Tucked away just behind Shandwick Place, the West End Village is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. At the very heart of the village lies both William Street and Stafford Street, where the colourful, stylish boutiques and some much-loved pubs and bars combine to create a bohemian feel to this part of Edinburgh. This is a delightful area to explore for both locals and visitors alike.
William Street and Stafford Street are both within easy walking distance of the city centre.
The area is well served by public transport options. If travelling by bus, Lothian Buses routes 3, 25, 31 and 33 will drop you off on the area’s main street, Shandwick Place on a regular basis. Haymarket Train Station, which has services from across Scotland, is close by, and the Airlink 100 bus to Edinburgh Airport has a stop directly outside the station. Running from York Place to Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh Trams stop at stop between Atholl Crescent and Coates Crescent, conveniently placed to get you into the heart of the action quickly and easily.
The History of the West End
The broad streets of the West End were designed in 1813 by James Gillespie Graham. Building was slow, involving many different architects. As a result, the area is a variety of grand Victorian terraces to intimate Georgian shopping streets. Built in 1825 to provide cheaper housing and shops, William Street is a particularly well-preserved street of Georgian shopfronts. The cast iron balconies under the shop windows, designed to allow customers to get a closer look at the goods, are a rare surviving feature.
In recent years the West End has been transformed by the development of The Exchange District, Edinburgh’s main financial and commercial hub. The area is now home to a number of well-known companies, including Scottish Widows, Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management.
Notable Past Residents
The West End has been home to several prominent Edinburgh residents:
Dr Elsie Inglis
Between 1898 and 1914, 8 Walker Street was the medical practice of Dr Jessie Macgregor and Dr Elsie Inglis. A pioneer for women in medicine and a leading suffragette, Elsie gained a reputation for great kindness, often wavering fees and paying for patients to recuperate at the seaside. She worked tirelessly through her career, setting up Edinburgh’s first maternity hospital and the Scottish Women’s Hospital helping Allied soldiers during the First World War.
Samuel J Peploe
39 Manor Place was the birthplace of the artist, Samuel J Peploe (1871 – 1935). Primarily known for his still life paintings, Peploe was one of the four artists known as the 'Scottish Colourists’ whose work was inspired by the bold colour of Matisse and Van Gogh. Today, he is regarded as one of the most important Scottish painters of his generation and his work can be seen in the National Galleries of Scotland.
Dr Joseph Bell
It was whilst studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh that Arthur Conan Doyle met Dr Joseph Bell - the inspiration for the author’s famous character Sherlock Holmes. A surgeon and lecturer, Bell lived at Melville Crescent until his death in 1911.
Throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s Mary Dunlop was a well-known West End character, along with her white pony ‘Smoky’ pulling her mechanical barrel organ. When Mary died in 1966 Smokey went into retirement in an SSPCA centre in Balerno. Mary’s barrel organ can still be seen today in the Museum of Childhood.
The Lough family
The Lough family’s chimney sweeping business was a presence at 15 William Street for almost 100 years. The 1841 census shows John Lough, his wife and two young sons William and Thomas, living at 15 William Street along with two employees. In 1844 William and Thomas were found guilty of stealing a round of Edam cheese, and although only 15 years old William was sentenced to be transported to Australia!
So, the secret’s out! The West End is a hidden gem bursting with places to explore. Go west for a fascinating array of independent boutiques, award-winning retailers, buzzing bars and contemporary restaurants. Find out more about Edinburgh West End>