Friday, June 19, 2009

Charity Shops of Edinburgh - the personal review

Having thoroughly checked out four of the seven areas on the Edinburgh Charity Shop map, I've decided to write a little review. It's very personal, as it's only about what I experienced, and what I wanted out of a charity shop in the last week, so don't take it too seriously! But if you ever shop in Edinburgh it might be useful, and I hope it will be entertaining too. I've grouped these charity shops according to the map.

Stockbridge, Ferry Road and Davidson Mains Stockbridge is my standard (and superb) area for a charity shop trawl if I only have one day. It's a charming, village-feel, part of Edinburgh, an easy walk away from my parents' home. The houses are old and characterful and the inhabitants fairly well-off and interesting. This of course makes for interesting and good-quality donations to the charity shops! Some that really stand out are Barnardos, which has wonderful vintage displays (not for sale) and a small vintage clothes section, and St Columba's Hospice shop, which has recently transformed itself from the sad neighbour of the classier shops into a wonderful trove of vintage china. Oxfam, Shelter and St John's ambulance also have second-hand bookshops here, and Oxfam Music is well-stocked. You might find anything in Stockbridge, but it is probably particularly good for clothes.
There is only one shop left on Ferry Road, but as it's very near my parents' home I go there quite often. Last year I had a wonderful visit, when I bought, among many other things, the vintage dress I'm going to wear at my garden party! This time I found nothing (to Elizabethd's amazement) but that's just the luck of the draw. I've never been to the Davidson Mains shops - they are far off the beaten track and mainly serve the local community, I think.

Leith and Abbeyhill Leith Walk, heading from the city centre down to the old port of Leith, is a broad, elegant road that has plenty of space for lorries to pull up outside the shops, so the charity furniture shops are collecting here. Their stock seems good and regularly changing, and they also stock smaller items for the travelling visitor! Several Edinburgh charities collect together all their vintage stock and put it into one shop, and St Columbas' Doo-Cot (his dovecot, if you were wondering) is the Hospice's very charming shop, with a lot of china, embroidered linen etc. The advantages are that this is a charming shop with wonderful stock. The disadvantage is that the prices are accordingly high. Still well worth a look. Further into Leith, the Victorian port architecture is impressive, but the area is quite a strange mixture of hard-faced women swearing at their kids and tourists. The charity shops mingle with the Pound Stretchers, and are the smartest and most cheerful shops along the Leith roads. All well worth a visit.



Oldtown and Newington

One of the roads of the Old Town is full of charity shops - it's variously named South Bridge, Nicholson Street and Clark Street, as you walk along it. It's near the university so there are many students both working and shopping in the charity shops, but plenty of elderly ladies too! The shops along the road can be divided into those which aid the big, national charities and those which are for the local Edinburgh ones. More than anywhere else I found a sharp diversity between the two types. The 'big' charities have clean, modern, characterless shops, and the elderly ladies running them often told me, 'Oh no, Head Offce have decided that we don't stock buttons any more'. The local charities are often a bit more interesting, with perfectly clean but less 'snazzy' shops, and a braver idea of what they are prepared to stock. I found my best buttons, and the best chat, in a far-flung local charity shop which I'd never seen before, even though I'd been charity shopping down that road last year. There is some overlap, and it is never pointless to look in the 'snazzy' modern versions, but they are all a bit too 'Mary Queen of Charity Shops' and not enough 'Aladdin's Cave' for a real treasure hunter.

West End, Gorgie and Dalry Anyone who reads Ian Rankin's Rebus books knows that, as with Leith, I was on a walk from tourists' central Edinburgh to some more workaday areas, here. I began on Shandwick Place and, with a few problems on the map, moved to Dalry Road. It looks like a more or less straight line on the map, but it wasn't. However, the shops were great. Even the national charities had some interesting stock, and the local ones like Bethany Christian Trust (always good) turned out to have fantastic stock from my point of view. The Salvation Army shop was particularly good for clothes and chat. Back in the West End, I found that two out of the three shops marked on the Queensferry Road had shut, but that the St Columba's Hospice shop was fantastic and worth the short walk. It was stocked by four very interesting people, aged from 20s to retirement, who seemed to be having fun as a team and displayed stock according to their strengths. Thus, antique china rubbed shoulders with funky retro clothing, and all was well laid out. The staff also knew a lot about other Charity Shops (this doesn't always happen), and recommended a trip to Portobello, the seaside town outside Edinburgh, for a lovely combination of sea and charity shopping. Sounds good for a future visit!

It was in this last shop that a gentleman asked me if I was doing a PhD in charity shops. Do you think I have enough material?
Tomorrow I will publish a Garden Party post - letting you know all the lovely ladies who are involved, who will be posting their own Garden Party ideas and images either on Saturday (my birthday) or Sunday. Of course my own party isn't until the following week, as I couldn't get it ready so soon after flying home. Thus, your Garden Party posts will be all (OK, most) of the partying I do on my actual birthday - looking forward to them! Sign up on the original post if you still want to join in!

12 comments:

Heloise said...

Just wanted to wish you a very Happy Birthday for tomorrow. Enjoy all your celebrations.
Great in-depth summary of your visit to Edinburgh charity shops.

Maison Douce said...

I am planning on joining your lovely party... Just not sure if it will be saturday or sunday!! Happy birthday, Floss!!

Lululiz said...

OK, now I really really want to move to Edinburgh, I can't believe how many charity shops there are!

I have finally decided on my outfit for the party......... I think........... I'll sleep on it and see how I feel on the day, omg, I just realised, its gone midnight now in France, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Alexandra said...

Happy Birtday Floss! I hope to be joining your Garden Party tomorrow. Thanks for making my next visit to Edinburgh and easy one!!

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Happy Birthday! I love the comment " are you doing a PhD in charity shops". Oh if he only knew about all of "us" out there.:-D Have a great Birthday!
Glenda

Sarah said...

You truely are a charity shop expert! What with not selling buttons? I just don't understand, if there is a market for them then why not. I only go in to see if they have buttons, usually, and I'm always disappointed. Perhaps I should look at the clothes and cut the buttons off.

lou said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOO FLOSS, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for another great post! I hope you have a lovely day and lots of birthday cake. :0)

Love Lou xxx

LissyLou said...

oooh i have my garden post almost ready to go for later today!!!! Happy Birthday to you Floss. Theres something waiting for you over at my blog.
Have a great day! xx

Elizabethd said...

Happy birthday Floss!

THIS'N'THAT said...

Happy Birthday! Maybe you are destined to do a charity shop guide book? They say that we each have at least one book in us!
Lesley X

Pia K said...

oldie but goldie post, wow these shops i must visit whenever i'm in edinburgh next! sounds wonderful! and why haven't i thought of trawling the lovely streets of edinburgh for such treasures before...

Franca said...

thanks for your comment, how fun you did a guide too!