Leith Nautical College officially opened in 1903, under the auspices of the Scottish Education Department. It had been previously called Leith Navigation School.
In 1983 the Scottish Education Department and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities published a review of nautical education in Scotland. They came to the conclusion that because of Britain’s shrinking merchant fleet, nautical schools were using up resources unnecessarily. Despite being well equiped, modern and full to capacity, Leith Nautical College came under threat. By 1984 it was decided that nautical education should be concentrated in Glasgow. Despite a vigorous campaign to save the college by the goveners, staff and students, a phased run down was reluctantly implemented. Leith Nautical College was closed in 1987.
In 1894 Leith Navigation School moved students to the Sailors’ Home due to an occurance of smallpox in Dock Place. The foundations for a new purpose built building were laid when GBP200 was left to the school by John K Wishart and was used to start a building fund. Following this contribution and due to the urgency of the need for new accommodation James Currie and other local shipowners amassed sufficienct funds to enable new college buildings to be erected in Commerical Street. On their official opening in 1903 Leith Navigation School changed its name to Leith Nautical College . In 1960 and 1965 respectively, the premises of the King Electrical Company and the former London and Edinburgh Shipping Company were gifted anonymously to the college. Plans for a new Leith Nautical College and Halls of Residence at Milton Road East were announced in December 1974 and were officially opened inJuly 1978 . Further development included a planetarium with a six-metre diameter dome and a simulated ship’s bridge with navigational aids astern.
When the college began its phased run down period Lothian Regional Council received control of the college and voted to merge its facilities with Esk Valley College, Dalkeith, Leith.