When passenger boats could dock at Lothian Road in Edinburgh's city centre

For almost a century it was possible for visitors to hop a passenger boat into Edinburgh within just 500 feet of where the Usher Hall now stands.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 6:08 pm

Upon its completion in 1822, the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal, linking Scotland's two largest cities via Falkirk and the Forth and Clyde Canal, was essentially the M8 on water; the liquid superhighway of its time.And, while it still exists, with large stretches in better shape now than they have been in generations, the canal's eastern extent once penetrated far deeper into Edinburgh city centre.Named Port Hopetoun basin, the Union Canal's giant eastern terminus occupied a plot measuring some 9000 square metres in area on the western fringe of Lothian Road. Incredibly, it was located within just 500 feet of what is now the Usher Hall.

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Port Hopetoun canal basin occupied a huge area of Edinburgh city centre for 100 years. Picture: Francis M Chrystal collection/JPIMedia

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"Your fare was 6s 6d (about 33p today) and that provided you with a cabin. You could risk the elements on deck for 4s 6d."There was even an advert for an Edinburgh to America route via a link at Glasgow."

Port Hopetoun survived a century until 1922, when it was closed and subsequently abandoned to become an embarrassing and inconspicuous stretch of wasteground situated on one of the city's main thoroughfares.The Art Deco Lothian House, which incorporated the Regal Cinema (now an Odeon), would fill the site in 1936. A stone-carved relief on the building's frontage recalls the basin that preceded it. A plaque reads: "Here stood Port Hopetoun 1822-1922".

Brought back to life as part of the Millennium Link project in 2001, the eastern part of the present-day canal now ends at Lochrin Basin in nearby Fountainbridge.

A watercolour showing Port Hopetoun and canal buildings. Picture: Submitted
The entrance to the Port Hopetoun basin on the corner of Lothian Road and Morrison Street. Picture: JPIMedia
An Ordnance Survey map from 1893, showing the Port Hopetoun canal basin at Lothian Road. Picture: NLS Maps
The former canal basin lay derelict until the construction of Lothian House in 1936. Picture: JPIMedia
The Art Deco Lothian House was built in 1936. Picture: JPIMedia
A stone-carved relief on the exterior of Lothian House recalls the former canal basin. It reads: Here Stood Port Hopetoun 1822-1922. Picture: TSPL
The canal now ends at Lochrin Basin, pictured here in the 1960s. Picture: JPIMedia