'Silver thread in a ribbon of green'

Most capital cities are built around a river. Edinburgh is the notable exception to that rule. Instead, the city grew up around its castle rock. But Edinburgh does have a river, just not a well-known one.

The Water of Leith stretches for 24 miles from its source in the Pentland Hills through the heart of Edinburgh to the port of Leith. A 12 mile-walkway completed eight years ago offers an alternative view of Edinburgh.


Industrial centre

For many years, the Water of Leith (described as a "silver thread in a ribbon of green") was the centre of Edinburgh industry. It played host to paper, fabric and flour mills. That activity has disappeared, though many of the buildings remain.

Winding through the centre of Edinburgh, you can join the Water of Leith walkway and leave it at will. Last Saturday I walked with my family along the section of river between Stockbridge and Dean Village last Saturday.


Banks of snowdrops

Daughters, husband and I took huge pleasure in seeing banks of snowdrops around us. I know from previous years that wild garlic will soon appear by the river too. Daffodils cannot be far away either.

Local children have named the heron who lives on the water (he is called "Old Harry"). My husband claims to have once spotted an otter in the water.


Buggies, cyclists and horses

The route is suitable for buggies (though beware over-friendly dogs and exhausted joggers); cycling is also permitted. You can even go horse-riding along the walkway. Though I am glad to say I have never personally had to share the path with a horse.

The walkway passes many points of interest: Colinton Village and Dell, the Union Canal, Saughton Winter Gardens, Murrayfield stadium, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village, Stockbridge, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Leith.


Patches of ancient woodland

It is home to more than 80 species of bird. Designated an Urban Wildlife Site, the river banks are host to many dramatic trees, including patches of ancient woodland.

A good destination on a walk could be the Water of Leith visitor centre near Slateford. You can find out more about the heritage and wildlife of the river in an interactive exhibition there.


Water of Leith