Chance to explore former site of iconic Edinburgh distillery


Budding archaeologists and whisky enthusiasts will be able to explore the former site of an Edinburgh distillery at an Open Day at Lochrin Basin.

On Saturday 9 May, visitors will be able to drop in to explore the foundations on the rocks of the Lochrin Basin, which is the last surviving port at the Edinburgh end of the Union Canal.

The excavation will provide new information on the construction of the port and life in Edinburgh during the 19th Century when the basin formed part of Lochrin Distillery – the largest in Scotland at the time.


The excavation will provide new information on the construction of the port and life in Edinburgh during the 19th Century



Experts will be on hand to identify parts of the site, which was built to allow distillers to access the canal network.

This will be the last chance for visitors to see the site before the construction of a new development by Knightsbridge Student Housing gets underway later this year.

Edinburgh councillor Richard Lewis said: “Brewers were originally attracted to Fountainbridge and Tollcross because of the large quantities of pure water trapped under the ground and it didn’t take long for distillers to catch on.

“The footprints of Edinburgh’s industrial path can still be seen and the Lochrin Basin Open Day will be a chance for people to gain an insight into the type of construction undertaken by Scottish drinks companies of the early 19th Century.

“Stop by and take a look and chat to archaeologists to discover a piece of local history.”

Located at the end of Lochrin Place, where Ponton Street meets Thornybank and West Tollcross, Lochrin Basin was originally operated by Grey’s Distillers before the site was bought over by John Haig of Haig’s Whisky in 1780 to become the Lochrin Distillery.

The Haig dynasty also built and bought distilleries in Canonmills, Leith, and Sunbury, and John’s sister Margaret married into the Jameson whisky family.

Previous digs have provided structural evidence for the entrance to the basin after archaeologists uncovered walls, wooden wharfs for barges and the remains of industrial bellows from a nearby factory.

Workers also uncovered shoes and original ceramics and glass used by the distillery, and a surprise find of the remains of an 18th century engine house thought to have been built to pump water firstly to the brewery and then to the distillery.

The open day will take place 12-4pm on Saturday 9 May.