Edinburgh, Water of Leith Walkway

5 miles (8 kilometres) city walk, with geocaching, along the river to the Gallery of Modern Art and round to the Botanical Gardens. November, with family. Overcast then sun.

The Water of Leith walkway, in its entirety, is a comfortable 12 miles (just under 20 kilometres). It begins in Balerno, a village outside Edinburgh and runs all the way to the sea at Leith in the north of the city, following the path of the river, the Water of Leith. It’s a beautifully peaceful ramble through Edinburgh away from the hustle, a perfect autumn stroll. At least the section that we walked is, I cannot vouch for the rest of it as unfortunately we didn’t have the time to walk the whole route. We had a wee snifter rather than the full bottle.

We also walked it backwards, which will not come as a surprise. I don’t mean we walked backwards, we walked it going upstream. We began not far from the Royal Botanic Garden and made our way against the flow, ready also to bag a few Geocaches along the way.

Figure III

There are six sculptures by Antony Gormley along the route, four of them stand in the water. They closely resemble the Another Place sculptures at Crosby Beach near Liverpool. This one is easily spotted from the bridge by Stockbridge market. It’s quite near here we bagged a Geocache too.

The path wasn’t busy; a handful of joggers and strollers for company, mas with bairns. There’s a breeze blowing the autumn leaves from the trees so we run about, arms outstretched as though we are dementedly trying to hug ghosts, in order to try catch a falling leaf before it lands. It is exhausting work which is harder than it looks. Autumn leaves have their own mind about coming in to land, however you do get a wish if you catch one so worth the effort while passers by laugh at you.

We pass St. Bernard’s Well, a splendidly ostentatious structure commissioned by slavery abolitionist Lord Gardenstone, (perhaps a qualifier as a fine example of nominative determinism), to celebrate his magical placebo effect well, which is said to heal a multitude of plagues. It is occasionally possible to go inside, and is apparently just as impressive on the inside.

Roads and the city soon tower above us on feats of engineering. Edinburgh has magnificent architecture. Closer to the ground, but not too close, another geocache. The ochre and orange colours are spectacular, and I am fortunate to be exploring unknown paths in the middle of this vibrant city with my two kids together, now they live so far apart.

At Dean Village there are excellent views from the bridge and the water races through this former mills area. Further along above the weir is an inspired woodland area with a dragon’s nest and sculptures but we were roundly defeated by the geocache. Three of us and a dog spent at least 40 minutes hunting with no joy, which means we will just have to make a return visit. By the time we get to the Gallery of Modern Art, the sun has come out and Autumn is really showing off, plus there’s another Gormley statue (and another geocache).

The gate leads to a path up through the trees. Dogs are not allowed in the gallery but we’d read the café is particularly good so we climbed up the hill and the rumours were not wrong. Dogs are also not allowed in our next stop, the Royal Botanical Gardens but it’s worth saying that in spite of these two institutions, Edinburgh is a very dog friendly place with dogs being allowed routinely in most cafés and restaurants, many shops and even the escape room we did that evening, so well done Locked In Edinburgh. Shovell was absolutely no help whatsoever in the escape room and ran about confused, refusing to help solve engineering problems or assist with re-engaging the fuel pumps to get us back to earth. I think this is why cosmonaut dog Leika is still up there, or that’s what I prefer to imagine rather than the truth.

The walk back overground took us through Craigleith and Comely Bank, down wide streets, past fine town houses with curved windows. The Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit, I’ve been many times before when I lived here and there is no admission charge. We stop to browse Christmas decorations in the Botanical Gardens shop before turning back to the Water of Leith and returning to the start. Edinburgh is a lovely city, but I don’t know when I will next be back to try the whole walk, but the nice thing is I have a few special people to visit when I am here, and that’s always the best incentive to return.

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More walks in this area

Walk info

The walk is easily found using any tourist map or Google maps. Our GPX can be found here.

4 responses to “Edinburgh, Water of Leith Walkway”

  1. And such wonderful architecture along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very beautiful scenery and architecture! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When you first said you walked it backwards…well, that would have been something, wouldn’t it? Edinburgh does look to have incredible architecture on display.


    1. Ha, I really should have. Maybe next time 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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