For natural beauty seekers, the Water of Leith is an abundance of riches. At 24 miles long, this river has its source in the Colzium Springs in the Pentland Hills, runs through the heart of Stockbridge, and then onwards to the Port of Leith, widening into a harbour that supports a vibrant dock and boat building industry, before flowing into the North Sea via the Firth of Forth. More pertinently though, there is a walkway stretching 12.25 miles along the riverbank for the perusal of walkers, cyclists and licensed anglers. Close to Stockbridge are two historical landmarks along this river walk. St Bernard’s Well, near Deanhaugh Street, was commissioned in 1788 after rumours spread that the natural spring which joined the Water of Leith here had medicinal properties. The Well is a classical style temple featuring ten doric columns and a gorgeous statue of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health. Further along the trail is Dean Village, once a busy industrial village with eleven hydro-powered mills to produce the city’s supplies of paper, fabric and flour. Remnants of the industry can still be traced even today in the carved stone plaques dotted around the village decorated with images of pies and bread.
The city’s Royal Botanic Gardens had an inauspicious beginning at the start of its life in 1670: a physic garden to grow herbs and plants for medicinal purposes. It wasn’t even in its current location at Inverleith. The garden was first housed at St Anne’s Yard near Holyrood Palace before the collection was moved away from the pollution of the Old Town in 1763, before settling in its current location in 1820. The attraction is Scotland’s national botanic garden amongst the three sister gardens across Scotland (Dawyck, Logan and Benmore) and occupies a crucial scientific significance – across 72 acres, nearly 34,000 plants are grown representing over 17,000 different species of plants from around the world. Couples embarking on their first date could not be any more ideally suited to the unique charms of the Gardens and the various sections – the Rock Garden, the Queen Mother Memorial Garden – are an excellent tonic for the soul.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ, +44 131 248 2909
Culture vultures will be particularly enthused about the National Gallery of Modern Art, just to the west of Stockbridge. The gallery is housed in an imposing neoclassical building, designed by William Burn in 1825 and at one point used as the John Watson’s School, an institute for fatherless children. Nowadays, the gallery’s spacious rooms play host to the work of artists such as Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Duchamp, Matisse, Warhol and Lichtenstein. International exhibitions frequently tour here too, such as the past summer’s blockbuster M.C. Escher retrospective. But it’s not just the interior of the Gallery where one can find art. The sizeable grounds provide a setting for sculptures by Tony Cragg and Barbara Hepworth, as well as the huge ‘Landform’ lawn design, whereby, the front lawn was landscaped to a design by Charles Jencks, apparently inspired by chaos theory and shapes found in nature. It comprises a stepped, serpentine-shaped mould fringed by crescent-shaped pools of water. Entry to the permanent collection is free while special exhibitions sometimes have an entry fee.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm
75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR, +44 131 624 6200
Caoba is a vibrant ceramics store in Stockbridge that is a veritable attraction in its own right. The shop sells goods directly imported from Mexico and South America, making the store a rainbow-like mosaic of colours and tones amidst often-overcast Stockbridge. One can singlehandedly restock the kitchen cupboards with the eclectic range of products on sale at Caoba such as tiles, jars, bowls, textiles, candles, stationery, and best of all, a small range of artisan silver jewellery. Younger shoppers will most likely be enthused by the Mexican lucha libre masks on display.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 10am – 5pm
56 Raeburn Pl, Edinburgh EH4 1HJ, +44131 343 2757
For those looking for an architectural stimulation wandering around Stockbridge, the Colonies provide a fascinating case study from Edinburgh’s Industrial Revolution past. Built between 1861 and 1911 by the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company, the purpose of these terraced homes arranged in eleven parallel rows were to provide owner-occupied low-cost housing for, and organised by, working people. There was a strong focus on providing for artisan tradesmen, which is why at the end of each terrace are the original artisan crests portraying the different trades of the workmen. The cottages are now some of Edinburgh’s most expensive real estate, owing to their social history, unique two-storey look and proximity to the expanses of Inverleith Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It doesn’t hurt that they are also whimsically adorable.