Places to Visit
- Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh
The Boat rocks at the pier o' Leith
Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the ferry
The ship rides by Berwick law
And I maun leave my bonny Mary
This feature was written by travel writer Vivien Devlin who is based in Edinburgh.
The brand new £120 million leisure and retail resort, at Leith Docks, in North Edinburgh, designed like a giant, sleek ocean liner and aptly named Ocean Terminal, opened in October, 2001. As a joint venture between Forth Ports and the Bank of Scotland, this is a prestigious retail development providing 444,000 square feet of quality shopping and leisure facilities.
The creation of Ocean Terminal will ensure that Edinburgh is now on the navigational map for international cruise liners. Passengers just visiting the city for the day now need go no further than the dockside shopping mall, rather than trek up to Princes Street. There are also plans for the development of a ferry service to various European destinations which will certainly open up Leith as a leading maritime gateway to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland.
But this new complex is not just accessible from the sea. It is open to everyone arriving by car (with 1500 parking spaces situated in the bow and stern of the building) and a regular bus service from the city centre.
Here you will find a selection of leading high street stores, such as Bhs and Debenhams, with leading designer departments, with fashions from Jasper Conran and Lulu Guinness amongst many others. Also Prego Leather, Logo and Schuh amongst dozens of retail units, selling clothes, jewellery, perfume, shoes, gifts, arts and crafts. On the top floor there is a state of the art 12 screen cinema and moored alongside the Terminal is the Royal yacht Britannia.
Sir Terence Conran and his team of architects, CD partnership designed the entire project, selected because of the company's worldwide reputation for creating buildings that are sympathetic to their environment. Its very innovative ship-like design, has a huge glazed ceiling high up above the three storey complex offers natural light all day long.
"Ocean Terminal is a modern and optimistic building." says Conran, "This is a fitting addition, we hope, to Edinburgh's built heritage"Following Conran's restaurant success in London, Paris and New York with such prestigious names as Bibendum, Mezzo, Quaglino's, here right at the centre of the terminal, with fabulous views over the Forth and across to Fife, are the Zinc Bar & Grill and the Ocean Kitchen. These are the first Conran restaurants in Scotland.
Leith: where the city meets the sea
Similar to the Docklands on the Thames in London, the port of Leith has been strengthening its position as a focus of economic prosperity. Here are exclusive new housing developments, disused warehouses renovated into stylish apartments, art galleries, and businesses, especially in the media world with Scot FM radio and Waterside Television. The Scottish Executive (the Scottish Government's administration satff) are located here near the waterfront (see illustration). Many fine dining restaurants have flourished here in recent years such as Fishers and the Michelin star Martin Wishart as well as the Malmaison hotel along the Shore.
Leith has a distinct identity based on its historical place at the heart of shipping, fishing and trade, at one time a major port for imports and exports. At the end of the nineteenth century this was a busy, thriving mercantile burgh in its own right, separate from the Capital. It is also fascinating to learn that there used to be regular steamships between Leith and New York. After a period of demise with the closure of industries and trade, there has been a serious renaissance across both commercial enterprise and leisure facilities. Today the attractive quaysides, cobbled streets, creative atmosphere and traditional pubs are attracting a thriving business community and a lively, cosmopolitan residential population. "Day trippers" from Edinburgh or further afield have for many years frequently visited Leith for a good day out, to enjoy the sea air, lunch or dinner and for special events such as the summer jazz festival, or to see the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race.
Now with the Ocean Terminal for shopping, a choice of films or to tour the Royal Britannia there is something for all the family.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Over 800,000 visitors have toured the Britannia since it opened to the public in October 1998. In February this year it was awarded one of the tourist industry's most prestigious accolades, a Five Star World Class Visitor Attraction grading. It was also voted the Best New Attraction in the UK and is now one of Scotland's most popular places to visit.
A few weeks ago the yacht made her final voyage, transferring from its original Dock to its new mooring, right on the pier beside Ocean Terminal, in a prime site, directly below the terrace of the Conran restaurants, an fabulous view indeed for diners.
The Britannia was launched on 16th April, 1953 at John Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank. For over forty years until 1997 the yacht served the Royal Family, travelling over one million miles to become one of the most famous ships in the world. She took part in nearly 1,000 Royal and official visits and as a floating palace offered an unusual and special residence for state visits, receptions, royal honeymoons and relaxing family holidays.
Now retired from service the Britannia is open to all visitors where you can see the Royal apartments as well as in contrast the living quarters for the crew of twelve officers. On the tour of four decks you will visit the Bridge, the Admiral's cabin, the State dining room, drawing rooms and the engine room. Many of the original furniture and objects are on display including paintings and gifts to the Queen presented from all over the world.
There is also a vintage Rolls Royce, parked in the ship's garage, not the original but a model which takes the place of the Royal 1964 Phantom V which was transported on Britannia for more than 20 years.
There is a Visitor centre with an attractive multi-media display with a Royal picture gallery, audio facilities in five languages as well as a children's version of the tour. A film show presentation shows newsreel and video documenting the history and past journeys of Britannia. There is also a café and a shop to complete your Royal visit.
Where to Eat in Ocean Terminal
Apart from numerous coffee houses, to revive weary shoppers, there are two contrasting Conran restaurants at Ocean Terminal, both up the escalator on the first floor, rather hidden within this vast shopping mall. The up-market self-service Ocean Kitchen is a very spacious, light and airy café seating 140 diners. Huge picture windows offer an unparalleled view of the harbour and Firth of Forth beyond. Freshly prepared dishes, from snacks, sandwiches, soups, pizza, fries and salads to oriental cuisine such as sushi. This is the perfect place to eat for families offering all the favourites with a little style. There is also the Ocean bar right beside the window perfect for a sunset cocktail.
Next door is the Zinc Bar and Grill for a rather more smart-casual dining experience. Immediately inside is a gleaming, long chrome bar, where we sat on stools surveying the scene for a pre-lunch aperitif and to wait for a table at the window. On a Tuesday lunchtime, the restaurant was very busy. Two women were enjoying a gin and tonic as they could not find their car in the car park, but they seemed happy enough to have come back to the Zinc bar. There is also colourful cube-like seating for a leisurely drink on the other side of the bar. The tables are carefully positioned beside the vast picture window, with an outdoor terrace for warm days, offering an open view of the docks, the Forth and of the Royal Yacht Britannia, moored alongside the pier.
The name Grill reflects its aim to serve freshly prepared food to order. The menu is extremely sensible with a list of steaks, burgers, lamb, chicken, sole, salmon and tuna which can be grilled the way you wish, with or without oils, and with your choice of sauce, from peppercorn to yoghurt, mustard to chilli.
Beforehand there is a small selection of starters - soup, Turkish bread and dips, and salads. I chose the smoked haddock and spinach fishcake which sounded intriguing and tasty which it was. My partner took the crispy duck which he thought was OK but not seasoned enough. I moved on to Linguine with wild mushroom. Not a good choice. The chef obviously is not pasta fan for this was just a mound of dry pasta with some mushrooms thrown on top and quite inedible. I swapped this for grilled vegetables with feta and cous-cous. A colourful mix of aubergines, peppers, garlic, red onion it was a delicious combination. My partner chose a veal cutlet, grilled to order, served with chips and a rocket salad. A feast in itself. While admiring the `ocean` view we sipped a very crisp dry Chablis which was perfect.
A deep breath and then pudding. A perfect lemon tart just as the Parisians make it and a creme brulée. A double espresso each and we were ready to face a spot of retail therapy around Ocean Terminal."Ocean Terminal will be an asset to Leith, a new buzzing commercial district for Edinburgh and an advertisement for a progressive Scotland. It will provide a new view over the magnificent waterscape of Leith and a means of welcoming visitors by sea and land."
Sir Terence Conran
For further information see the Ocean Terminal and Royal Yacht Britannia Web sites.
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