Welcome to Out About Scotland. I'm Craig, I'm a travel writer living in Edinburgh, and I'm here to show you Scotland's best tourist attractions... read more.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission... read more.
Last updated on March 22nd, 2021
The walkway from the visitor centre on Lanark Road follows the Water of Leith to the disused train station at Colinton. Along the way you’ll pass Hailes Halt and Colinton Parish Church.
Review of The Water of Leith
This lovely walk joins the Water of Leith at its central location at the visitor centre on Lanark Road and follows the river south-west to the old train station at Colinton.
Along the way you’ll pass Hailes Halt in the middle section and Colinton Parish Church towards the far end. The walkway is well-known amongst locals as a wildlife oasis in the middle of the city and the river is home to lots of animals with herons, buzzards, bats, foxes and even deer frequently spotted by walkers.
Hailes Halt is the site of a long-abandoned railway station where all that remains today are a few stone walls and some evidence of where the old track once lay.
Colinton Station is also the site of a long-abandoned railway station but there are a few remaining features to explore, including the old tunnel that’s still open for walkers and cyclists to pass through and the bridge that now carries the B701 above.
Things to do at The Water of Leith
One of the benefits of having a walkway that runs through the heart of Edinburgh is that you can enter and exit it at dozens of locations up and down the river.
Popular entry points are Dean village where you can see the remains of waterwheels that once powered long-forgotten factories, and Bonnington, another interesting site for Edinburgh’s old industrial heritage.
But perhaps the best idea to plan your journey is to pick up a Water of Leith route map from any of the visitor information centres in the city centre and take a taxi or bus ride to your desired starting point.
A visitor centre is open to the public at the Slateford Aqueduct in south-west Edinburgh where you can either enjoy tea and coffee at the end of your journey or stock up on supplies, but it also has lots of information about the river if you’re curious to learn more about it.
This would also be an ideal time to acquaint yourself with the wildlife that lives near the water so that you’ll know what to keep a watchful eye out for. Through the thick woodland you can usually see lots of wildlife and in the river there’s a wide range of fish to watch out for including trout, eels, salmon, and even flounder.
Bird species range from kingfishers, woodpeckers, dippers and wagtails, and if you’re lucky you might even spot a heron standing perfectly still at the edge of the water as he tries to catch minnow and stickleback.
The Water of Leith offers mile upon mile of lovely walks right in the heart of Edinburgh so if you’re after a little bit of quiet time I heartily recommend you give it a look for yourself.
If you want to discover more places to visit in the city take a look at my Edinburgh articles.
- It’s an oasis of calm inside Edinburgh. The Water of Leith is one of those hidden gems that go unnoticed by most visiting tourists so it’s never swarmed with crowds.
- It’s a lovely walk on well-maintained paths and there are plenty of paths that’ll take you back to the city centre so it’s practically impossible to get lost.
- The paths are in superb condition for the most part, generally wide and tarmacked. Some sections that go off-road can get very muddy though. I wouldn’t wear flip-flops after a rainfall if I were you.
- The visitor centre is worth viewing as they’ve got several educational exhibitions about the history of the Water of Leith.
- The visitor centre also has tea and coffee so you can warm up on a chilly day, plus there’s a small shop that sells a few handy walking route guides.
- It’s possible to cycle some sections of the walkway but it gets narrow in places which means you’ll have to keep dismounting around pedestrians. To be honest, I’d leave the bike at home.
Things to do near the Water of Leith Visitor Centre
- Water of Leith Walkway. 24 Lanark Rd, Edinburgh EH14 1TQ. The visitor centre on Lanark Road is the main entry point for the Water of Leith, although there are many other entrances across the city. The walkway allows visitors to walk the entire length of the river to Leith where it exits into the Firth of Forth.
- Slateford Aqueduct and Union Canal. Edinburgh EH14 1TH. 1-minute walk. The Union Canal extends from the Falkirk Wheel into the heart of Edinburgh where visitors can enjoy stress-free walks along its tarmacked footpaths. An easy access point onto the canal is from Slateford Aqueduct next to the Water of Leith visitor centre.
- Blackford Hill. Observatory Rd, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ. 15-minute drive. A hillside nature reserve close to the centre of Edinburgh. The hill is home to the Royal Observatory and the Hermitage of Braid – a 1700s estate home and gardens set in dense woodland.
- Edinburgh Zoo. 134 Corstorphine Rd, Corstorphine, Edinburgh EH12 6TS. 9-minute drive. An award-winning historic zoo set on the side of Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh. The zoo features a range of enclosures including the world-famous Penguins Rock, giant pandas, and Britain’s only Queensland koalas. There are cafés, restaurants, play parks and gift shops on-site.
- Saughton Public Park. Balgreen Road, Edinburgh EH11 3BQ. 7-minute drive. Landscaped gardens and skate park with a superb rose garden in its southern end. Highlights include a bistro, glasshouse, herb garden and a section of the Water of Leith.
Address and map
Water of Leith Visitor Centre,
24 Lanark Road,
An hour to an hour and a half, depending on how long you want to look at the points of interest.
Easy. The Water of Leith walkway is well maintained and has good-access pathways, although after heavy rain there can be lots of big puddles. Some sections might not be suitable for walkers with mobility problems. In winter it can be a bit muddy too.
From the Water of Leith visitor centre, follow the signposts and head south-west towards Colinton. The walk-way closely follows the river along its entire length although there are a couple of areas where it branches off, such as at the junction of the Colinton Dell path.
There are a couple of options to cross over the river, but perhaps it is easiest to cross the bridge just before the Colinton Dell pathway. You can then follow the Water of Leith walkway towards Colinton Church, before reaching the abandoned Colinton Station a few hundred yards south.
At this point, you have the option of continuing your walk along the river towards the direction of Edinburgh Bypass or simply turning around and retracing your steps back to the visitor centre.
Tickets and opening times
The Water of Leith visitor centre is open every day, from 10.00am to 4.00pm except for Christmas and New Year. The centre is free to enter.
The Water of Leith walkway is free to enter and is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
Photos and video
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- The Balmoral Hotel – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Balmoral Hotel is a historic building situated in the heart of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The luxury hotel is located next to Waverley train station and was built in 1902 by the North British Railway Company. Today, it is a popular landmark that attracts visitors to its superb restaurants and bars.
- Real Mary King’s Close – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Real Mary King’s Close is a tourist attraction located in the middle of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. The attraction allows visitors to step beneath the streets of Edinburgh into an underground labyrinth where the stories of the city’s past residents unfold through a series of exhibits and displays.
- St. Giles Cathedral – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideSt. Giles Cathedral has been a focal point for religious activity in Edinburgh for over 900 years, although the present structure that we see today can trace its roots back to the 14th century. Due to its central location on The Royal Mile, St. Giles has become a popular tourist attraction and is an ideal stop-off point between excursions to the palace and the castle.
- The Grassmarket – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideEdinburgh’s Grassmarket is a bustling square in the heart of the city’s Old Town. This historic site is surrounded by classic tenement buildings that line the roads along the iconic West Bow and Victoria Street but it’s best known for the lively pubs and restaurants that offer superb outside seating areas. The Grassmarket is one of the oldest parts of Edinburgh and it was originally used as a marketplace for horses and cattle.
- Leith – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideLeith is a historic district of Edinburgh that centres around the Water of Leith, Leith harbour, and the restaurant-packed Shore. The district has a rich maritime history but it is now a popular tourist destination thanks to its combination of trendy bars, award winning restaurants, superb shopping areas and attractions including the Royal Yacht Britannia.