To walk from Balerno to Leith Docks, along the Water of Leith is truly a walk through this city – as you stroll along sparkling water and weirs, you’ll see all manner of Edinburgh – ancient, old and new, rich and poor; grand-scale housing, colony housing, tenement housing; a glimpse of the lives people live, stunning scenery, many birds, industrial sites, a shout of graffiti and Anthony Gormley’s six times. New flood defences are also being built along the way. Passing strollers will greet you with a smile and a nod to the day.
Take the 44 bus to Balerno High School, the walk is signposted to the left. Part railway path, mostly riverside there is countryside, Colinton Dell, allotments, the Water of Leith Visitors Centre (an unimposing building and gives the history of this once hard-working river) onto industrial areas, then a beautiful stroll from Roseburn to the Modern Art galleries (great art, great café) and is where the Anthony Gormely 6 Times begins, onto historical Dean Village and New Town, St Bernards Well, Stockbridge, Bonnington where industrial meets regeneration and on to where the Water of Leith meets the Firth of Forth at Leith Docks and AG #6 looks out to sea, (well worth the walk) on one side adjacent to the Royal Yacht Britannia, the other to working dockland.
One of the beauties of this urban walk is you can jump off the beaten track at any time – to have a break, explore (and you will be tempted!) or get a bus! I’ve lived around the city centre most of my life and I love walking here, and never fail to see something new.
Starting in the Pentland Hills, The Water of Leith Walkway takes you through leafy Juniper Green along the old Colinton railway and Dell then through Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth. The full walk is 13 miles but for a half-day easy stroll you can start halfway at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre and get a view of the importance of this river to Edinburgh. Once boasting 70 mills producing paper, flour, snuff and textiles, it flows from the rural Pentland Hills through Edinburgh to Leith’s busy port.
Follow the meandering river downstream to the preserved Dean Village deep in a gorge spanned by Thomas Telford’s dramatic Dean Bridge. Here you can stop off at the Gallery of Modern Art. At Canonmills leave the trail for a visit to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.
The walkway passes through considerable woodland and the river flourishes with wildlife; brown trout, grayling, eels and otters have been seen. There are kingfishers, herons, wagtails and dippers. You may also see roe deer and otters.
End up with a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia docked at Leith’s Ocean Terminal and immerse yourself in the bustling splendour of this great whaling and shipping port.
The Water of Leith is Edinburgh's secret river, winding a 12 mile path from the outer suburb of Balerno right through the heart of the City until it emerges near the docked Royal Yacht Britannia. If you pick up the trail behind the National Gallery of Modern Art then the last few miles are enlivened by spotting five life-sized Anthony Gormley figures who stand in the river bed.
Well signposted nearby, easiest found behind the National Gallery of Modern Art
24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH14 1TQ
+44(0)131 455 7367
Google map: bit.ly/p2NMgS
With the madness of the Edinburgh festival just about to start, I have a trip for anyone wishing to take a break from it and escape the city for a day.
The splendid Jupiter Artland, a contemporary sculpture garden in the grounds of Bonnington house, just outside the city.
An impressive selection of art work from some of Britain's biggest names - Andy Goldsworthy, Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor etc. When you need a break from exploring, treat yourself to tea and cake from the chrome vintage caravan cafe, and hang out with the peacock.
And if that's not enough to tempt you, did I mention the miniature donkeys?
Holyrood Park was originally a royal hunting estate and is most famous for being the home of the natural rock formation known as Arthur’s Seat, which is shaped like a crouching lion.
The park is also home to the Salisbury Crags (a series of cliffs) and three lochs. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk if you want to escape the city of Edinburgh and you can download a leaflet featuring a number of walking routes from the web site below.
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