Image © Bob Jones
Latitude: 55° 59'N
Longitude: 03° 10'W
Ownership: Forth Ports plc
Usage: Leisure, Commercial
Contact name: Capt Bob Baker, Chief Harbour Master
Address: Forth Ports plc, Tower Place, Leith, EH6 7DB
Telephone no: 0131 555 8855
About LeithSituated some thirty miles from the open sea, the sheltered mouth of the Water of Leith would probably have provided the first natural anchorage for small vessels. It was during the invasion of Leith by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 that the first wooden pier was constructed which was used for the unloading of stores for his army. A stone wharf was later built on the east side of the river followed by a small dock on the west side, and dry docks were built in 1772 and 1787.
Pressure was placed on the City for the construction of a large wet dock and one was eventually started but never completed. When the bridge at Sandport Place was replaced by a drawbridge, this gave access to the upper harbour and enabled a new quay at the Coalhill to be constructed. Another drawbridge was built at Bernard Street and in 1806 the first of the wet docks, the Old East Dock, was completed and was followed by the completion of the Old West Dock in 1817. In 1852 the Victoria Dock was completed. The Dock Commission was instituted by Act of Parliament in 1838, and in 1853 a report by James Rendel, engineer, was submitted to the Commissioners detailing the state of the docks. The Harbour and Docks Act of 1860 cleared all outstanding debts due by the City to the Treasury, and paved the way for the completion of new wet docks on the East side of the river. These were the Albert Dock, completed in 1865, the Edinburgh Dock in 1881 and the Imperial Dock in 1902. The East and West Breakwaters were completed in 1942 and an ambitious scheme for the impounding of the docks by means of a sealing dam and lock gates was completed in 1969, and provided the deep water facilities which enables todays cruise liners to berth in the Western Harbour. The Dock Commisioners were succeeded by the Forth Ports Authority in 1968, and in 1992 the Authority became Forth Ports plc.
Leith has for centuries acted as the port of Edinburgh and remains one of Scotland's larger ports. The modern harbour is located in South Leith, but with the distinctive break-waters enclosing its entrance to the north west.
Redevelopment from the early 1990s, which claims to have resulted in the largest water-front development in Europe, includes the Scottish Executive building at Victoria Quay, desirable residential dwellings, retail and leisure facilities, including the Ocean Terminal complex, which incorporates the permanent berth of the Royal Yacht Britannia since it was de-commissioned in 1998.
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