Of late, Leith, Edinburgh’s first major trading port area, is experiencing a renaissance and makes for an interesting contrast to downtown Edinburgh. The waterfront neighborhood has long been home to artisans, farmer’s markets and independent retailers, so it’s no wonder Leith is attracting new visitors as well as loyal locals.
Adjoining one of Leith’s finest early 17thcentury merchant houses, Lamb House, was recently conserved and renovated by Kristin and Nick, the couple that forms Groves-Raines Architects. Their desire to create their dream house materialized with the completion of a contemporary garden pavilion built in 18thcentury style, which sleeps up to six people.
Staying true to the style of the main house – where, impressively, Mary Queen of Scots once dined – the pavilion is furnished mainly with antique pieces, yet is carefully edited for a functional, contemporary feel.
The ogee-roofed pavilion holds three rooms on its three floors, which are all painted with gorgeous Farrow & Ball shades, ranging from soft blue and ochre to bright raspberry red and mint green. Two of these rooms have double beds, of which one is a half-tester, and one room has twin beds.
The two bathrooms – one en suite and one with a roll-top bath – are semi-shared. For cozy evenings in, take the beautiful spiral staircase to the second floor sitting room, where a formal dining area complete with open fire awaits.
The Pavilion’s rugs, the chairs, the sofas and even the paintings on the walls – whether antique or reproductions – bring out an authentic atmosphere that’s classic but nonetheless has all the modern comforts needed to enjoy the cold Scottish winter nights. There’s even underfloor heating.
The generously equipped kitchen and utility room take care of all possible household needs. When the sun does peep out, step outside for a morning coffee in the courtyard, or catch some rays in the secluded Renaissance-inspired knot garden.
If you’re not one for home cooking, then the fact that the Pavilion at Lamb’s House has no on-site kitchen should not worry you.
Kristin and Nick will welcome you with a lovely bottle of wine and some breakfast treats, but will urge you to discover the culinary experiences to be had outside this grand house’s grounds.
In the surrounding streets, top-of-the-line restaurants are aplenty, even a few Michelin-starred ones; Restaurant Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. And of course in keeping with the times, this hip and arty neighborhood also hosts a street food market, Pitt Street Market, on the weekends.
Kristin Hannesdottir and Nick Groves-Raines first met as architecture students at the College of Art in Edinburgh, Kristin hailing from Iceland and Nick from Northern Ireland. Having bonded over their abhorrence concerning the demolition of great houses in the city, the pair decided to join forces, and have since rescued and renovated many instances of Scotland’s architectural heritage.
Kristin and Nick currently live in the adjoing wing on the first and upper floors of Lamb’s House and work in their architectural practice in the extension to the west, and are thus close at hand should visitors want anything.
Outside of the walls of Lamb House, you can find the Leith waterfront just steps away. A number of streets have historical importance, such as Leith Walk, which was where the city walls used to stand, and Water Street, formerly Rotten Row, is where Mary Queen of Scots palace used to be. Scotland’s first dry dock was built in North Leith in 1720. Because of its rich trading history, Leith still has a myriad of artisanal industries still alive and well, which can be discovered in its buzzing markets.
This area is known for its Michelin-starred restaurants only 10 minutes away, and if you want to explore Edinburgh proper, hop on the bus for a 15-minute ride. As the capital of Scotland, this fine city, with numerous open parks and gardens, is home to many buildings of old grandeur, medieval streets and of course, the imposing Edinburgh Castle in the South.
For those who are art history-inclined, there are four major public art galleries and the National Museum of Scotland.
And if you happen to be around during the summer, don’t miss out on one of the best-known arts festivals in the world, The Edinburgh Festival.
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