The West Port is Edinburgh’s Soho, a heady mix of booze, bosoms, bespoke tailoring and BOOKS. Yes, let’s dwell on that word: books.

Edinburgh’s Book Quarter

Six independent bookshops, one bookbinder; the West Port boasts a concentration of bookshops that is unparalleled in most British cities. Each bookshop has its own atmosphere and ethos. All are home to the ineffable workings of serendipity.

There is Andrew Pringle Booksellers, the always amusing Armchair Books (plus dog), Main Point Books, Peter Bell Books and a specialist foreign language bookshop with no name. There is also, just down the hill, the Owl & Lion Gallery, where you’ll find Isabelle Ting, our local book binder. Scottish Pictures is an essential stop for print and map enthusiasts, whilst the Old Town Bookshop, although situated five minutes away on fashionable Victoria Street, is a spiritual brother of the West Port bookshop crowd.

The other shops

Home to rum clubs, tea apologists and vintage clothing vendors, the West Port is a lively, independent area in Edinburgh that has rather more to it than its obvious, um, ‘assets’. If you fancy a decent pint you could do worse than the Blue Blazer, our lovely local. If you’d like a nice brew then the nearby Tea Tree Café is heartily recommended. If you’d like to get down with the cool kids pop along to Under the Stairs, a shabby chic basement café and bar the other side of the Grassmarket.

Staff

William, the manager, is married to Anne, his partner in the business, and has three wee boys. William is originally from Ulster and almost has a beard.

Doreen survived the previous regime and continues to be popular with the customers.

Other staff include 2 PhD students, 1 artist/film maker, 1 tie wearing gentleman and 1 young person

Wildlife

Clarence

Clarence, our water buffalo, has kept a beady eye over the bookshop for many a long year. It is rumoured that his entire body is the other side of the wall. It is also rumoured that he was smuggled into Scotland by a Victorian man wearing tweed and sporting a dubious moustache. The tales are endless. All we know for sure is that he was rescued from a Leith lane sale by Bert and is now our mascot and resident philosopher. If Clarence could speak he would say:
‘Being shot and stuffed was not the afterlife I’d hoped for. It seems to be going on for rather a long time.’
‘Don’t you dare use my horns to hang bags on.’
‘This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel and a barbaric ritual to those who have been on the wrong end of a shot gun.’

Graham

Graham the grouse was given to William by staff at Armchair Books when he left to set up his own bookshop. The valiant staff saved up all their pennies and were thus able to afford eBay’s finest stuffed grouse. Graham duly arrived, beautifully packed, through the post. He now adorns our Scottish window display. If Graham could speak he would say:

‘What do I disapprove of? What do you have?’
‘You don’t have to be stuffed to work here but it helps.’
‘Don’t you dare make me wear a Santa hat. It‘s degrading and itches.’

West Port Book Festival

The West Port Book Festival was set up in 2008 by Hannah Adcock and Peggy Hughes to celebrate the profusion of pages in Edinburgh’s book quarter. The festival ran for 5 years in over 11 wonderful West Port venues, ranging from singular second-hand bookshops to crisp art spaces and whisky-scented pubs.

westportbookfestival.org