Leith is officially part of Edinburgh, although its inhabitants are proud to consider it a separate community. In fact, not only is Leith part of Edinburgh, but it was chosen as the site for the Scottish Executive building which was opened in 1996. Leith’s history has been punctuated with dramatic events and battles. In 1544 the English mounted the so-called “Rough Wooing” invasion, during which South Leith Parish Church was burnt by Edward Seymour, Lord Protector of England. In 1650 an army led by General David Leslie put up a spirited fight against Oliver Cromwell, who tried to break through the fortifications defended by Leslie’s men. There have also been two notable royal arrivals at Leith. In 1561 Mary Queen of Scots landed at Leith harbour on her return from France. In 1822 the first visit from an English monarch for nearly 200 years took place when George IV landed at Leith. The visit was organised by Sir Walter Scott, who thought it would be a jolly idea to get the King to wear a kilt for the visit. Unfortunately for George, this led to him being caricatured as “our fat friend in tights and a kilt”. However, in spite of this, the visit was heralded as a success, leading to an increase in goodwill towards the crown.
Trinity House Maritime Museum occupies a building once used as a hospital for mariners. The hospital was funded by “prime gilt”, a tax levied on cargo passing through the port. The hospital was founded in 1555 and graffiti from this time is still visible in a section of the original building. The cellars from the original building, used by Cromwell as a store for his army, still remain. Golf is an ever-present feature of this part of the Scottish coast, and it was in Leith in 1744 that the earliest surviving written rules of golf were compiled by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith. The public park of Leith Links was once a golf course – its earliest incarnation comprising just five holes. The former dock area of Leith has been converted into a vibrant mix of swanky restaurants, bars, cafes and shops centring on Commercial Quay. Another more chain-oriented shopping and dining centre is Ocean Terminal.
For a list of events in Leith see here.
Map of the area.