The footpath from the visitor centre on Lanark Road in Edinburgh follows the Water of Leith to the disused train station at Colinton. Along the way, visitors will pass Hailes Halt and Colinton Parish Church among many other historic landmarks. Discover the beautiful Water of Leith with this comprehensive visitor guide which includes an overview of the walkway and tips for making the most of your time at this iconic waterway.
|Address:||24 Lanark Road,
|Opening Hours:||Visitor Centre and Cafe open every day 10.00 am – 4.00 pm|
|Contact:||0131 455 7367
|Facilities:||Toilets, disabled/pushchair access, cafe, gift shop, education centre|
This lovely walk joins the Water of Leith at the visitor centre on Lanark Road and follows the river southwest to the old train station at Colinton. The trail passes 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 herons, buzzards, bats, foxes, and deer, all of which are 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 more features to explore such as the old tunnel that features Scotland’s largest historic mural.
1: The Water of Leith is an oasis of calm in Edinburgh. The river is one of those hidden gems that goes unnoticed by most visiting tourists so it’s never swarmed with crowds.
2: This is a lovely walk on wide, level paths that have lots of signposts so the river is a great place to visit for anyone wanting to see a different side of Scotland’s capital.
3: The paths are in superb condition for the most part. Some sections can get very muddy though. Even though the paths run through the city, wearing waterproof walking boots (recommended boots on Amazon) is a good idea in the winter.
1: The visitor centre on Lanark Road is worth visiting as it has several educational exhibitions about the history of the Water of Leith and how it shaped Edinburgh.
2: The visitor centre also has tea and coffee facilities so you can warm up on a chilly day, plus there’s a small shop that sells a few handy guidebooks.
3: 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.
One of the benefits of having a riverside walkway that runs through the heart of Edinburgh is that you can enter and exit 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 mills, and Bonnington which is another interesting site for Edinburgh’s 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 southwest 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.
The Water of Leith has a wide range of fish to keep an eye open for including trout, eels, and salmon, while the surrounding woodlands are teeming with kingfishers, woodpeckers, dippers and wagtails.
The Water of Leith walkway is well maintained, although after heavy rain there can be lots of big puddles. Some sections might not be suitable for walkers with mobility problems, and in winter it can be rather muddy.
From the Water of Leith visitor centre, follow the signposts and head southwest towards Colinton. The walkway 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 Colinton Dell. 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 in the direction of the Edinburgh Bypass or simply turning around and retracing your steps back to the visitor centre.
Things to Do
Nature Walks & Wildlife Spotting: The Water of Leith is a tranquil haven that’s teeming with wildlife. Walk along the 12-mile Water of Leith Walkway, winding through Edinburgh’s heart, and immerse yourself in the enchanting woodland and riverside habitats where you might spot herons, kingfishers, otters, and deer.
Water of Leith Visitor Centre: The centre provides an educational experience about the river’s history and its local wildlife. Engage with interactive exhibits, learn about conservation efforts to protect the ancient waterway, and even participate in workshops. The centre also has a cafe selling hot drinks and snacks and a gift shop selling books and souvenirs.
Modern Art Galleries: The Water of Leith Walkway takes you right to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art. Surrounded by beautiful parkland, these twin galleries (Modern One and Modern Two) house an exceptional collection of modern and contemporary art from renowned artists like Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, and Scottish artists like Eduardo Paolozzi and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Dean Village: The picturesque former milling village’s preserved 19th-century buildings (including the iconic Well Court) make it a must-visit destination on the Water of Leith Walkway. Learn about Dean Village’s milling history and don’t miss the lovely views from Dean Bridge.
Leith: Follow the walkway to its end and you’ll reach the vibrant area of Leith. Known for its excellent seafood restaurants, cosy pubs, and the Royal Yacht Britannia, it’s a great place to relax after a day of exploring. Dine on fresh seafood while overlooking the harbour, enjoy some locally-made beer, or indulge in a traditional afternoon tea aboard the royal’s former floating palace.
Things to Do Nearby
Water of Leith Visitor Centre. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Water of Leith clean?
The Water of Leith is generally kept clean. However, like any urban river, it may occasionally have some litter. There are regular clean-up efforts by The Water of Leith Conservation Trust.
How many miles is the Water of Leith?
The Water of Leith is 22 miles (35 km) long. It starts at the Colzium Springs in the Pentland Hills and runs through Edinburgh to its exit point at Leith.
Can you walk the Water of Leith?
It is possible to walk for 12 miles along the Water of Leith on a designated pathway that begins in Balerno in the west of Edinburgh to Leith in the northeast.
How long does it take to walk the Water of Leith?
The following is a guide to walking the most popular sections of the Water of Leith:
Balerno to Slateford: 5 miles – 2 hours.
Slateford to Leith: 7.5 miles – 3 hours.
Roseburn to Stockbridge: approx 2 miles – 45 mins.
Stockbridge to Leith: approx 3.5 miles – 1 hour 20 mins.