So named for medieval mills operated by Augustinian canons, Canonmills bloomed from a village into a suburb in its own right after the draining of a boggy loch. The low-lying area in the shadow of New Town retains a distinctive balance of residential and commercial buildings along narrow Victorian lanes. An eclectic variety of shops stock an extensive array of oddments and upscale goods catering to residents fleeing overly touristed New Town. Secondhand shops do a small fortune in business, small lanes overflowing with specialty jewelers, vintage clothiers, and treasure troves of gramaphones and door-knockers side by side. Stalwart cheesemongers and produce sellers founded in the 19th century are too rooted in the social fabric to be ousted by the likes of a Tesco supermarket; few, if any, signs of encroachment by chains stores are to be found anywhere.
The atmosphere bubbles with activity by evening and over the weekends, stirred up by local restaurants with a distinctly European flavour that bring in Inverleith’s moneyed set and local workers alike. Smith’s Ale House on the main intersection in town glows til late in the night, accommodating football games and one last round. Hotels and houses blend into the brick buildings arranged around a number of small parks. Restored mills serve as desirable flats and apartments bordering the Waters of Leith, a small and winding creek that twists its way towards Leith. Restored footpaths are frequented by pedestrians and cyclists at all hours of the day, studded by benches and world-class art installations that range from human figures to elaborate glass pieces.