TOAST Magazine

A Brief Guide to Stockbridge

TRAVEL & PLACE

We asked the travel writer Kimberley Grant to create a brief guide to Stockbridge, the home of our TOAST Edinburgh shop.

Once a small outlying village, Stockbridge is now one of Edinburgh’s most desirable areas and a place where artists, writers, musicians and poets have long made their homes. For curious visitors who wish to adventure beyond the capital’s main tourist trail, there is much to explore in this bustling, bohemian neighbourhood and the surrounding area.

Leafy and architecturally-rich, Stockbridge takes its name from the Scots ‘stocc brycg’ (timber footbridge) and the original bridge that crossed the Water of Leith. The trout-filled river runs through the heart of the district, coming closest to the city centre at the nearby Dean Village, once a busy industrial village where up to 11 flour mills were powered by the fast-flowing water. 

Stroll along the wildlife-rich river path and you will find the crossed peels carved into Brae Bridge representing the paddles that lifted freshly-baked bread from the oven.

Further north along the river, you can find other remnants of the industry and those that used to work in the area. The beautiful Stockbridge colony houses were the first of several colonies to be built in Edinburgh during the second half of the nineteenth century. 

Pretty stone tenements with Victorian clothes poles in the front gardens line the eleven parallel terraces, the end of each adorned with original artisan crests representing the different trades of the workers that lived here. 

Previously considered a village in its own right, the Colonies still maintain a strong sense of community, with its own small choir, annual yard sales, ceilidhs and Creative Colonies events.

Cross the river behind the colonies and you’ll reach the beautiful botanic gardens. Located only a mile from the city centre, its 100,000 plants and 10 glasshouses cover 70 acres. Here, families explore the grounds with views over the city, while plant lovers inspect the different species inside the steamy glasshouses.

Stockbridge is a place popular with artists, makers and art lovers alike and it is peppered with intimate gallery spaces and organisations like The Art Club and Edinburgh Drawing School, which host a variety of classes and events throughout the year. 

Many of the country’s leading galleries are also within walking distance, such as the Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery, considered as impressive classical buildings in their own right.

A friendly village atmosphere and strong community spirit is alive and well in Stockbridge. The annual Duck Race has become one of the most recognised community events in Edinburgh, raising hundreds of pounds for charity each year and the Sunday food market is busy with stalls selling fresh local produce, artisan goods and global street fare.

Independent shops, thrift stores, jewellers and gourmet food shops are dotted along the neat rows and graceful curves of Georgian facades making the area a magnet for food lovers and shoppers hunting for unique clothing, crafts and antiques.

The area is characterised by the many lively cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, pubs and delis. You can pick up some of the best coffee in the city at Artisan Roast, or a hangover-quenching brunch at the family-run cafe Cowan & Sons, a former fishmonger’s with faded green tiles and stained-glass windows. 

Young creative professionals and decades-long residents mingle in popular basement pubs like The Antiquary and cosy wine bars such as Smith & Gertrude and Good Brothers.

Thanks to both its close proximity to the river, gardens and sleepy Dean Village, as well as its own elegant architecture, creative community and unique places to shop & dine, there is always plenty to explore in this lively pocket of Edinburgh. 

Words and photography by Kimberley Grant.

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