Choose bars. Choose beer. Choose Leith.
Whilst in recent years Leith has undergone regeneration, much of its cultural heritage is retained in its boozers, both in the very walls of the bars themselves and the minds of those who inhabit them.
Taking the old with the new, we examine the best bars Leith has to offer.
If you want character and exceptional beer, you can’t go far wrong with The Tourmalet. Its fridges are well stocked with numerous bottles, most of them German – much to the delight of anyone who is a fan of heffeweizen. The ceiling itself is decorated with model airfix pitting the Luftwaffe against the RAF. And to cap things all off, this friendly abode is also home to a loveable collie named Bernard. What more can one ask for?
25 Buchanan St, Edinburgh EH6 8SQ
The Foot of the Walk
You’re unlikely to find anywhere as cheap in Leith for beer than the Foot, though that’s unsurprising coming from a Wetherspoons. Ales can come as cheap as £2.25 (I think the cheapest I ever encountered was £1.20) and standard lager prices rarely reach over £3. Well versed in pub grub, and on top of being a spacious place ideal for groups, the Foot probably has one of the widest alcohol selections in Leith.
183 Constitution St, Edinburgh EH6 7AA
The Lioness of Leith
Standing on the bones of one of Edinburgh’s most infamous dives (Mintos), this Duke Street pub was revamped in 2013 into the retro swinging, prog-rock-meets-synthpop lair it is known as today. The strength of the Lioness resides in its cocktail menu; the classics are all there, but should you wish to stray into unfamiliar territory then try an Acid House – a vodka based mix with lychee juice – or the very popular Sherbet Lemon. Otherwise you can be safe in the knowledge that your weekend Cosmo or your midweek Mojito goes beyond the standard, as the staff go the extra mile for you.
21-25 Duke Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 8HH
The Brass Monkey
The Brass Monkey lies on the border between Leith and Edinburgh just before the Boundary Bar, which makes it an ideal midway point for those heading back from work in need of a drink or those on their way uptown on a night out. The inside can accommodate for many, whilst the back space is reserved for its daily film screenings. On Monday evenings the bar is also host to the fabled wit of Dr. Paul and his quiz, with money up for grabs that has, on occasion, reached well over £200 with rollovers.
362 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5BR
The Port O’ Leith
To say this bar has character would be putting it lightly. No matter your experience, you’ll always have a reason to remember the Port O’ Leith, be it the diverse collection of flags decorating the ceiling, the friendly bar staff, or the antics of the locals. Just remember that if you go on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s a good chance you’ll end up dancing on the bar. Undoubtedly, the Port O’ Leith harbours a fantastic atmosphere that is reflected in the high spirits of its customers.
58 Constitution St, Edinburgh EH6 6RS
Roseleaf Bar and Cafe
One of those places that you often hear talk of but never get to experience, Roseleaf Bar is a fantastic little spot for drinking and merriment just tucked away beside the Water of Leith. Though a little out of the way, you’ll not feel unwelcome in this bar, one which provides both craft beer and standard lager alike served by the amiable bar staff.
23/24 Sandport Pl, Edinburgh EH6 6EW
The classiness of Nobles is overstated in the stained glass windows that bear the crest and motto of Leith as you walk inside; indeed, the model ships above the bar pay homage to Leith’s naval history. The wide room space is complimented by the impressive interior décor that is adorned with fitting artwork that only adds to the dining experience they offer. The bar has 12 lines in, numerous bottled beers, and a well versed wine menu, so you won’t be low on options when it comes to alcohol.
44a Constitution St, Edinburgh EH6 6RS
What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in ambience; a cosy demeanour that is enhanced by the vibrant, bright coloured walls and fitting prints. There’s a versatile selection of Swedish ciders in the fridge that, coupled with their array of exquisite home-grown cocktails, makes Boda Bar one of the best bars on Leith Walk by a long stretch; they also do great coffees.
229 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 8NY
The small building to the right of the steeple is a pub now known as the King's Wark. The original Wark grew into many buildings sprawling along the area you see here, & serving various functions over the years; arsenal, residence, wine cellar, tollbooth, plague hospital In 1590, 24-year-old James IV & his new bride, 15-year-old Anne of Denmark, arrived in Leith & were lodged at the Wark. They'd been married by proxy but bad weather had prevented Anne arriving earlier, so, having travelled to meet her, James made sure he had 10 witches burnt before the return voyage as a sort of 16th century insurance policy. Apparently, upon meeting Anne, James strode up to her and gave her a kiss "in the Scottish fashion" (with tongue? History doesn't elaborate), which scandalised the conservative Danish court but rather thrilled young Anne Anyway, no expense was spared for Anne's welcome. A special wooden staircase had been built so that she could ascend directly into the first floor hall. From thrones atop these stairs the royal couple surveyed the welcoming pomp and were also, I suppose, deliberately on show to the peasants. Their path from the ship was strewn with tapestries. Nobles had been instructed in ridiculous detail on how to behave, in what order to do things & even where to look. Five days later, Anne arrived in Edinburgh in a "silver coach", with James trotting majestically alongside on a horse And they lived happily ever after, except for James' many male lovers & Anne's embarrassing conversion to Catholicism. But as happily as can be expected. The end For more about James' witch-burning fetish, see 13 posts/2 weeks ago; the photo taken beneath a dark railway bridge
The King’s Wark harks back to Leith’s sea-faring traditions by incorporating naval ornaments to its indoor decoration. Overlooking the shore, barely ten metres from the Water of Leith estuary, this pub boasts an incredible location and ambience that one might associate with the tall tales and sea shanties of a past life when Leith was a thriving port experiencing the effects of industrialization. It is this quaint, reserved atmosphere, set in the heart of Leith itself, that makes a visit to the King’s Wark a memorable experience.
36 Shore, Edinburgh EH6 6QU
Though still relatively new, Woodland Creatures has become a popular spot on Leith Walk amongst seasoned competitors making it well worth a visit. The indoor décor adheres to the name by sporting a natural motif, whilst its back room doubles up as a mini-cinema. Spacious, and with a varied wine menu to go with their commendable food, Woodland Creatures is a fantastic addition to Leith’s growing nightlife scene that has become a new favourite for students and locals alike.
260-262 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5EL