Made famous by the likes of Miss Jean Brodie and Maisie the Cat, Morningside in Edinburgh’s south side tends to get a bad rap for being posh, expensive and a little bit stuck up.
Anyone who actually lives there though knows that Morningside is actually a lovely neighbourhood with maybe just one or two (or 17) little quirks that you’ll quickly learn to love.
Here are some other facts you’ll only know about Morningside if you live or have lived there.
1. The whole neighbourhood is sinking
The pavements aren’t made of quicksand or anything, but if you stop and look up at the tenement flats on Jordan Lane, Steel’s Place or Millar Crescent you’ll notice some serious signs of subsidence – from sagging window sills to visible cracks. Allegedly the cause is Jordan Burn, a stream which runs underneath much of Morningside and may have compromised the foundations of many of the buildings in the area.
2. The bank used to be a train station
The quiet freight line that runs under Morningside Road was used for passenger trains between 1884 and 1962, until the Edinburgh Suburban Line was decommissioned. The entrance to Morningside Road station was once found where Bank of Scotland’s Morningside branch now stands, but these days the Scotrail advertisements across the road are the only lasting reminder of the neighbourhood’s past relationship with the railway.
3. The library is cursed
Poor old Morningside Library. As you’ll already know if you’re a resident, the beautiful Edwardian building received a million pound makeover in 2011, but then was quickly closed again after dry rot was discovered. The library was finally deemed safe for re-opening at the end of 2013 after local bookworms had spent months visiting a portable library van parked up across the road.
4. It’s a pizza lover’s paradise
There are four dedicated pizzerias within less than half a mile of each other on Morningside Road and three of them (La Favorita, Dominos and Pizza Express) opened in the last three years. Throw in Stefano’s fish and chip shop across the way, The Comiston Fry just up the road – not to mention local Italian restaurant Caffé e Cucina – and you’ve got yourself a lifetime’s supply of pizza.
5. And Jean Brodie lives on in Pizza Express
Speaking of Pizza Express, the Morningside branch of the popular chain opened up in the former Braid Church in 2013. Staying true to the building’s roots, the company have incorporated the church’s organ into its décor, as well as paying homage to one of Morningside’s most famous (but fictional) residents, Miss Jean Brodie. The walls of the restaurant are decorated with murals inspired by the famous Muriel Spark character and quotes from Miss Brodie herself.
6. The Canny Man’s wasn’t always so peaceful
One of Morningside’s best known landmarks (whether you live in the area or not) has to be the ever-quirky Canny Man’s pub. The bar opened as The Volunteer’s Arms in 1871 and is now a popular place to share a relaxing drink with friends. That being said, the Canny Man’s wasn’t always so quiet – in the 1970s go-go dancers reportedly strutted their stuff on the bar there in sparkly bikinis, even in the middle of the day.
7. There used to be a massive mansion house on Falcon Road
John G. Bartholomew's house Falcon Hall in Edinburgh had Robt. Forrest Wellington & Nelson statues flanking entrance pic.twitter.com/419NQSlkn5
— ScotsMilitaryHistory (@S_M_R_G) January 19, 2015
Back in the late 18th and early 19th century the area between Newbattle Terrace and Canaan Lane looked completely different to how it looks today. For starters, Falcon Road, Falcon Court and Falcon Avenue didn’t exist at all. Instead, a huge mansion house called Falcon Hall and its 18 acre grounds filled the space where those streets are now until it was demolished in 1909. The falcon-topped pillars and gates at the entrance to the estate were then reassembled and became the entrance to Edinburgh Zoo.
8. The (original) trams used to go through Morningside
While the powers that be no longer think Morningside needs a tram line, the neighbourhood had one from 1872 until 1956. Thousands of people gathered to watch the final tram travel from Morningside Station to Shrubhill depot and the journey was even broadcast live on the BBC.
9. Morningside Parish Church has the longest aisle in Britain
Although this may just be hearsay as there are no exact figures to be found online. It’s still pretty impressive, though.
10. You’ll blow about £20 every time you nip to the shops
— Sam O'Neill (@SamoOneill) September 3, 2015
When it comes to supermarkets there are only three choices in Morningside – Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s. This means that a quick, late night trip to pick up a pint of milk inevitably ends in the purchase of many expensive M&S treats, or more frivolous Waitrose ‘Essentials’ than you ever knew you needed. Before you know it your basket’s full and you’ve racked up double figures on the till. Whoops…
11. The houses sell for (actual) millions
The average price of a house in Morningside is more than £350,000 but in this neighbourhood a four bedroom detached house will sell for close to one and a half million. If you’re in the market for something a little larger – say a modest seven bedrooms – you’ll have to part with around £2 million or more before you can seal the deal. So if you’ve got your heart set on a Morningside mansion, you’d better start saving.
12. It’s home to the Bore Stane
Hidden in plain sight on Morningside Road in front of the old Morningside Parish Church, this memorial is a bit of a strange one. Referred to as the Bore Stane (or Stone, if you prefer) the large, holey rock marks the spot from where King James IV led his army south in 1513 towards the Battle of Flodden. The stone was built into the wall and a plaque added some years ago, but you’d probably have to know it was there to spot it.
13. The best coffee in the area is served from a police box
— The Counter (@TheCounterEd) August 15, 2015
The Counter coffee shop set up shop in the former police box next to M&S in August 2014 and has quickly become a hit with the locals. It’s only open between 7:30am and 3pm, so if aren’t local you might never have seen the little coffee box in action, but business has been good and the couple behind The Counter have recently opened two other converted Edinburgh police boxes – one in Tollcross and one beside the Usher Hall.
14. Parking is a tricky game
Especially since barely anyone who isn’t residing in one of those multi-million pound mansions we mentioned earlier is living in a tenement flat with no drive or even private parking space to call their own. Even with a permit you’re usually left driving around in circles desperately hoping that someone will move their car so you can nab a spot anywhere remotely near your house.
15. The Wild West is just around the corner
There isn’t much left of Morningside’s Wild West these days, but the remaining cantina and jail are still worth a visit. This odd but authentic replica street is hidden directly behind the library and was built in the mid-1990s as part of an advertising campaign for a furniture business. It’s something most Edinburgers don’t even believe is real until they see it for themselves.
16. The Dominion is (probably) Scotland’s only family-run cinema
Opened in January 1938, the stunning Streamline Moderne art deco Dominion Cinema is a jewel in Morningside’s crown and a favourite haunt of many Edinburgh residents. Probably Scotland’s only remaining family-run cinema, seeing a movie here is a totally unique experience and one you really only get to indulge in regularly when you live just down the road.
17. Church Hill Theatre used to be a church
Considering the name you might not be too surprised, but the auditorium was actually built in 1892 as the Morningside Free Church. Edinburgh Council bought the building in 1960 to be used as a performance space, and the new and improved Church Hill Theatre re-opened in 2006 after extensive refurbishment. These days it doesn’t look much like a church, but it’s a well-used, state of the art theatre.
Main image: Magnus Hagdorn / Flickr / CC