The Water of Leith Walkway snakes through Edinburgh unbeknown to many of its residents, let alone visitors. Unsurprisingly, it runs alongside the Water of Leith, the city’s main river which flows from the foot of the Pentland Hills to the beautiful Shore area of town, where it joins the Firth of Forth.
Tucked in among the luscious greenery of Edinburgh, the Water of Leith isn’t a wide river, nor is it long but, rumour has it, is home to a fair few fish and is a favourite among water birds.
In its entirety, the Water of Leith Walkway runs just over 12 miles. Personally, my favourite stretch of the path is the Stockbridge to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art route taking in the gorgeous Dean Village along the way.
Soon after joining the path in Stockbridge, you’ll come across St Bernard’s Well, a temple-like, 18th century structure formerly used to pump magical mineral water from deep within the ground.
Within the temple stands a statue of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of Health. Although closed to the public most days, you can enter the building on special occasions such as the annual Doors Open Days.
(Note: St Bernard’s Well is currently being renovated)
Further along, passing under the imposing Dean Bridge is both terrifying and amazing. The 19th century construction with its four arches spans high above the river at more than 30 metres, casting shade across the path down below. It’s chilly here, so be wise and wear layers.
Just past the bridge, the views across Dean Village are astonishing. In fact, this is one of my favourite parts of Edinburgh. I don’t know many cities that offer an escape to the countryside in the heart of the city, so peaceful and quaint is the atmosphere here.
From there on, it’s just a brief walk passing by a waterfall to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where exhibitions change regularly and there is a cafe on site for refreshments.
The path tends to be damp and muddy in certain parts, making it the ultimate Edinburgh destination to show off your designer wellies, woolens and raincoat. Indeed, expect to see plenty of fashion-conscious families and couples come out to play at weekends. Think Barbour, Hunter and other famous British country brands.
Trusty old benches line the path for those keen on picnicking, resting tired feet or even a wee snooze. They also make for the perfect setting for a cosy canoodle!
If you visit on a Sunday, make sure to stop by one of Scotland’s farmers’ markets in Stockbridge, open from 10am to 5pm on the corner of Saunders and Kerr Streets adjoining the river. Grab yourself a warm drink to enjoy en route.
Currently undergoing renovation along some parts, route diversions are in place in the Canonmills area, near the Gallery of Modern Art and elsewhere along the way. Look out for signs showing you the way.