Water of Leith Walkway: Balerno to Leith

Stretching from Balerno to Leith, the Water of Leith Walkway seamlessly transports walkers from the rural fringes of the Pentland Hills Regional Park to the urban buzz of the city centre and the banks of the Firth of Forth. I’d had my eye on walking the full length of the Water of Leith Walkway for a while, so when I had a bit of time on my hands between leaving my job and starting the PGDE I pulled on my walking boots… and the rest, as they say, is history. I should probably note that walking boots aren’t strictly necessary for this route; I just find them more comfortable than trainers for long walks. Here’s a wee photo tour of the Water of Leith Walkway:

A tunnel of greenery between Balerno and Currie
Countryside vibes near Currie
Passing underneath one of many bridges along the route, near Juniper Green
Wineberries. Hadn’t heard of them? Nope, nor had I. (Thanks Google.)
Some sections (like this one around Colinton) have better views of the Water of Leith than others
The Colinton Tunnel Mural Project. This vibrant mural illustrates the poem ‘From a Railway Carriage’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and local muralists, street artists and schoolchildren were involved in transforming the dark tunnel into a bright and inviting space to visit
“… all through the meadows the horses and cattle…”
“… here is a tramp who stands and gazes…”
“… here is a cart run away in the road / lumping along with man and load…”
“… and there is a river…”
Leaving Colinton Tunnel behind
A grotto in Colinton and Craiglockhart Dells, from c. 1750. Fun fact: the name Colinton comes from the Gaelic for ‘place by the wood’
Just past the halfway point
Small White butterfly. Not the most imaginative of official names, but it does what it says on the tin!
Between Slateford and Murrayfield
An Antony Gormley statue near the Gallery of Modern Art
Dean Village
Dean Village
St. Bernard’s Well is named after St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who is said to have lived in a nearby cave. Once upon a time, people believed that the spring water could cure their ailments. In the 1940s, the well was closed because the water was found to contain arsenic and other impurities. Make of that what you will…!
Grey Wagtail (based on the RSPB’s Bird Identifier; do let me know in the comments if it’s something else entirely!)
A gorgeous ginger kitten I befriended in St. Mark’s Park
The Shore, Leith

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Getting there | Public transport is by far the easiest option, given this isn’t a circular route. Bus #44 goes to Balerno, and takes c. 30 minutes from Haymarket Station (£1.80 for an adult single, as of August 2021). Alight at Balerno High School; the Water of Leith Walkway starts just to the left-hand side of the school. At the other end, various buses connect Leith to the city centre; I caught the #22 to the Scott Monument (again, £1.80 for an adult single). For timetables (inc. live bus times and a journey planner tool) go to www.lothianbuses.com.
  • Maps and guides | The Water of Leith Walkway is well-signposted, so there’s limited need for maps. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust have created a free audio trail (see www.waterofleith.org.uk/audio-trail) which provides more information about points of interest along the route.
  • Distance | 20.8km/ miles; 46m of elevation gain.
  • Refreshments | There are limited amenities on the first half of the Water of Leith Walkway, so you’d be wise to pack a bottle of water and some snacks. At the halfway point, you’ll find the Visitor Centre, which serves light refreshments, and later you’ll pass through Stockbridge where there are cafés aplenty. You’ll also find lots of watering holes in Leith to round off your walk (and a Sainsbury’s Local if it’s sunny and, like I did, you fancy an ice lolly instead…).
  • Misc. | If you don’t fancy walking the whole lot in one go, you’re in luck – you can divide the route into chunks, and Edinburgh’s bus network makes it easy to pick up where you left off. Check the Water of Leith Conservation Trust’s website (www.waterofleith.org.uk) before you set off, just in case any sections of the path are closed for repairs.

11 thoughts on “Water of Leith Walkway: Balerno to Leith

  1. I’ve been meaning to do the full walk at some point (definitely one I could convince Ash to join me on too!). We’ve walked from Dean Village to Leith, with a stop to walk around the Botanic Gardens, but haven’t done any of it out past Dean Village, bar Colinton Tunnel. Might have to check out that audio guide too!

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    1. Would recommend it over the spring/summer months when it’s lush and green. I wish I’d known about the audio guide beforehand, as it would have been nice to learn more about different points of interest along the way. Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks on you, as I found there aren’t that many points at which you can make a short detour off the route to resupply 🙂

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  2. I have walked a little of this before when we stopped in Edinburgh but not it all. Dean village is very beautiful, there wasn’t anything really to do there, except take photos. Great post!

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    1. Completely agree with you re. Dean Village. Very picturesque, but nothing to do there other than admire your surroundings! Glad you enjoyed what you saw of the Water of Leith Walkway on your visit to Edinburgh 🙂

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  3. What a scenic walk! Based on the abundant greenery, I take it this wasn’t done in the dead of winter, eh? 😉 I’ve never heard of wineberries, but they look so bright and plump…perhaps to make wine, haha!

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    1. Spot on! I’m somewhat behind on posts, and did this walk August last year 🙂 Nor had I – turns out there are heaps of types of berry that I’d never heard of! I didn’t try these as I didn’t know what they were at the time, but the wild raspberries along the route were tasty 😋

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    1. Definitely a walk for spring/summer, for maximum green-ness! This walk neatly encapsulates what I love about Edinburgh – it’s a vibrant city centre, but you’re never far from green spaces. It’s the best of both, I think 🙂

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