Stockbridge in Edinburgh feels like a village within the city. Edinburgh has a lot of areas like this precisely because at one point in time they were just that. Back when the High Street and the Castle overlooked the loch (now Princess Street Gardens) and before the New Town area was built the outlying areas were villages and suburbs. Travel a little farther down the hill from the New Town and areas such as the Dean Village, Stockbridge, Cannonmills and even Leith (Leith was only added into Edinburgh in the 1920s) all have their own feel. Still very much part of Edinburgh – but with a little bit of history of their own. Stockbridge is the go-to place, in my opinion, to relax. Here is why:
1. It has History
The old name was stock brig in Scots. Walk down via St Stephens street and you will find the prettiest little corner and street with some fabulous local shops and boutiques.
Just off St Stephen’s street a bit further down into the heart of Stockbridge is the old market place. No longer there but the arch away (my favourite in Edinburgh with the exception of those in the Castle) still bears the name.
Stockbridge was always quite bohemian. Initially a retreat for the fancy folk to take respite and drink the water from St Bernard’s well (just a short walk along the river) it eventually became the haunt of artists, doctors and all-sorts. If you drink in the Tic (Antiquity bar) you still feel this influence and wonderful mix of people. It was also the place where the shop of Madam Doubtfire was located (the name which inspired the book title and film). She was friends with Dora Noyce who apparently ran the best brothel in the city. This was back in the fifties to the seventies. There aren’t any brothels any more, thankfully, but it adds to the history and character of the place.
2. The River of Leith
The Water of Leith runs through Stockbridge (makes sense that there is a river under the bridge). Lots of people walk the full length. I prefer to just frequent the bits near to me so that I am never that far from a great coffee shop. The pathways make you feel like you are in the countryside and it is such a pretty place to sit and watch the world (or Edinburgh walker/joggers/cyclists) go by.
Go west along the river and there is a great place to sit beside’s St Bernard’s well (you get the afternoon sun). Go east and my favourite houses, the Colonies, are nestled beside the river.
3. Inverlieth Park – the view
If you can’t manage to get a free seat outside the Reaburn (pub/boutique hotel with a beer garden) or my favourite coffee shop Whiskers) then the best place to go in good weather is Inverleith park on the hill overlooking the pond.
I sat out with a coffee on Monday. Just reading my book and trying to get a sun tan on my arms and feet. The views of Edinburgh are spectacular here. Right up to the castle which means that it is the best place to catch the fireworks at the end of the Edinburgh festival and also at new year. You do have to bring your own bottle, but the bonus in Edinburgh (unlike Glasgow) is that we are allowed to consume alcohol in parks. So everyone on Hogmanay has a bottle to head out from the local pubs near to midnight to catch the show. For all these reasons Inverleith park is a favourite place of mine. I even used to do British Military Fitness there, and a bit of running (possibly not my favourite thing about the place 😊).
4. The shops
Stockbridge has loads (this is not an underestimate) of charity shops. I’m not the biggest fan of rummaging through things but I always think I should try more often as you can get some really good buys. My favourite shops are the jewellery shops. Sheila Fleet (a jeweller from Orkney) has a shop on St Stephen’s street and there is a great wee jeweller called Annie Smith on Raeburn place. If you can find it nestled down a little alleyway on Raeburn place Gallery Mirage has lots of choice from all over the world. The great thing about these jewellers are their independence and choice. I have something from each of them.
If jewellery isn’t your thing then there are lovely little clothes shops, an old oil lantern shop (I’ve never been in but the window on St Stephen’s street looks like something out of a Dicken’s novel), art dealers and lots of shops with bits and bobs.
5. Great places to eat and drink
Far too many to mention them all but eating and drinking in Stockbridge offers something for everyone. Bells Diner has been here for, well forever. My mum and dad used to take us there for dinner when we were little. Nocks Kitchen is one of the nicest Thai restaurants in Edinburgh. Tom Kitchin (who has a michelin star for another restaurant in Edinburgh) and Dominic Jack have the relaxed Gastro style place called the Scran and Scallie. There is another place called Rollo just across the road which is a firm favourite of my friends and myself (there is also on now on Broughton street). There are loads more places, I just haven’t tried them all.
Pub wise the Raeburn is great for the beer garden, the Antiquity for their cheesy fries and the Bailey for traditional surrounds and to watch the rugby. If one place is too busy to get a seat in, you just head to the next. Stockbridge has a relaxed atmosphere and the pubs are no different. If you are just after a coffee and some food then try Whiskers. On Raeburn place I always check out whether they have any seats free outside if it is sunny. If so I park myself here to watch the world go by. If not I head along with a coffee to go to Inverlieth Park.
Basically Stockbridge is my go-to place to relax and meander. I probably have more favourite things about it. No doubt I will probably blog more about this gorgeous wee part of Edinburgh in my future blogs.