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The Port O'Leith Bar (Edinburgh)

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58 Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 554 3568

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      27.08.2003 22:12
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      The Port O' Leith Bar is , if not a well kept secret, definitely off the beaten track. Situated in the eponymous port area of Edinburgh, it is probably Leith's last remaining sailors' bar. Decked out in nautical bric a brac, including flags, lifebelts, nameplates, and just about every other bit of ship you can imagine, it resembles a storeroom at a breakers'yard. Prominent among all this nauticalia is an old style figurehead, carved in the likeness of the pub's larger than life landlady, Mary Moriarty. Mary is central to the whole quaint and charmingly debauched atmosphere of the bar. While taking no nonsense (she has been known to hurdle the substantial counter to tackle troublemakers), she presides with a maternalistic but tolerant air. The pub still attracts large numbers of seafarers, despite the relative decline of the docks. The cheap and eclectic jukebox usually features whole albums of Croatian, Russian and German tunes, and a bewildering variety of accents can be heard most of the time. Candlelight, checked red tablecloths, and a dark but warm ambience add to the dockside theme - one which has evolved naturally, not been created by a brewery design team. Despite, or because, of this, the bar also attracts a surprisingly young and lively non-seagoing clientele, especially at weekends. A loud and lively disco, featuring very different selections from your average uptown nightclub, is fired up of a weekend, and the atmosphere can get very boisterous, though rarely threatening. The regulars are a fine mix of local characters, and usually very welcoming. Strangers are not a strange occurrence in here. There are no real ales, but a comprehensive selection of draught and bottled beers whose provenance reflects the international clientele. Food is mainly of the sandwich variety, but is of high quality and available most of the day. The pub is also the only one I know which sells snuff (in several varieties). It's diffe rent, usually fun, and within reach of several other fine old howffs in the Leith area. Why not forsake the arty pretensions of the Festival City for some real atmosphere? The Port O' Leith is at 58 Constitution Street. You can catch a no 16 bus from the North side of Princes street to the door, or catch a no 12 or 22 to the foot of Leith Walk. From there, it's five minutes walk down the road to the right of Woolworths. The pub has an excellent, entertaining website at www.ednet.co.uk/~portoleith/index.php, which will only make you more keen to visit

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