The tranquil Edinburgh suburb has a lot more to it than meets the eye
Morningside in the south of Edinburgh has a reputation as a tranquil, luxurious suburb of Scotland’s capital. And while this is certainly true, there are plenty of things to discover in Morningside which might surprise you.
Like the rest of Edinburgh, Morningside has a long and rich history, and as such is steeped in cultural quirks everywhere you look. If you have ever lived in Morningside, some of these may be familiar to you, and if you are thinking of moving to Morningside, these hidden gems are sure to open your eyes to this area’s unique charm. So here are 12 things you probably don’t know about Morningside.
For foodies, there is nothing quite like finding the perfect pizza. Thankfully, Morningside has plenty of contenders. In fact, there are four delicious pizzerias within less than half a mile of each other on Morningside Road, including Pizza Express, La Favorita and Dominos – all of which opened in the last three years. For those who have no interest in ordering their Italian meals from chains, there are also local Italian restaurants such as Caffé e Cucina (a favourite among residents) as well as Stefano’s fish and chip shop and The Comiston Fry. So you’ll never be short of pizza again.
One of Morningside’s most famous fictional figures, Miss Jean Brodie, has even left her mark on one of Morningside Road’s popular pizzerias. Pizza Express opened in the suburb in 2013, in the former Braid Church. To celebrate the building’s roots, the company have used the church’s organ at the heart of their interior design to celebrate Muriel Spark’s beloved Scottish character. The restaurant’s walls are all decorated with murals inspired by the famous character, including some of her best quotes.
No one can deny that Morningside Library has had an interesting life. In 2011, the popular haunt for bookworms was treated to a million pound makeover, making the stunning Edwardian building even more beautiful than before. However, the site was quickly forced to close again after dry rot was discovered. It was only at the end of 2013 that the library was finally deemed safe for re-opening. During this interim period, library users spent months visiting a portable library van parked across the road.
The Canny Man’s pub is undoubtedly one of the district’s best known and most loved landmarks, recognised far and wide for its quirky atmosphere and incredible Bloody Marys. The bar opened in 1871 as The Volunteer’s Arms. Nowadays, it is known as a great place to enjoy a few relaxing drinks with family and friends, but The Canny Man hasn’t always been so quiet. In the 1970s, the bar was home to some rather risqué entertainment, including go-go dancers strutting their stuff in sparkly bikinis at all times of day.
Most people, including many of the locals, don’t believe Morningside’s Wild West actually exists – until they see it for themselves. But once you see the cantina and jail you won’t soon forget them. This odd, captivating and completely unique area is hidden behind the library and was built back in the 1990s as part of an advertising campaign for a furniture business.
The Dominion Cinema is a stunning example of art deco and has been attracting visitors from far and wide since January 1938. In fact, the Dominion is quite possibly the last remaining family-run cinema in Scotland, so seeing a film here is a completely unique and indulgent experience.
Back in 1982, Morningside Free Church was built, featuring a huge auditorium. However, nowadays the site has been transformed into the new and improved Church Hill Theatre, which opened in 2006 after extensive refurbishment. There is very little of the original church features left to see in Church Hill now, but it is undeniably a well-used and attractive performance space.
If you’re looking for the best cup of coffee in Morningside, you might be surprised to hear it comes from the little police box sitting outside Marks and Spencer. But it’s true! The Counter set up shop in a former police box back in August 2014, and has continued to be a huge hit with locals and tourists alike. The box is open from 7.30am to 3pm, and the couple behind the coffee stop have recently opened two other converted Edinburgh police boxes in Tollcross and Usher Hall.
Some history buffs out there may have already heard of the Bore Stane (or Stone for any non-Scots). No matter how you pronounce it, you can’t deny the stone’s historical importance. The large, ancient rock marks the spot where King James IV set off to lead his army south towards the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Since then, the stone has been built into the wall and a plaque has been added above it, so it’s not quite as easy to walk past without realising.
Edinburgh’s original tram system included Morningside from 1872 until 1956, and the remnants of this time can still be seen throughout the neighbourhood today. Back in the fifties, thousands of local people flocked to see the final tram travel from Morningside Station to Shrubhill depot, and the journey was even broadcast live on the BBC.
From 1884 to 1962, the quiet freight line which runs underneath Morningside Road was open and used for passenger trains. However, in the early sixties the Edinburgh Suburban Line was decommissioned in favour of other transport methods, and now only the entrance to Morningside Station remains. You’ll have to look hard to see evidence of its past though, as it is now the home of the Bank of Scotland’s Morningside branch. Can you see any hints of its railway past hidden behind the sleek bank exterior?
The area between Canaan Lane and Newbattle Terrace looked very different back in the late 18th and early 19th century. The familiar streets of Falcon Avenue, Falcon Court and Falcon were nowhere to be found, and instead the space was taken up by a huge mansion house and its 18 acres of grounds.
The mansion was called Falcon Hall and belonged to John G. Bartholomew. It was demolished in 1909. However, its legacy still lives on, as the falcon-topped pillars and gates that once marked the entrance to the house now mark the entrance to the Scottish staple Edinburgh Zoo.
Another great fact about Morningside? It’s home to Craighouse! Find out how you can get your hands on a piece of Edinburgh history and make the move to the city’s most desirable new development. Click here to find out more.