Granton Harbour

Granton Harbour, situated 2½ miles (4 km) to the north of the centre of Edinburgh, was begun in 1836 by Walter, the 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806 - 84), on the estate of his house Caroline Park. The Duke had taken advice from lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850) and promoted the scheme to a committee chaired by engineer James Walker (1781 - 1862) and including Admiral Sir David Milne (1763 - 1845) who were looking at how best to extend the provision of harbour facilities for Edinburgh. The advantage of the Granton scheme was that it could provide a deep-water harbour, unlike Leith, which was dependent on the state of the tide. The harbour was opened by the Duke's brother, Lord John Scott, on 28th June 1838, the day of Queen Victoria's coronation, although work continued almost continuously until 1863, creating breakwaters and further wharves. Both Stevenson and Walker worked on the harbour, with its final form comprising two breakwaters, each 915m / 3000 feet in length, and a 519-m / 1700-foot central pier, dividing the basin into a West Harbour and East Harbour. The water depth was never less than 4m (19 feet). There was a clock-tower and lighthouse at the end of the central pier, while a custom's house and hotel were built at its entrance (both buildings remain; the Granton Hotel became HMS Claverhouse, a navy training establishment, and is now occupied as an army reserve centre).

Before the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge (1890), Granton Harbour provided the main link to Fife and the north. In 1850, the world's first train-ferry was instituted on this route, with railway carriages being conveyed by the paddle-steamer Leviathan to Burntisland. The complex series of ramps and platforms designed to load and unload the carriages and cope with the sizeable tidal range of the Firth of Forth were constructed by Sir Thomas Bouch (1822 - 90), later discredited for his role in the ill-fated first Tay Railway Bridge. Passenger and car ferry services continued from Granton until about the time of the construction of the Forth Road Bridge. A new coaling jetty was added in 1937.

The largest export was coal, although oil, whisky, grain, machinery and timber were also traded and ship-building and repair were important activities. The oceanographer Sir John Murray (1841 - 1914) founded a Marine Laboratory in Granton in 1888, the first of its kind in the UK, and this continued to operate here until 1894, when it moved to Millport. During the First and Second World Wars, Granton was a base for mine-sweepers and vessels patrolling the booms which had been placed across the Firth of Forth to defend Rosyth Naval Base. It was also for many years the base from which the Northern Lighthouse Board supplied its lighthouses.

At one time, Granton was the base for a sizeable fishing fleet, but today this is reduced to almost nothing. It remains home to the Royal Forth Yacht Club (founded 1868) and the Forth Corinthian Yacht Club (founded 1880), together with the Association of Forth Pilots, which provides pilotage services on the River Forth and its associated docks and harbours.

Much of the West Harbour was infilled, initially for industrial use but later for housing development. A new marina has also been created.

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