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Leith is the Venue for Trainspotting

Oct 26, 2007
Leith has been an active port for at least a thousand years. In 1329 control of it was given by Robert I to the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh and since then the two have grown together, steadily eating away at the mile or two of open land that once separated them.

Leith and Edinburgh now blend seamlessly together, just a short ride apart on one of the many connecting buses or an invigorating walk away for those who enjoy exploring their cities on foot.

Anyone who has read Irvine Walshs Trainspotting will feel they know all they need to know about Leith, and steer well clear of it. Yet todays Leith would be barely recognisable to the 1993 characters of the book.

Over the past decade what was a typically rough edged large seaport has turned into something very different.

Todays Leith is a fitting foil for Edinburghs Athens of the North, and while calling it the Venice of the North might be going a little far, the ongoing development of its many waterfront areas into smart and expensive flats into restaurants and bars, and into shops and offices is certainly pushing it in that direction.

Whats happened over the past decade has been the steady retreat of Leiths port activities away from the southerly docks and the mouth of the Water of Leith and into the outer, northerly, docks.

And as the port activity has retreated so the developers have taken over. The turning point was probably the decision to build Victoria Quay. This vast office building was completed in 1995 on land formerly between two docks.

It now houses much of the Scottish Executive, Scotlands devolved government. For some years afterwards small high quality developments popped up across Leith in a pepper pot fashion, leaving an oddly fine grained mix of new and old.

So Leith has not neglected its history. Obvious examples of this remains in the form of Andrew Lambs House, built in the early 1600s on the site where Mary Queen of Scots dined on her return from France on 19 August 1561.

A number of other buildings remain from the later 1600s, while the South Leith Parish Church contains the core of an earlier church built in 1487. There looks to be every chance that Leith will manage that very difficult trick of reinventing itself for the Third Millennium while still retaining much of its distinctive character.

So if you are in Edinburgh, ignore ten year old impressions gleaned from Trainspotting and get on a 22 bus from Princes Street, or one of the many tourist buses going to the Royal Yacht Britannia, or in future a tram, or just take the fascinating two mile walk to Leith.
About the Author
Douglas Scott works for The Rental Car Hire Specialist. and is a free lance writer for The Rental SiteLeith
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