My fair city Edinburgh is always a popular as a city trip for those in the UK and as a stop off on longer Scotland/UK/Europe trips for those from further afield, I thought I’d do a little guide of vintage and charity shops. As you will know if you read this blog regularly I am a massive charity shopper (I used to do a series called charity shop finds), and having lived in different parts of Edinburgh for what seems like forever, I thought I’d share the knowledge I have accumulated over the the last 11 years. I hope that this will be useful to anyone wanting to do something a little different from the tourist standards on their visit!
I’ve organised this post around the Edinburgh Charity Shop and Resuse map, which is produced by local recyling/sustainability organisation Changeworks (I worked there one summer during my undergrad!) which lists every single charity shop in the city. Which is great if you live here, but obviously doesn’t help much if your time is limited and you don’t know what different parts of the city are like.
So what I’ve done is picked out some of the areas that have lots of charity/vintage shops, added a little description of the area and picked out some of the shops I particularly like and what kind of things they are good at (obviously that will depend on what people donate though). I should also point out that Edinburgh charity shops are not cheap compared to other parts of the country (like lucky Vix and her 50p steals!) its a big reasonably wealthy city with lots of demand. Expect to pay £3-6 for a top, £4-8 for trousers or skirts, quite a bit more for designer brands or vintage. The upside of steady demand is that stuff doesn’t tend to stay in most shops, and new stock comes in all the time, so few places feel picked over.
Anyhoo, lets get on with it!
This is the student area right next to the (Edinburgh) university and the area with the highest concentrations of charity shops in the city. On Nicholson Street they are actually one right next to the other, so even with a spare half hour you can get through lots of them. My favourite ones there are Shelter, which I used to be obsessed with when I lived in the area as a student and for years was the only charity shop that would put effort into its window displays (the others have now caught up) and Oxfam, which has a good selection of high street stuff and new sustainable/fairtrade things like jewellery, chocolate, bags, cleaning products etc. Further along the street, on Clerk Street is one of the three branches of Armstrong’s vintage, the best one in my opinion, with less proper pre-1960s stuff, but more reasonable prices than the bigger Grassmarket branch, and a great selection of second hand cashmere, and some great 70s and 80s bits that can (almost) compete with the charity shops in terms of price.
Stockbridge is a lovely upmarket family and young professional area, and the main street is an ideal place to wander down on the way to or from the Botanical Gardens. The charity shops are on the road that starts off as Deanhaugh Street nearest town and then turns into Reaburn Place and eventually Comely Bank Road. The charity shops are a bit more spread out than they are in Newington, and mixed up with lovely little independent shops, including the jewellerer where we got my engagement ring. Stockbridge is also a great place to stop for food or coffee. My favourite shops are the Hospices of Hope, which is tiny but I’ve got surprisingly much from, Barnado’s, which makes so much effort with decoration that it almost looks like a commercial shop and Cancer Research, which has a good vintage section, and St. Columba’s right at the far end, which is crap for clothes but has great knick/knacks and crockery, and often does 50% off days. There’s also a Mary Portas Save the Children one, which I have written about before, and I actually don’t bother going into any more, it’s so ridiculously overpriced and they’ve let the interior get too cramped and it’s actually not as nice as the Barnado’s.
The Grassmarket is right in the middle of the historic centre tourist area, with lots of pubs and great views of the Castle. It’s also a place of many commerical vintage shops. There’s only one charity shop, Barnado’s Vintage, which has only got vintage stuff and looks lovely, though it is small and I’ve never actually bought anything from there. The most prominent of the vintage shops in the biggest (and original) branch of Armstrong’s. It’s very big, the front room has a lot of stuff from the 1950s or earlier, which is lovely to look at but very expensive (last time I was in there, they sold a 50s dress with all the seams going and bits ripped out of the sleeves so that they were beyond repair and would have to be taken off for £35), the second room is menswear, with lots of uniforms, and the back room has more normal priced stuff from the 60s onwards, including a bit of contemporary and lots of hats. Further along the west end of the Grassmarket, there’s Iconic, a fab homewear/aniques/20th century design shop, and on West Bow, the street leading from there towards the Art College, there’s Godiva, which sells re-designed and re-fashioned vintage at boutique prices, and Herman Brown, a vintage shop I’ve never gone into but is meant to be good.
I’ve only started going to there semi regularly recently. Tollcross is quite traffickey so it’s not the best place to wander about, but it gets leafier as you go up Home Street and it turns into Bruntsfield Place, where you also get nice independent shops and cafes. And there’s some great bargains to be had, with prices a wee bit lower than elsewhere. I love the new Salvation Army, which has vintage at the most bizarrely high prices, but is cheap as chips for everything else, including curtains and sheets for sewing. I’ve got some great vintage dresses from the Shelter shop, and Birth Link Thrift shop, Scotlands/Edinburgh’s oldest charity shop is worth a visit. It’s more like an unreconstituted old-style charity shop but is relatively big and cheap.
As you follow the main road out of the city, Bruntsfield turns into Morningside, a wealthy and sedate part of town, with lots of big houses and middle aged ladies who lunch. I’ve made the bus journey or cycle ride out a few times to go to Loopy Lorna’s, and amazing afternoon tea type cafe, and there’s lots of charity shops there. I don’t know that part of town well enough to know the character of each, but this being a rich part of town, upmarket brand cast offs are common. I’ve got quite a few things from the Morningside Road Shelter shop (not as far out as the others) and just off it on Colinton Road there’s an adorable antiques shop called City Vintage that stocks furniture, homewares collectables and a tiny little bit of clothing. I’d never pay the kinds of prices they are asking for some of it but its great for browsing.
Leith is a large part of Edinburgh (it used to be it’s own town, but got merged into the main city) with a strong working class identity. Although they’ve been speaking of it being regenerated for decades, there’s not much in the way of middle classey cafe culture that is cropping up everywhere else. Its still a place of old man’s pubs, random hardware shops and specialist ethnic minority businesses. A fascinating place, but since we’re talking charity shops, probably not ideal, many charity shops near the foot of Leith Walk and Great Junction Street in particular are pretty grotty. I wouldn’t have included this area at all except for the fact that I live there and both my favourite charity shops are here. The first is the St. Columba’s about half way down Leith Walk. The clothes section is small, but they have an amazing crockery/homewares section, and massive amounts of curtains, bedding and lacey table cloths. And it’s staffed by blue aproned old ladies who are always up for a wee chat. The other one is the Salvation Army near the bottom of the walk, which always has great vintage dresses, and unlike the Tllcross Sally Army, the vintage isn’t priced at vintage shop prices. I’ve got three dresses there so far, and the most expensive one was £10. I still wish they’d put in a changing rooom though!
So there we are, charity and vintage shop Edinburgh! I hope I haven’t bored anyone, and anyone with specific questions, feel free to shoot me an email. The proper addresses of the shops can be found on the Charity Shop map. If you’re from here or have visited and have your own favourites, please share!