Union Canal, Edinburgh to Falkirk

Edinburgh Union Canal

“There’s a canal in Edinburgh?” asked my bewildered flatmate upon hearing about my weekend walk. Why yes, yes there is and it’s quite the hidden gem. Union Canal is 32 miles long and stretches from Edinburgh to Falkirk where it’s linked to the Forth & Clyde Canal via the famous Falkirk Wheel, a boat lift and engineering masterpiece.

In Edinburgh, the canal’s Lochrin Basin can be accessed very easily from the West End, just off Fountainbridge, behind a bar called Cargo. Ironically, you’ll see banners outside advertising Union Canal as Edinburgh’s best kept secret. Residents of Polwarth and other canalside neighbourhoods have many other routes to choose from as well.

canal bridge edinburgh

Once at the canal, the canalside path on the right hand side can be walked or cycled all the way to Falkirk with plenty to see and do along the way. Along the few-mile stretch of the canal from the West End to Slateford you’ll find two cafe boats for refreshments, many greedy ducks to feed, benches for admiring the wildlife and passers-by and a couple of rowing and canoe clubs. If you’re lucky, you can also watch the beautiful old Leamington Lift Bridge in action, letting barges pass through.

Many commuters use the route to get to and from work on foot or by bike, families teach kids to cycle and row here, and ramblers come out at weekends to stretch their legs. Edinburgh University boat club practices here too. Union Canal path is quite the happening place!

wintry Union Canal Edinburgh

In Slateford, the canal crosses the Water of Leith so you can pop into the Water of Leith Visitor Centre or choose to venture along the river path instead of the canal if you’d rather stay within the confines of Edinburgh city.

If you do make it to Falkirk in a day, trains run regularly between the town and Edinburgh. Or you could look into renting a barge for the return journey.

Alternatively, if you start your walk in Falkirk, you can check into the Four Sisters Boatel at the end of the day. The boatel is moored at Lochrin Basin and boasts rave reviews on Trip Advisor.

What else is there to do and see along the way? Do tell.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Is Nearby

berwick upon tweed bridges

Berwick-upon-Tweed may now be a part of England, but has historically also been a part of Scotland so I thought I’d find a place for it here on the blog. It’s just a hop and a skip (or a 40 min train ride) away from Edinburgh after all, on the east coast route to London.

The small town is just the right size for a day trip with potential for an overnight stay too (it being January, our budgets didn’t stretch that far). Berwick is nestled on the estuary of the River Tweed, its best known landmarks being the three bridges that cross the river alongside each other.

tweed river walk

We rambled along the banks of the river admiring the bridges and scenery but soon surrendered to the endless pools of mud. Wellies are the only way forward here!

berwick upon tweed beach

The beach, pier and Magdalene Fields golf course were a much drier route so we spent most of our afternoon mucking around there. Beware the rather treacherously high tide! Also, be careful while walking along the pier in high winds.

A word of advice: don’t visit Berwick during low season. We found most places of interest were closed from October to April and there were no boats departing for the nearby Holy Island or Lindisfarne, which we’d been most looking forward to. The Barracks, Conundrum Farm and Chain Bridge Honey Farm were closed. In town, the Saturday market was a letdown, only selling cheap clothes.

Sadly, the town square’s been taken over by pound shop style establishments and charity shops. Of course, there’s also the inescapable chain coffee shop. Among these are a couple of bakers and butchers, which I do hope will survive.

berwick public toilet ticket

One of the most amusing moments of our day was a visit to the public toilets which requires you to purchase a ticket… from a machine!

To eat: You can’t claim to have visited a British seaside resort without having eaten fish and chips, complete with a dollop of mushy peas, of course. So we recommend tucking into the absolutely humongous portions on offer at the Cannon restaurant on Castlegate between the railway station and the town centre. As you’d expect so close to the seaside, the fish is cooked to order.

berwick fish and chipsFortunately, working up an appetite isn’t difficult in Berwick with its winding coastal and riverside walkways.

To drink: We found the only pub to be busy on a Saturday evening was the local Wetherspoon’s, The Leaping Salmon on Golden Square. Although we would have preferred a cosy local establishment, at £2.99 for a double whisky we weren’t complaining.

(Top 3 photos by Rihards Andrusko)

Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh

water of leith walkway signThe 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.

water of leith walkway style

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)

Dean Bridge

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.

Dean Village

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.

water of leith walkway styleThe 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.

– Red

A Route to Stirling University or the Ultimate Weekend Walk

Riverside Bridge, StirlingCambuskenneth AbbeyCambuskenneth PubWalk to StirlingWalk to Stirling

Stirling’s bus service has gone downhill recently and no one likes forking out £1.50 for a return ticket to uni so all hail the sunny weather that makes the 35-40min walk from town to uni a very pleasant alternative.

There isn’t just one route though… To avoid the busy Causewayhead Road way, head down to the very far end of Riverside and cross the pedestrian bridge that lands you in quaint little Cambuskenneth village complete with its very own Abbey.

After crossing the bridge, carry on straight ahead until you reach Ladysneuk Road where you should turn left. On your right you’ll see the Abbey so you may fancy a little detour through the pretty grounds.

Ladysneuk Road is also home to the village pub – the Abbey Inn – that the flatmates and I give thumbs up for a quiet weekend meal and pint venue. Last weekend was their annual seafood weekend so we popped in to feast on possibly the freshest fish, langoustines etc. ever in Stirling. Completely different from what you’d find in the centre of town, the pub’s frequented by friendly village locals, most much older than the average student.

If you’re not too distracted by the pub, carry on down the same road, through the fields and admire the stunning views over the river and two of Scotland’s many popular tourist attractions – the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle.

You’ll cross a railroad at one point and soon after you’ll find yourself at the Alloa Road junction where you should turn left, pass the children’s playground and then Corrieri’s, an Italian-inspired cafe famed for its ice-creams, snack foods and fish & chips (another tasty distraction).

From there onwards it’s just straight ahead until you see the uni to your right. For a longer weekend walk, add another 10-15mins on to your walk and find yourself in the posh town of Bridge of Allan with plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to dine in.

– Miss Red