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Leith Links

An ancient area of parkland located between South Leith and Seafield, Leith Links lies 1½ miles (1.5 km) northeast of the centre of Edinburgh. The Links extends to 18.5 ha (46 acres), but is divided into a larger western section and a smaller eastern section by a road called Links Gardens. It is crossed by a network of paths, lined by mature elm trees.

Traditionally the Links were used to graze cattle, exercise horses and to dry clothes, but also served as the locus for fairs, a use which which continues to the present day. Leith Gala takes place here in June and the multi-cultural Edinburgh Mela in September.

The Links were also used for mustering troops and trenches were dug here during the Siege of Leith (1560). Two distinctive mounds, known as Somerset's Battery (or Giant's Brae) and Pelham's Battery (or Lady Fife's Brae) are remnants of gun positions occupied by an English army, supporting the Scots Protestant Lords of Congregation, who had besieged French troops invited to Scotland by Mary of Lorraine (1515-60), self-appointed Regent for her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87).

The area provides sporting facilities, including bowling greens, football pitches and tennis courts. Cricket has been played here since 1826, with the curiously-named Leith Franklin Academicals Beige Cricket Club still playing here today. Leith Races were once held here and much later there was a pond for model boats. A childrens' play area remains. Ainslie's map of 1804 describes Leith Links as "a Common for Playing at the Golf", reflecting the importance of the Links as a cradle of the game, which is further recognised by a cairn and plaque erected on the West Links in 1984. Golf was possibly played here as early as 1457, when King James II (1430-60) banned the game because it was interfering with archery practice. It is likely that golf was played here before it found its way to St. Andrews; records show golfers active in Leith in 1552. The world's first club, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, was formed in 1744 and established the first rules of the game for a tournament played on the five-hole course here in the same year. The club moved to Musselburgh in 1836 and then Muirfield in 1891.


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