Leith was Scotland’s premier port from 1300, when it started exporting wool to Bruges for Flemish weavers to make into cloth. Leith also exported cheese, coarse cloth, skins, furs, and cured salmon to Bruges, France and the Baltic Sea nations receiving cloth, silk, dried fruit, wine, timber, cereal and malt in return. Bruges was then Europe’s chief commercial city. Many Scots lived there in the Scottendye or Scottish quarter while Flemish merchants settled in Edinburgh. German “beer,” was preferred to the local “ale”.
Mary of Guise, French wife of King James V of Scotland held court at Leith as Regent for her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots. There was a French garrison in Leith from 1548 to 1560. After the Siege of Leith and the battle of Leith Harbour, the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed and they left. After her mother’s death, Mary Queen of Scots arrived in Leith from France in 1561 to start her reign.
From 1682, Leith Glassworks sent wine bottles to France and Spain with the production at its peak of one million bottles/week.
Leith docks declined after World War 2 but has recently enjoyed a regeneration.
Continue walking down the Shore for about 100 metres. The Signal tower is the last building on your right before reaching the square with the Merchant Navy Memorial in the middle. The Signal Tower is now a restaurant (Fishers) on the ground floor.
Picture Credits: Denise Fisher/Edinburgh4Europe 2021