Visiting the Edinburgh neighbourhood of Stockbridge provides a perfect blend of new and old. It is full of history, but also embraces modern ideas and businesses. The Stockbridge suburb can be found north of the city centre. We go often to this part of the city for our private walking tours of Edinburgh, but also in our free time as we love to wander the cobbled streets and quaint hidden sections of the city. It is certainly the perfect place for an ‘explore and discover’ mission as there is much to see and do. This article will highlight a few of our favourites.
With the autumn colours still lingering throughout the city, we decided to head to Stockbridge to get some pictures for this post (although some were taken at other times throughout the past year). Walking from Princes Street, we headed north. Along the way, we came to one of the historical ‘gateways’ into Stockbridge, Gloucester Lane, which dates to medieval times.
A favourite locale among both locals and visitors is the Stockbridge Market. According to Canmore, the National Record of the Historic Market (and part of Historic Environment Scotland), the original Stockbridge Market was built “c.1825 by Archibald Scott…and included stalls selling meat, poultry, fish and vegetables in the manner of a country town. It was never a great success and closed in 1906”. Unfortunately, the only surviving part of the building is the beautiful historic archway along St Stephen’s Place. Below, Sawyer can be seen standing in front of the archway with its imposing Greek Doric columns.
The latest version of the Stockbridge Market started around 2011. It is open year-round every Sunday. Traders at the Market vary, and you can check the Stockbridge Market website for a list of traders for the upcoming weekend. What is particularly wonderful about this market is the mix of traditional offerings such as seafood or Scotch eggs compared to relatively newer offerings like Kenyan food or Hawaiian mana bowls.
By the way, some of you might be asking, what is a Scotch egg? Well, it can have different ingredients. However, in its classic form, it is an egg that has been wrapped in pork sausage with an outer coating of breadcrumbs that is then deep-fried or baked. It is comfort food at its best. When we last visited the Market, they also had it with haggis (can you get anymore Scottish than that?!) and a vegetarian option. Despite the name and popularity here, the Scotch egg did not originate in Scotland (the history of that will have to be for a future post on popular foods in Scotland. It’ll be a burden, but I will undertake it all in the name of research). One booth that is always quite popular is the paella kiosk; there is often a queue for their inexpensive but mouth-watering bowl of goodness. The Market isn’t just scrumptious food, you can also find a selection of handmade crafts, artwork, and products.
If you are looking to do a little more shopping, the High Street, Raeburn Place, is close to the Market and provides a nice variety of shops from which to choose. For example, there are numerous charity shops that usually have a great selection of second-hand items- we find the clothes to be particularly well-stocked and of good quality.
Stockbridge is a fashionable and desirable residential choice for people moving to Edinburgh. One such section within Stockbridge are the historic Colonies. According to the Stockbridge Colonies Resident's Association website, “the group of stone terraced houses known as The Colonies of Stockbridge was the first of several ‘colonies’ to be built in Edinburgh during the second half of the nineteenth century. All but one of these colonies were built by the same company – The Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company – which was formed in 1861”. The Cooperative (ECBC) was run by workers of various trades (e.g. stonemasons, plasterers, plumbers, etc.) and they were also shareholders and residents of the Colonies. A key point to understand is that the Colonies were built during the era of social reform for housing. Therefore, the members of the ECBC “believed strongly that only if people could live in decent housing could they also live morally and physically healthy lives”. Today, it seems that there is still a real close-knit feel in the Colonies as evidenced by activities run by the neighbourhood such as yard sales and Quiz nights.
Another unique and picturesque place that locals would love to reside at (and visitors like to trek to) is Circus Lane. Our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer (looking unusually serious), likes to visit the area and pose for pictures. The quaint and historic buildings were formerly mews (horse stables) and are now residential houses. Walking along the Lane you can see how many of the former stables are now converted into garages.
The Stockbridge area also offers many opportunities for those looking to get some exercise. For example, the Water of Leith Walkway is located in this area and is a popular option for locals looking to go for a scenic stroll or jog. Sami (our human tour guide) and Sawyer (our Golden Retriever tour guide) often bring visitors on our private walking tours to this area for a popular visitor attraction- St Bernard’s Well. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our article on the Well to find out the fascinating history and story on it. And for those of you who have canine family members, be assured that Stockbridge is a very dog-friendly area. For example, on Sundays, you will often see residents taking their dogs out for a walk, but also joining them in the various restaurants and cafés that are dog friendly.
There are also more organised athletics in Stockbridge. Most notably, the first international rugby match was played in 1871 between England and Scotland on the fields at Raeburn Place. The Grange is also located here. It is a private sports club that is home to the Scotland national cricket team.
There have been many famous residents of Stockbridge, but I’ll just name a few for the sake of brevity. As a lifelong student of art history, I feel I must first mention Scottish artist, Sir Henry Raeburn. He was born in Stockbridge in 1756 (which was then a village and not yet incorporated into Edinburgh). He was known for his portrait paintings and many of them can be found in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery (both of which are on my soon ‘to-do’ list for blog articles). The main street running through Stockbridge, Raeburn Place, was named after him. Another famous resident of Stockbridge was George Meikle Kemp. He was the architect for the Scott Monument, and you can read more about him and the Monument here.
One last resident I would like to mention might sound very familiar to some of you…Madame Doubtfire. However, the real “Mrs” Doubtfire was quite different than the Hollywood version. According to the Doubtfire Gallery, Madame Doubtfire was born Annabella Cruikshank Adams (Doubtfire was her married
name) in Aberdeen and was “a handsome, feisty, bohemian woman who ran a second-hand clothing store in what is now the Doubtfire Gallery”. Madame Doubtfire died in 1979, aged 92, after running her shop for over 50 years. In the 1980s, the author, Anne Fine was living in the Stockbridge area and apparently liked the name ‘Doubtfire’ (which could still be seen above the original shop) as she wrote the children’s book, Madame Doubtfire. However, the book and resulting Twentieth Century Fox movie only took the name as inspiration. Madame Doubtfire’s shop is now a gallery and studio run by Doubtfire Gallery.
Well, there you have it. A quick trip to the Stockbridge neighbourhood here in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's chock full of history as well as new and exciting opportunities. If you would like to visit some of these locations, we would be happy to show you around. Please just check out our ‘Wee Private Walks’ section of our website.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!