Just over a mile northeast of the city centre is Leith, a fascinating mix of cobbled streets and new developments, run-down housing and excellent restaurants, as well as Edinburgh’s zoo, a perennial favourite with children.
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Although LEITH is generally known as the port of Edinburgh, it developed independently of the city up the hill, its history bound up in the hard graft of fishing, shipbuilding and trade. The presence of sailors, merchants and continental traders also gave the place a cosmopolitan – if slightly rough – edge, which is still obvious today. While the stand-alone attractions are few, Leith is an intriguing place, not just for the contrasts to central Edinburgh, but also for its nautical air and its excellent cafés, pubs and restaurants.
Leith’s initial revival from down-and-out port to des-res waterfront began in the 1980s around the area known as the Shore, the old harbour at the mouth of the Water of Leith. More recently, the massive dock areas beyond are being transformed at a rate of knots, with landmark developments including a vast building housing civil servants from the Scottish Government, and Ocean Terminal, a shopping and entertainment complex beside which the former royal yacht Britannia has settled into her retirement.
Launched in 1953, Britannia was used by the royal family for 44 years for state visits, diplomatic functions and royal holidays. Video clips of the ship’s most famous moments are shown in the visitor centre (within Ocean Terminal) along with royal holiday snaps, and you can roam around the yacht itself, which has been largely kept as she was while in service, with a well-preserved 1950s dowdiness – a far cry from the opulent splendour which many expect.