The Water of Leith Walkway is a 12 mile path through the heart of Edinburgh.
Much of it has existed since the early 80’s, but the full route from Balerno to Leith was completed in 2002.
It was a fine autumnal morning, and as we walked to catch a bus to the start I was already regretting not having brought my sunglasses. There was still a bite to the air, though, and a chill wind that was blowing heartily.
The start of the walk is just outside the High School in Balerno and marked with a metal map of the river embedded in the surface of the walkway.
It’s a little bit of an odd place to start, rather than in the centre of Balerno, but you are immediately walking by the river through some delectable woodland. The path here is an old railway line that hugs the bank of the river. This was part of the Caledonian Railway, this particular route running from Slateford to Balerno and eventually closing to goods traffic in 1967.
This is a delightful section of the walk, and it is shared amicably with cyclists and dog walkers galore, the only hint that you may actually be walking through the outskirts of a city. The surface is good, but not hard. A blessed relief to know that the next 12 miles wont be exclusively on concrete.
There are one or two places where buildings are passed, even a rather large and very new looking estate near the bypass, but the buildings are all very tasteful and not out of place. There is even an old railway tunnel to walk through!
Once under the bypass the river enters Colinton Dell with its warren of paths. It is like a secret world here that can only be accessed on foot, and it is well worth the visit!
There are old mills down here as well, and a still functioning mill race adding to the interest of the walk.
All too soon the river bursts from the dell to cross the Slateford Road. Here there is a nice surprise – the Water of Leith Visitors centre, where you can pop in for a spot of tea or just a wander around the impressive displays. From here there s a brief interlude as the river meanders through assorted industrial estates, but before long Saughton Park is entered with its rather pretty Wintergardens.
Just beyond this the walkway leaves the river for a while, not by choice, because of the ongoing (say this very quietly in Edinburgh or you will be surrounded by a thousand complaining locals) tramworks meaning a diversion takes you to Murryfield Stadium by way of a couple of residential streets.
There is a great chance to view the home of Scottish Rugby, Murryfield Stadium, and also the impressive Art Deco Ice Rink that sits next door to it.
The river is now heading towards the centre of the city, but there is still a real “village” feel to the walk, even more so as it passes the gallery of modern art and into Dean Village. There are more diversions here as well – there is ongoing flood defence work on the river almost all the way into Leith.
Dean bridge sits high above the river carrying the A90 to the city centre just a few hundred yards away. There is a very Germanic feel to some of the buildings down here though.
The next stop is the very cosmopolitan Stockbridge, and again another diversion because of flood defence work. This did mean a stop in the pub for a plate of soup and a pint, although at 6.5% I was in danger of tipping into the water on the last stage.
Once again the walkway takes the route of an onld railway, finishing as it started. There is the option to stay with the river, which we did, but it’s probably not really worth the bother, especially with all the work going on at the moment.
Eventually we emerged at Leith docks and the end of the walk, another sculpture marking the finish of a very enjoyable days walking.
Day Rating 8/10
Charming walk through the City of Edinburgh. A real surprise as there is never really the impression that the walker is in a City. Plenty of wildlife, architecture and places to visit along the way. Well worth taking a day to walk if you have the chance. recommended