Described by Time Out as one of the world’s coolest city neighbourhoods – thrashing popular global hotspots such as Miami, Dubai and Toronto – Leith has come a long way since Irvine Welsh’s bleak portrayal of an area polluted by poverty, drug-taking and hopelessness.
In fact, Leith has undergone a remarkable transformation since Trainspotting hit the bookshelves in the early 1990s; today, it is home to the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the country, while cultural festivals – the Edinburgh Mela and the Leith Festival, among others – are an annual feature of a lively arts scene.
Leith is the standout neighbourhood in the whole of the city of Edinburgh, with a distinctive character that is unrivalled even by eternally popular suburbs of Morningside and Stockbridge. Its ethnically diverse population, including young and ambitious professionals, have shaped a community that is as eclectic as it is vivacious, a hive of energy and enthusiasm that spills on the streets from the almost unlimited restaurants, bars and delicatessens.
Once a powerhouse in maritime trade and shipbuilding, Leith’s role as a port may have long since diminished, but its heritage is still tangible: the Royal Yacht Britannia, once a symbolic royal residence, is a must-see attraction, while the scenic waterfront offers spectacular views of Fife and beyond.
It’s little more than a 20-minute bus ride from Edinburgh’s Old Town to the centre of Leith, yet the most rewarding way to reach the neighbourhood is to enjoy a gentle wander along the Water of Leith, the captivating footpath emerging in the upmarket district of the Shore, which is renowned for its contemporary bistros, fashionable bars and exquisite restaurants. Alternatively, the Leith Walk, a mile-long saunter through an unimaginable array of independent shops, connects the district with Princes Street; local rumour claims there’s little that can’t be found tucked away somewhere along this intriguing retail alley.