Upmarket hotel plan for Leith Walk cul-de-sac

Kenny Waugh, who once owned the The Royal Ettrick Hotel, aims to open a hotel on Leith's Smith Street. Picture by Andrew O'Brien
Kenny Waugh, who once owned the The Royal Ettrick Hotel, aims to open a hotel on Leith's Smith Street. Picture by Andrew O'Brien
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A cul-de-sac off Leith Walk is the site of ­proposals for an exclusive ­boutique 17-room hotel backed by one of Edinburgh’s wealthiest entrepreneurs

While the gentrification of Leith has seen the docklands and Shore given a smart overhaul over the past couple of decades, other areas have had to wait their turn.

Guests would have continental breakfasts delivered to their door under plans being suggested by former pub tycoon Kenny Waugh.

If approved, the hotel could also represent a rebirth for Mr Waugh himself, who was forced to sell much of his bar and bookies empire in 2011 due to mounting losses and bank debts of £46.2 million.

Nearby businesses expressed surprise as well as delight that Smith’s Place was finally set to benefit from Leith’s growing tourism sector.

The cashier at Pat’s Chung Ying Chinese Supermarket around the corner can hardly believe it – “On Smith’s Place, are you sure?”.

“For a long time, Leith has needed a business like this,” said Michael Panagiotis, owner of Qupi ­Coffee on Leith Walk for the past 14 years.

“It’s time for the area to become respectable. All these years of George Street and Princes Street getting all the visitors – that should extend elsewhere, too.”

Andrew Kocha, a support adviser at the Polish Family Support Centre, said: “Any investment in Leith Walk is welcome. It’s slowly being transformed. A hotel would really add to that and be a ­benefit to the community.

“It would be good for Leith’s image, because most of the visitors to Edinburgh are staying in the city centre. Not many are coming to Leith Walk.”

However, the boss of the Malmaison Hotel on Tower Place, which helped kickstart the gentrification of the Shore when it opened 20 years ago, said any new boutique hotel would face significant challenges on Leith Walk.

General manager Stewart Campbell said: “When it comes to taking advantage of peak dates like the Six Nations and New Year, we will always fill up a little bit later than the central hotels. We do always fill, but we would command a lesser rate because of that.”

Both Waugh Taverns and its planning agent Format Design were unavilable for comment.