Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary: Water of Leith Part 2.

Saughton Topiary

February 2024

Water of Leith

The Water of Leith is Edinburgh’s main river. It runs for 22 miles (35 km) from the Pentland Hills where it flows past Port Leith, into the Firth of Forth. The Water of Leith Walkway is about 14 miles long running from Balerno to Leith. I previously did the first section and you can read about it on my Water of Leith Part 1 blog from 2018..

The Glasgow Ramblers arranged a walk for the second section. We took the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh Haymarket Station and then took a bus to the Visitor Centre at Slateford to join the Water of Leith Walkway.   The walkway path was flat and good underfoot although there was a steady light rain all day on the walk. Slateford is an ancient river crossing with ‘slate’ from the slate-like rocks on the river bank.

Saughton Park

We passed Saughton Women’s Prison and continued on to Saughton Park where we headed to the Bandstand to shelter for our morning refreshment stop.  Edinburgh Corporation felt the previous bandstands were so successful, that in 1909 they purchased two Cast Iron Lion Foundry No. 23 Bandstands, one which would sit in the Meadows, the other in Saughton Park.  These were cast by the Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch, (Did you know -The Lion Foundry also produced the iconic red telephone boxes and post boxes which are very dear to our hearts in the UK). Suitably refreshed, we walked through the Wintergardens where a wreath making workshop was on the go as it was in the run up to Christmas.

We exited the Wintergardens to see a tree outside decorated with trainer shoes picked up as litter in the park! It gives a whole new meaning to decorating trees!

I was impressed by the topiary and also visited the Peace Statue.The statue was designed by Kaivalya Tropy, inspired by Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) who was an Indian spiritual leader. Embodying a vision of peace that is both contemplative and dynamic the Statue offers you the chance to hold the torch and offer your own hope for peace – a prayer, a good thought, a moment of silence.

Murrayfield Rugby

It was on to the next place of interest, Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby. It was opened in 1925 and has a seating capacity of 67,144 making it the largest stadium in Scotland and the fifth largest in the United Kingdom. It is the home of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and is mainly used as a venue for rugby union. During the Second World War the ground at Murrayfield was offered to the nation and was taken over by the Royal Army Service Corps and used as a supply depot. Murrayfield is named after Archibald Murray who bought the ground in 1734.

Gallery of Modern Art 2

As there was very little shelter on the walkway from the continuous rain, we did a detour to the Gallery of Modern Art 2. We sheltered under the entrance canopy for lunch and looked at the work of art saying ‘No Miracles Here’. We certainly wished for a miracle, for the rain to stop!


With so much rain, the river and the weirs with waterfalls were spectacular.

There was a sculpture by Antony Gormley as a Man in the River. Gormley is best known for his statue, Angel of the North adjacent to the motorway in northern England on the way to Scotland.    There are eight figures in total in the length of the river silently bearing witness to the ebb and flow of the seasons.

Dean Village


The walk continued to the Dean Village. The Dean Village was previously where milling by water mills took place dating back to the 12th century, of which remains can still be seen by visitors. Hidden in the village, you will come across a variety of mill stones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies. The Dean Bridge can also be found if you walk along the walkway following the Water of Leith. The Bridge and St Bernard’s Well were both designed by Thomas Telford. There is a house in the village very like the colour of the Palace at Culross from 1600 in a yellow wash. I assume that this was a pigment available at that time and could be Naples Yellow, also called antimony yellow or lead antimonate yellow and is an inorganic pigment. The walkway continued through Stockbridge where nearby the houses known as the Colonies were built from 1861 for artisans to work in a healthy environment.

St Bernards Well was discovered by schoolboys fishing in1760. In 1789, the present circular Roman temple structure was added with Hygeia, the Goddess of Health in the centre.


The walk continued through Canonmills and Bonnington to the official end of the walk at Victoria Bridge in Leith. The historic swing bridge is currently being restored and we passed a statue of Sandy Irvine Robertson sitting on a bench. He was a wine merchant, charity campaigner and founder of the Scottish Business Achievement Awards, and instrumental in bringing the ex-Royal Yacht Britannia to Leith. The bronze is by Lucy Poett. http://lucypoett.com/

The earliest evidence of settlement in Leith comes from several archaeological digs undertaken in The Shore area in the late 20th century. Amongst the finds were medieval wharf edges from the 12th century. This date fits with the earliest documentary evidence of settlement in Leith, the foundation charter of Holyrood Abbey. Leith has had a chequered history with Mary Queen of Scots landing there with no welcoming party to greet her! Leith is Scotland’s largest enclosed deep-water port with a capability of handling vessels up to 50000DWT and has direct access to Edinburgh. Today, it is known as one of the ‘Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World’ packed with boutiques, galleries and restaurants.

Station Piano

We walked on to Ocean Terminal for the bus back to the centre of Edinburgh and caught the train back to Glasgow Queen Street Station where a young man was playing the station piano beautifully. Inspired by the success of the St Pancras Station, London piano, other groups have gone on to install their own at railway stations around the country. There are now at least 34 pianos available to play on station concourses.

Thanks to Frances A for organising and leading this walk. It is hard work being a leader having to plan walks then recce them before leading a group. We very much appreciated the walk and the excellent leadership.

Coming attraction. John Muir Trail Part 1







Ciaran Ryan at Celtic Connections 2024
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