Water of Leith Visitor Centre Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

The walkway from the visitor centre on Lanark Road 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 this beautiful part of the Water of Leith in this comprehensive guide which includes an overview and visiting advice.

The Water of Leith
Address:24 Lanark Road,
Edinburgh,
EH14 1TQ
Opening Hours:Visitor Centre and Cafe open every day 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Admission Price:Free
Parking:None
Contact:0131 455 7367
admin@waterofleith.org.uk
Facilities:Toilets, disabled/pushchair access, cafe, gift shop, education centre

The highlights

1: The Water of Leith is an oasis of calm in Edinburgh. The river is one of those hidden gems that go 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 tourists looking 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, waterproof walking boots (recommended boots on Amazon) are a good idea.

Water of Leith

Visiting tips

1: The visitor centre is worth viewing 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 so you can warm up on a chilly day, plus there’s a small shop that sells a few handy guide books.

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.


Overview

This lovely walk joins the Water of Leith at its central location at the visitor centre on Lanark Road and follows the river southwest to the old train station at Colinton.

The walking 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 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.

The Water of Leith

Tourist information

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.

The Water of Leith

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.

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.

The Water of Leith

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.

Discover more places to visit in Edinburgh with: The Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh – Ultimate Visitor Guide.


Tourist map of Scotland

24 Lanark Road,
Edinburgh,
EH14 1TQ

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Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Edinburgh – 350 Explorer.

Edinburgh – 66 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Walking route

Time

An hour to an hour and a half, depending on how long you want to look at the points of interest.

Difficulty

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.

Route

Click map for details

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 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 in the direction of the Edinburgh Bypass or simply turning around and retracing your steps back to the visitor centre.


Things to do nearby

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.


Frequently asked questions

How do I get to the Water of Leith visitor centre?

Address: 24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, EH14 1TQ

Directions map: Google Maps

Bus numbers 34 and 44 stop outside the Centre.

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 north-east.

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.