Water of Leith. March 2018

Helen Rose Outdoor Diary

Water of Leith History

Flowing for twenty four miles from its source in the Pentland Hills, the Water of Leith winds its way through various suburbs into the heart of Edinburgh. It is a grand name for a river in the capital city of Scotland! It was once at the centre of the city’s industrial heartland with the river providing the water power for the production of paper, flour and fabric. Today, there are pleasant walks along the river on very good path. The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club walked from Balerno to Murrayfield with Gerena as our very knowledgeable leader.

We travelled by bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow and caught a local bus from Haymarket to Balerno. The start of the walk featured a wooden sculpture with a winding metal strip. It had an area of seating perfect for a refreshment stop before the start of the walk. The walkway follows the path of the old Balerno Branch Railway to Colinton, then runs parallel to the river all the way to Leith – away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Leith famous as a port has the Royal Yacht Britannia berthed there; now a visitor attraction. However, we did not walk as far as Leith, almost thirteen miles, as it was a short winter day with limited daylight and we had a time constraint to return to Glasgow by public transport.


It was pleasant strolling alongside the river and passing through areas with unusual names such as Currie and Juniper Green. We spoke to local people along the way and some pointed across the river to a higher area where J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, lived. Designated as an Urban Wildlife Site, the wooded river banks include patches of ancient woodland and are hosts to carpets of wildflowers and dramatic trees.

Colinton is a charming and highly sought-after suburb of Edinburgh. It was a former mill town and still has a quaint village feel. Set amongst rich flora and fauna in the midst of the peaceful Colinton Dell, a pleasant stretch of greenery nestled along the Water of Leith.  The picturesque, well-kept community features a number of pretty historic buildings. Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summers of his childhood at the manse when his grandfather was Parish Minister. The village is a haven for arts and crafts shops.


The Colinton Dell continues to Slateford where the Visitors’ Centre is located. The name ‘Slateford’ comes from local rock found in the area. We learned that the river is stocked with brown trout and wildlife is plentiful including heron. On the way we passed under two impressive arches, the aqueduct carrying the Union Canal and the viaduct carrying the railway. We made a wide loop around the allotments but had some road walking to reach our final destination at Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby.

There was a match on that afternoon so most of us headed for the bus back to Glasgow although Gerena invited us to go for a small refreshment in a local hostelry to round off the walk. If we had continued to Leith we would have passed the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, the Dean Village, Stockbridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens. A good excuse to go back and walk from Murrayfield to Leith. Thanks to Gerena for organising the walk.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

Thanks to Maura Buchanan for the photographs.


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This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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Avatar of HelenRose Scottish hill walker and writer for Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End.

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