If you love musicals, Edinburgh, cheesy feel-good stories and Scottish pop music… Then you’ll probably love Sunshine on Leith (2013). Or maybe you already know what an amazing film it is. And now you want to relive the magic by checking out some of the top Sunshine on Leith filming locations!
Sunshine on Leith follows the Henshaw family who lives in Leith, a port neighbourhood in Edinburgh. All four family members are all going through their own turmoil but the main storyline concerns Davy, the son. He’s back from the army with his bestie, Ally (who just so happens to be Davy’s sister Liz’s boyfriend) and feeling a bit lost. So, Liz sets Davy up with her nurse friend Yvonne who’s English of all things. And the story kicks off from there.
Oh, and it’s a musical film based on songs by the upbeat 1980s band The Proclaimers.
Most of the Sunshine on Leith locations are in Edinburgh with a few knocking about in Glasgow. And as always, I’ve tried my hardest to find ALL of the Sunshine on Leith filming locations but a few have been difficult to track down. If you spot any I’ve missed, just let me know! Thanks to Andy McArthur for alerting me to a couple of Glasgow locations I didn’t spot!
Sunshine on Leith Filming Locations in Edinburgh (and Glasgow)
Where was Sunshine on Leith Filmed?
Sunshine on Leith Filming Locations in Edinburgh and Glasgow
1. View over Leith, Edinburgh
The film begins with Davy and Ally on one of their army missions (is that what you call it? I have no idea!). But that part is over really quickly and the action permanently settles in Edinburgh. We’re treated to a lovely establishing shot over Edinburgh’s Leith neighbourhood.
Leith still has a reputation of being a working-class, run-down neighbourhood. However, in recent years there has been a bit of regeneration to give it a facelift. I’ve visited Edinburgh six times and still haven’t been to Leith! It’s definitely next on the list, though. Leith also makes many, many appearances in T2 Trainspotting (2017) and you can read my detailed guide to the filming locations in Scotland here.
2. Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Later in the film, after Davy and Yvonne meet, he takes her to this very romantic spot to woo her (yes, I’m going to use ‘woo’ here) with his dreamy Scottish accent and the gorgeous view over Edinburgh city centre.
3. North Bridge over Edinburgh Waverley Station
The shot pans down to our heroes of the film, Davy and Ally, walking over North Bridge near Edinburgh Waverley Station. They’re in full army gear and are walking towards Leith, which is a good 45 minutes walk away.
4. King George IV Statue, Corner of Hanover Street and George Street, Edinburgh
Davy and Ally continue to walk home, notably past the statue of King George IV on the intersection between Hanover Street and George Street.
5. Hanover Street, Edinburgh
Aaaand the lads continue to walk down Hanover Street towards Leith. It’s definitely a well-chosen filming location because Hanover Street is on a bit of a hill so you get a lovely view over the sea and Leith in the distance.
Also, Davy goes for a run along Hanover Street a little later in the film. If you need further proof it’s the same street, you can see the Number 27 bus in this scene. And if you research the Number 27 bus route you can see it does travel along Hanover Street.
6. Nobles Café Bar & Restaurant, 44A Constitution Street, Leith
When Davy and Ally start singing ‘I’m On My Way’, the first song of the film, they pass by the Port O’ Leith pub on Constitution Street. They also pass the Nobles Café Bar. And who should be leaving the bar as they walk by? Why, it’s only Charlies and Craig Reid, both members of The Proclaimers! Keep your eye out for their cameo.
7. Bernard Street, Leith
Davy arrives home at his apartment where his mother Jean (oh, Jean), father Rab and sister Liz all live together. The apartment is on Bernard Street and apparently has a view of Edinburgh Castle in the background? Which seems logistically impossible but I’ll happily be proven wrong.
8. Sandport Place by the river, Leith
Liz and Ally reunite and Ally walks Liz to her bus stop which is just by the river/canal on Sandport Place.
9. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Liz and Davy’s mum is one talented lady and she works at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. However, the interior of the gallery which we see a couple of times throughout the film is actually the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.
The song ‘Should have been loved’ is performed here which is a personal highlight. You have to crack a smile watching that scene.
10. View of Scott Monument and Edinburgh Station from The Balmoral Hotel
11. The City of Edinburgh Council, Waverley Court
After finishing their army career, the boys (Davy and Ally) start living the high life and get glamorous jobs in a call centre. In reality, this Sunshine on Leith location is actually the Edinburgh Council Offices at Waverley Court.
12. Grassmarket, Edinburgh
Liz decided to set up her nurse colleague Yvonne with her brother Davy. The pub is supposedly situated on Grassmarket, and as the boys are walking down this famous Edinburgh street, Ally drops a bombshell about the girl Davy is about to meet: she’s English.
I’m not sure which pub we’re supposed to think the lads entered on Grassmarket, but I think it’s the Black Bull.
13. The Griffin Pub, 266 Bath Street, Glasgow
But the interior of the pub (which was also the filming location for the song ‘It’s over and done with’) was actually filmed in a bar in Glasgow called The Griffin.
14. Sir Walter’s Cafe in the Gardens, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Okay, so I’ve just jumped a huge chunk of the film! That’s because I have no idea where the restaurant is where Davy and Yvonne have their date (except it’s somewhere in Candleriggs, which is a well-built area of Glasgow city centre). And I have no idea where Ally and Liz sing ‘Tell it to the birds’ or where Jean, Yvonne and Liz go shopping.
I also have no idea which church Rab visited to attend the funeral of an *ahem* old friend. But I do know the cafe where Rab has a chat with his long lost daughter, and that’s Sir Walter’s Cafe in the Gardens. Princes Street Gardens, to be exact.
15. The Saracen Head, 209 Gallowgate, Glasgow
And just after this scene, the lads go to a pub where the musical number ‘Let’s get married’ is performed. The pub used is one of the few Sunshine on Leith filming locations in Glasgow, The Saracen Head.
16. Woodside Halls, 36 Glenfarg Street, Glasgow
The venue for Jean and Rab’s anniversary party was also shot in Glasgow, specifically at Woodside Halls which is a community centre. But it does seem nice enough to throw a massive anniversary do! Exterior scenes, as well as interior scenes, were also filmed here.
17. The University of Edinburgh Business School
After Ally’s devastation at Jean and Rab’s anniversary party, he chats with Liz outside her place of work. Which, since she’s a nurse we can assume is a hospital. However, in real life, the Sunshine on Leith filming location is The University of Edinburgh Business School building.
18. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh City Centre
And now it’s Davy and Yvonne’s turn to have a fight! They have a rather more picturesque location for theirs. Though it was called the Point Hotel Penthouse Restaurant at the time of filming in 2013, the location of their fight (and the song ‘Then I met you’ takes place) is now the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre. It’s got a fabulous view of Edinburgh Castle through the windows, too.
19. Commercial Street and Shore, Leith
Possibly my favourite song in the whole film, ‘Letters from America’ is largely between Liz and her mum and dad at home. However, Davy and Yvonne are seen walking down Commercial Street in Leith during a montage for this song.
20. St Giles’ Cathedral, Royal Mile, Upper Bow, Lawnmarket, Milne’s Court, Ramsey Lane and The News Steps
We’re nearly there! Almost at the very end musical number where the feelgood factor is turned up to 11. But first, Yvonne must make a very convoluted journey through Edinburgh’s Old Town to Edinburgh Waverley Station.
Her journey includes a visit passed St Giles’ Cathedral just off the Royal Mile and she then walks along Upper Bow, Lawnmarket, Milne’s Court, Ramsey Lane and The News Steps. All with a rolling suitcase, phew! Just look at all those streets on a map and it looks like she’s doing the hokey cokey on a bigger scale.
21. George Square Gardens, Edinburgh
Yvonne is leaving Edinburgh for good. Oh no! Davy must run after her. And he does, and he’s weirdly very far away on George Square. Here, he almost gets run over by a car which is believed to be a homage to another film shot/based in Edinburgh, Trainspotting.
22. The Mound, Precinct, Edinburgh
And thankfully, Davy catches up to Yvonne and convinces her to stay. And what normally happens when you profess your love for someone in a public place? A flash mob appears, singing and dancing to ‘500 miles (I’m gonna be)’. What a finale!
This soon-to-be iconic Sunshine on Leith final scene was shot between Princes Street Gardens and The Royal Scottish Academy. For anyone who’s been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this is where Virgin’s Half Price Hut is usually situated. It’s essentially a large area of open pavement just off Princes Street i.e. the perfect location for a large number of people to dance in unison to The Proclaimer’s smash hit song.
Sorry, my photos of The Mount Precinct are so awful! The whole area was closed for road/building works (as you can see!) so I couldn’t get close enough.
And those are all the Sunshine on Leith filming locations I could find in Edinburgh and Glasgow! Have you watched The Proclaimers’ film Sunshine on Leith or visited any of the Sunshine on Leith film locations? Let me know in the comments below!