food and craft beer. Still king of Leith’s street food scene, however, is The Pitt (125 Pitt St), thanks to its rotating network of Scotland’s best indie food vendors and the industrial chic of its back alley location. Newer to the game is The Biscuit Factory (4 Anderson Pl), which recently opened its permanent Lane Bar. And every Saturday, get yourself down to Leith Market (Dock Pl) for some sizzling street food and scotch eggs the size of your head.