Located just a few minutes away from the bustling city centre, Stockbridge is packed with trendy cocktail bars, gastro eateries, cultural delights, independent shops and several architectural gems.
One thing we love about Stockbridge is that despite its central location, it still retains a distinctive, small-village feel, complete with community spirit.
Stop by on Sunday at the Stockbridge Farmer’s Market. If you’re a foodie, you can devour all the tasty street foods on offer.
Exploring this attractive cobblestoned neighbourhood is definitely one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Whether you’re into shopping, eating or just people-watching, Stockbridge is a great neighbourhood to lose a few hours in. Also, this area is home to some of the most photographed locations in Edinburgh.
In this article, you will find all the essential information you need to know before visiting this charming area – the easiest way to reach, the best places to eat and shop, all the must-see attractions and the pretty hidden corners to explore.
A Little Bit about the Past of Stockbridge
Stockbridge got its name from an old wooden bridge that once spanned across the Water of Leith. Stock comes from an old Scots word ‘stoccbrycg’, meaning timber. Not to be confused with the stone bridge that’s currently in place – It was constructed in 1801.
Initially, this was only a small village by the river. This suburb gained popularity after the discovery of St Bernards Well during the 1760s. The spring water here was rumoured to have magical healing power.
During the early 19th century, when the rapid expansion of Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town started, Stockbridge was incorporated into the city of Edinburgh.
Many of the city’s notable creative and affluent residents moved here. The elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced houses show the wealth of the people that once lived here.
Many parts of this neighbourhood were designed by the famous Stockbridge-born artist – Sir Henry Raeburn. You can see his masterpiece painting ‘The Skating Minister’ at Scottish National Gallery.
During the 1860s, several colony buildings were built across eleven parallel streets to provide low-cost housing for industrial workers.
Many colourful personalities once called Stockbridge home. Madame Doubtfire lived and ran a shop here. British writer Anne Fine, who lived in this area, was inspired by her name and used it in her book, which was later turned into a movie.
Best Things to Do in Stockbridge
1. Explore Edinburgh’s Prettiest Street, Circus Lane
You can’t visit Stockbridge without taking a leisurely walk along the cobbled street of Circus Lane.
An attractive and alluring side road, Circus Lane is one of the most photographed locations in Edinburgh. Almost every tourist who has visited Stockbridge has a photo of it.
This charming residential dwelling dates back to the early 19th century. It was originally built to accommodate horses, coaches and domestic helpers of the affluent residents of nearby Royal Circus.
This gently curved lane of Stockbridge is lined with quaint Georgian mews houses decorated with many gorgeous hanging flowers and shrubs.
The pretty Victorian street lamps and the imposing clock tower of St Stephen’s Church make it even more atmospheric. The church was designed by reputed Scottish architect William Henry Playfair in 1827–28 and reportedly has the longest pendulum in Europe.
2. Enjoy Romantic Strolls in Dean Village
A Walk along the Water of Leith to visit the stunningly attractive hamlet of Dean Village is one of the best things to do in Stockbridge.
The narrow cobbled streets, medieval half-timbered houses and an imposing clock tower genuinely give the frozen-in-time vibe.
The origin of Dean Village can be traced back to the 12th century. Back then, this was the site of a thriving grain milling industry that served the people of Edinburgh for over 800 years. Some remnants of its old heritage still linger. Watch out for mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies signs.
This tranquil oasis is just 10 minute walk from the bustling Stockbridge. However, you can continue to follow the Water of Leith Walkaway to visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the historic Dean Cemetery.
Also, there are great views from the nearby Dean Bridge, which was designed by eminent British engineer Thomas Telford.
3. Take a Scenic Walk along the Water of Leith
The Water of Leith flows through the heart of the Stockbridge neighbourhood. It is the main river of Edinburgh and has played a pivotal role in the city’s industrial heritage. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there were around seventy mills dotted along this river.
The 22-mile-long river starts at the slopes of Pentland Hills and joins the Firth of Forth near the Port of Leith.
If you love serene nature and calm riverside walks, take a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway. The 12.25 miles long route is well-signposted and easy to follow. The walk from Dean Village to Stockbridge is one of the most scenic sections of the trail.
The pathway was constructed in the 1980s. Popular with local runners, dog walkers and families, it is a haven for spotting various wildlife and birds. Look out for Antony Gormley’s statues.
4. Eat Like a Local at Stockbridge Market
Open every Sunday from 10 am until 4 pm, Stockbridge Market is popular with tourists and residents.
Located right beside the Water of Leith, this market started in 2011. Several small and independent vendors gather together to give visitors a taste of some of the best street foods in Edinburgh – from mouth-licking Spanish paella to delicious sweet crepe.
Not just tasty food, there are many local vendors selling a wide variety of artisan products.
You can find everything – from Scottish cheese and homemade soap to handmade jewellery and crafts. Also, this is your opportunity to bag some organic vegetables and fruits.
If you loved visiting Stockbridge Farmer’s Market, then the weekly markets in Leith, Grassmarket and Castle terrace might interest you.
5. Explore the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Once you’ve had a walk through the bustling streets of Stockbridge, you’ll be only a short walk away from one of Edinburgh’s sprawling green spaces.
Home to some of the extensive collections of living plants and more than 13,500 species, The Botanics encompasses over 70 acres of grounds. It is the perfect place to relax and appreciate nature.
Coming from Stockbridge, the entrance through the Arboretum Place will be closer to you. It takes roughly ten minutes to walk here.
Founded in 1670, the Botanics is one of the oldest gardens in the UK. You will find a vast collection of Chinese plants at the Chinese Hillside.
Climb to the highest point of the Rock Garden, meander around the large Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden or simply follow the Beech Hedge and Herbaceous Border.
Also, Inverleith House hosts various temporary exhibitions.
The lovely Victorian Temperate Palm House is a must-visit. Entry to the garden is free except for the glasshouses, which require tickets.
6. Discover the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
For any art lovers visiting Stockbridge, the nearby Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a must-visit. Sitting side by side, there are actually two separate buildings.
Here you can see some of the most important contemporary art collections of Scotland. Above all, you can visit both of them free of charge.
There is a beautiful sculpture park around both the galleries featuring artworks by Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread, Barbara Hepworth and others. The gorgeous landform in front of Modern One was created by Charles Jencks.
Inside, you will find paintings of some of the most famous artists in modern times, like Matisse and Picasso.
Modern One also has an impressive collection of paintings by Scottish artists, like Peploe, Fergusson, Douglas Gordon and Steven Campbell.
Modern Two hosts various temporary exhibitions year-round. Their permanent display includes the recreation of famous Leith-born artist Eduard Paolozzi’s studio.
The giant 7.3m tall sculpture, Vulcan dominates Paolozzi’s Kitchen Cafe. You can grab a quick lunch or snacks from here. Modern One also has a cafe onsite.
7. Uncover the Secrets of St Bernard's Well
Sitting between Stockbridge and Dean Village, St. Bernard’s Well is a unique hidden gem of Edinburgh. Walk along the Water of Leith walkway to see the elegant St. Bernard’s Well. It is over 230 years old now.
Designed by the famous Edinburgh-born landscape painter Alexander Nasmyth, the architecture is inspired by the Temple of Vesta, an ancient Roman temple in Tivoli.
Surrounded by columns and a domed roof with golden pineapple, there is a statue of the Greek goddess Hygieia at the centre.
St. Bernard’s Well was constructed on the site of a natural spring, which locals believed to have magical powers to heal diseases. For centuries, people from other countries came here looking for miracle water.
It takes only a few minutes to walk here from Stockbridge. You can admire the beautiful structure from the Water of Leith path.
Unfortunately, since 1940 the building doesn’t allow public access. The interior is open only on specific occasions, like the Doors Open Day.
8. Take a Nature Break at Inverleith Park
Just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Stockbridge, Inverleith Park is one of the largest open green spaces in Edinburgh. Before the city council bought this park in 1889, it used to be a farm. The Royal Botanical Garden lies close to this land.
Sure, Edinburgh has a lot of parks, but sprawling across 54 acres, this one is really special. In summer, you can soak up the sun and enjoy a picnic in this park or feed the ducks in the pond – Inverleith Park has something for everyone.
There are several sports pitches and courts to play football, rugby, tennis and cricket. Also, there are cycling and walking paths and a children’s play area.
Inverleith Park is a well-known spot in Stockbridge for watching the fireworks during Edinburgh Festival and Hogmanay celebrations. Its elevated position is perfect to catch a great panoramic view of the city.
Another attraction in the park is Inverleith Pond, home to swans and other wildlife. It was constructed as a model boating pond in 1890.
9. Have Fun at Stockbridge Duck Race
If you are travelling to this area during summer, you might be interested in attending the quirky and thoroughly enjoyable Stockbridge Duck Race – a highly anticipated annual charity event. The race has been very popular with locals and tourists for over 30 years now.
The rules are pretty straightforward. Duck ticket numbers are sold at several local shops and cafes around the area. You can buy a number by filling out a form.
On the day of the Stockbridge Duck Race, a yellow plastic duck with the chosen number is entered into the competition. Then all the ducks are thrown into the Water of Leith and are raced down to nearby Falshaw Bridge. There are several prizes sponsored by local businesses. So, Good luck!
Also, there are volunteers, called Duck Wardens, who help with this event and ensure no plastic ducks are left behind in the river. After the winners are declared, there is an after-party at a local bar.
10. Enjoy a Delicious Breakfast at The Pantry
Stockbridge’s quaint, bohemian vibe matches up perfectly with enjoying a lazy morning with some hot coffee and cakes. Thankfully there are plenty of choices here.
We are big fans of The Pantry, one of the best places in Edinburgh for a delicious breakfast and brunch. Pantry opened its door in 2012 and within a couple of years, it’s been a firm favourite of locals and tourists alike.
The long queue in the morning surely speaks of the delicious food they serve. It’s walk-ins only. They don’t take reservations. So, your best bet is to get here early.
Over the years, we have tried almost all the items on their menu. We recommend trying their eggs benny, pantry waffles with sticky bacon and sunshine on Stockbridge with bbq chorizo.
Also, there are vegan and vegetarian options available.
We also love the cakes and bakery selections of The Pastry Section at Raeburn Place, not too far from The Pantry.
11. Lose Yourself in Cute Local Shops
It is not all about the big shopping centres and high street brands. In Stockbridge, you will find small independent and boutique shops selling everything from ethical fashion to authentic Mexican crafts.
A few of our personal favourites are Golden Hare Books – an independent bookshop with an extensive collection of classic and contemporary books; The Howdah Tea and Coffee Company, which sells different kinds of roasted coffee beans and loose tea leaves; I.J. Mellis, a local cheesemonger, selling a great selection of artisan cheese, cured meat and jam.
Also, there are many charity shops in Stockbridge that bargain hunters can love exploring.
If you are interested in vintage clothes, pop inside Elaine’s Vintage Clothing and Those Were The Days Vintage at St Steven’s Street. For some hand-crafted jewellery, visit Galerie Mirages at Raeburn Place. Also, An Independent Zebra and Willow Boutique has a wide variety of gift items you can choose from.
12. Drink Your Way around the Traditional Pubs
After a morning or afternoon of walking around Stockbridge, you would likely deserve a cheeky pint or two. Thankfully this is the home to some of Edinburgh’s popular bars and traditional pubs.
Loved by locals, The Bailie Bar has a lively ambience with a great selection of cask ales and craft beers. They regularly host live music and events like pub quizzes. It has a long history. There has been a bar on this site since the 1870s.
Another great option is Hectors. They serve classic British dishes and have a superb selection of draught beers, ciders and cocktails. The laidback family-friendly atmosphere is perfect for a relaxing lunch or dinner. Also, The Stockbridge Tap and The Antiquary Bar are excellent places to enjoy a drink.
13. Search for Stockbridge Market Arch
Nestled in St Stephen Place, this beautiful Georgian market arch is a remnant of Stockbridge’s past.
It sits on the site of an old market which was once one of the largest meat, poultry and fish markets in Edinburgh.
In 1825, Archibald Scott was commissioned to construct a market between St. Stephen Place and Hamilton Place.
It was active from 1823 to 1906. Though the market doesn’t exist today, the market-entrance arch surely does.
It got featured in BBC historical drama North and South. If you are in this area, don’t forget to stop by this historic facade for a photo.
14. Tease your Taste Buds at Scran and Scallie
Stockbridge has plenty of lovely places to eat. One of our favourites is Scran and Scallie. Founded in 2013 by talented Edinburgh chef, Tom Kitchin, this gastropub has earned its place in Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand within a few years of its opening. Tom is also the proud owner of his fine-dining Michelin-star restaurant, The Kitchin, located in the Leith area of Edinburgh.
Scran and Scallie’s menu includes a great choice of humble yet delicious scrans (food in Scottish), beers, ales and wines. Their pies and fish & chips are a must-try. The cosy atmosphere, lovely service and nature-to-plate dining experience would make your visit memorable. They are pet-friendly as well.
We would recommend making a reservation well in advance, especially in summer.
If you love Thai food, Nok’s Kitchen is also worth a visit. For a fine dining experience, The Stockbridge Restaurant is a great choice too, when you are in this neighbourhood.
15. Admire the Floral Display of Potted Garden
An abundance of colourful and spectacular flowers adorning a small staircase – In recent years, images of this pretty spot in Stockbridge have taken over social media. A quick search on Instagram will show you hundreds of images of this wee private garden. Located at Circus Place, the Potted Garden is a local celebrity.
Thanks to the hard work of the owner, it looks absolutely stunning. If you visit this neighbourhood in summer or spring, don’t miss taking a quick photo stop here. Also, the photogenic old building next to the garden is known as Duncan’s Land.
Map of Things to Do in Stockbridge
Here is a map of all the attractions mentioned in this article. We have also marked the best cafes, restaurants, shops and pubs for you. Save this Google Map on your phone to use it later. Also, you can use it offline.
Best Time to Visit Stockbridge
This lively neighbourhood is a delight to explore all year round. There is always something to do here. Usually, July is the warmest month, and January is the coldest month in Edinburgh.
During the long summer days, Stockbridge sees more tourists than usual. So, sometimes there is a long queue in cafes and shops.
If there is a specific restaurant you want to eat in, make reservations in advance. Also, the city gets super busy in August, the month of the Edinburgh Festival.
Spring and autumn months are less busier times in Stockbridge. The vibrant autumnal hue makes this area more beautiful. April is the best time to catch the stunning display of rhododendron flowers at the Royal Botanical Garden.
Winter months are cold and gloomy. If the weather is too bad, you can hide in a cosy cafe with a cup of coffee or get warm by the fireplace in a pub. Winter in Stockbridge is more intimate. Also, this area looks beautiful in the snow.
How to Reach Stockbridge from Edinburgh City Centre
The best way to reach here is by taking a short walk from Princes Street. It’s a scenic and slightly downhill walk. Also, the route is pretty straightforward.
We usually walk down first to Circus Lane. It takes approximately 15 minutes from Princes Street. Walk along Frederick Street to the north of Princes Street, and then follow Howe Street before turning left near St Stephen’s Church towards Circus Lane.
If you are coming from Dean Village, take the footpath running parallel to the Water of Leith. It takes around 10-12 minutes to get here.
Stockbridge is also very easily accessible by public transport. Take Lothian Bus services 24 and 29 from Edinburgh City Centre. Buses run very frequently. From Princes Street, it is only 7 minutes by bus.
Also, you can catch bus service 36 from Queensferry Street to Hamilton Place.
The bus ticket costs £1.80 for a single journey and £4.50 for day tickets.
We hope our article has given you the inspiration to include Stockbridge in your next trip to Edinburgh. Even if you are short on time, a detour to this neighbourhood is certainly worth it.