Water of Leith Audio Trail

Welcome to the Water of Leith Walkway Audio Trail.

20 special mp3 tracks have been recorded for you to download and listen to as you explore the Water of Leith from Balerno to Leith. 20 plaques will soon appear along the walkway to let you know which track you should be listening to at each location.

We advise you download all the tracks as you would an album, so they are ready to play as you discover the walkway. You can download all the files as a ZIP file by clicking here. 

Please note that it may take some time to download on slow internet connections as the complete bundle is 38.6Mb in size. You may also need to download software such as 7Zip to decompress the file when the download is complete.

You can download each track individually using these links below:

Note: - You may need to right click on your mouse and use the 'save link as' option in some browsers.


1. Balerno

2. Currie

3. Juniper Green

4. Spylaw Park

5. Redhall

6. Bog's Mill

7. Water of Leith Visitors Centre

8. Saughton Park

9. Roseburn Park

10. Bell's Mill

11. Dean Village

12. Dean Village Pt 2

13. St Bernard's Well

14. Stockbridge

15. Rocheid Path

16. St Mark's Park

17. Bonnington

18. Coalie Park

19. Sandport Place

20. Victoria Bridge

Each track provides local history commentary, and information about special features, the river and its wildlife. We also give advice on the route and orientation, this assumes that you are following the walkway downstream from Balerno to Leith.

This project has been put together by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust in partnership with the Scottish Government, with funding from local donors.

You will hear two voices across the track; Helen Brown Trust Manager with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust and Trustee Brian Henderson.

Below you can find a map showing the locations of each point,  listen to each track, and read a full transcript for each point. 


1 - Balerno

Welcome to the start of the Water of Leith Walkway. From here the course of the river can be followed on foot, by bicycle or even horseback all the way to Leith some 12 and a half miles or so from here; although if by horseback, perhaps not quite all the way, as there are steps and busy streets to negotiate!

On your left is small wildlife garden, built by trust volunteers in 2007, in memory of Dr Graham Priestley, a founding father of the Water of Leith Trust, and the first trust manager. Do take time to read the inscription on the small cairn halfway down the path through the garden. Incidentally Graham Priestley and the speaker hauled the mill-stone you see at the seating area out of the river about 10 years before the garden was built.

Although this is the start of the Walkway to Leith, it is not, of course, the start of the river. The Water of Leith rises from the Colzium Springs some 13 miles south west of here above Harperigg Reservoir in the Pentland Hills. Adjacent to the start here is Balerno High School, built in 1984 on the site of the railway goods yard, the Walkway follows the route of the old Balerno Branch Railway line to Slateford. This Branchline was opened in 1874 and remained in use until 1968.

Balerno marks the end of a chain of villages which grew in line with the development of industry along the river which originally was a convenient source of power. The name Balerno is said to derive from Byrney – meaning a well sheltered place, but perhaps more clearly from the 15th century when the area was in the Barony of Balernoght. Originally the centre of the local farming community by the 1800’s, the area had seen a big rise in its milling industry. There were about 10 mills generating a variety of products including saw mills, grain and barley mills, threshing, spinning, paper-making and waulking, which is the process of softening cloth, by soaking and beating. There is little evidence of milling left and most of the weirs are no longer visible, but as you walk downstream you will pass the ruins of Newmills Grain Mill which operated for some 300 years.

Between here and Currie you will pass Kinauld Farm – a former Waulking Mill and tannery – and the site of the old Balerno Paper Mill. On the early part of this walk down to Slateford you will see many bridges, cuttings, and embankments which are reminders of the former railway. Of particular interest are the retaining embankment walls just after the Bowling Club which a young man from Currie first used as climbing practice. That young man was Dougal Haston who went on to be a world renowned climber and the first Briton to climb Everest.

Keep an eye on the river for its interesting wildlife. Herons are common, as are Dippers who love to nest under the bridges, and vigilance could well be rewarded by the unforgettable glimpse of the Kingfisher.

The next audio point is by Currie Kirk.

Download Audio File: 1 Balerno


2 - Currie

Currie was an ancient settlement, the name being derived from either the Celtic "Curagh", meaning hollow or glen, or Roman ‘Coria’ for meeting place. The village was the centre of a large parish, mainly farmland, ranging from the crest of the Pentlands in the south to the Gogar Burn in the north. The earliest evidence of a settlement here was a Bronze Age razor from 1800 BC, found at Kinleith Mill, and stone cists or caskets from about 500 BC were unearthed at Duncan's Belt and Blinkbonny nearby. There are a few mentions of this area in mediaeval and early modern documents, one of the first mentions was when Robert of Kildeleith became Chancellor of Scotland in 1249. Kildeleith means Chapel by the Leith, and the name survives today as Kinleith.

On the southern bank, over the river stands Currie Kirk, a place of worship for over 1000 years under the diocese of Lyndysfarne. The first church was dedicated to St Kentigern in 1296, and was an important centre for the Archdean of Lothian as a headquarters in Kildeleith – as Currie was known at that time. St Kentigern is also known as St Mungo (Glasgow’s patron saint) and just downstream of here towards the riverside of the walkway can be found St Mungo’s Well, a natural spring surrounded by a recently renovated stone wall feature.

The present church was built in 1785 at a cost of £433, and stands between two of Currie's old schools, the one on the left (built in 1802) also serving as the schoolmaster's house. In front of the church is an interesting sundial, designed by one Robert Palmer, schoolmaster and famous curler (ice not hair), and shows the time in various parts of the world. Here too the recently restored Currie Brig – or bridge – said to be over 600 years old… A good competitor for the oldest construction on the river. .

As you continue downstream you will see the small tributary of Poet's Burn joining the river from the south. There is also a path here leading up to the Pentlands through the sylvan Poets Glen. The name comes from a local man, James Thomson, who was a weaver-poet living near the glen and a contemporary of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.

Further on still you’ll see the site of the old Kinleith Mill – once the largest mill on this section of the river, and the largest employer with 389 workers at its peak. Its demise was felt heavily in the local Currie community when it closed in 1966. After a period as a small local industrial estate, the latest plan is for the building of some 150 houses on the derelict site. A huge weir survives just upstream of here and the first part of the former mill lade can be traced.

Now look for the next audio point, downstream near The Bathroom Warehouse at Juniper Green.

Download Audio File: 2 Currie


3 - Juniper Green

Juniper Green was first mentioned as a village in 1707, and may take its name from the juniper bushes growing on the Pentland slopes not far from here. The area was dominated by the Woodhall Estate which included The Woodhall Paper Board Mill dating from 1747. The mill occupied the site just upstream from here; if follow the low path upstream, you will see the large weir and its sluice gate.

Woodhall Bank Mills were also located here where they ground snuff and grain for a period of 170 years. Woodhall House, a 16th century residence, is found across the foot-bridge and up the hill. There is a connecting path which links walkers back to Currie along a higher level more scenic route.

The area was also home to another large mill, the Inglis Grain Mill, which worked drying grain under electric power until 2003. This was the last working mill on the Water of Leith. It was demolished to create the housing you see today just before you reach the busy City Bypass which roars above you as you pass under.

Beyond the bypass is the large and dramatic Mossy Mill Weir – with the mill owners attractive house visible on the opposite bank. Sadly the mill is long gone, replaced – yet again – by housing. Continuing along the walkway towards Colinton you will also pass Upper Spylaw Mill, one of Scotland's earliest papermills, built in 1682. Latterly it made snuff from about 1765. It had a colourful history at one time the top floor was an inn frequented by smugglers. The mill became a dairy, then a riding school, but today is a private residence.

The landscape from Balerno down here to Colinton feels very rural and the densely wooded banks of the river provide a wonderful and peaceful escape from the bustle of city life. Badgers and Roe deer are frequently spotted here and the spring and early summer wildflowers can be quite spectacular and rewarding. Look out for the next downstream audio point near Gillespie Bridge in Colinton.

Download Audio File: 3 Juniper Green


4 - Spylaw Park

Colinton village can trace its history back to 1095 when it was and important crossing point in the steep river valley. Both a mill and a church were recorded in this area in 1226, when the village was called Hailes. It was a centre for milling in the 18th and 19th centuries. And at one point all Scots Porridge Oats were ground at West Mills a little upstream from here.

You will probably have just passed Spylaw House in Spylaw Park. This house was built in 1650 and was originally the mill and the home of James Gillespie, the famous snuff maker. The north facade of the buildings was built across the mill in 1773 to create an impressive mansion. After his death in 1797 his fortune founded Gillespie's Hospital and James Gillespie's School for Girls in Edinburgh.

The main walkway continues along the old railway line past the site of the old station and through Colinton Tunnel, an imposing and expensive feature of the branch line. If you prefer, you may choose a more scenic route through Colinton village. Simply drop down the steps into Spylaw Park and cross the low bridge. You will emerge on Syplaw Street and you should continue down the street to the old stone bridge and Colinton Parish Church and Manse. The Church is well worth a visit with impressive tombs and gravestones and even a mort safe which was designed to safeguard new bodies from the clutches of grave robbers. The church buildings include a café which is open on weekdays until just after lunchtime.

The famous poet and storyteller, Robert Louis Stevenson’s, grandfather was once the minister here and the gardens of the house and the adjacent waters of Edinburgh’s river provided inspiration for the young Stevenson’s early poetry.

Beyond the tunnel the Walkway follows the old railway route for a further half mile or so after which you will the opportunity to explore Colinton Dell. The next audio point downstream is beyond the tunnel and suggests alternative routes through the Dells. There is also a map of the area just beyond the tunnel.



5 - Redhall

Welcome to the Dells! Possibly the most natural jewel in the Water of Leith’s crown. To discover the Dells you may choose any one of several routes. A scenic route would be to take these steps down to a footbridge just below Redhall weir – an impressive feature in itself – cross the river and follow the mill lade past Redhall Mill and its cluster of cottages. Then stay on the far bank of the river to Bogs Bridge.

Should you prefer a flatter route – you could continue on the cycle path which will eventually lead to the Union Canal where you must go left along the canal and cross the aqueduct rejoining the Walkway via the steps near the Water of Leith Visitor Centre on Lanark Road. A third choice available is to return on the cycle path and take one of the signed paths to your right to encounter Bog's Mill Bridge and the next audio point.

The Dells in owned and managed by City of Edinburgh Council and is one of the only a handful of patches of ancient woodland in the city. Over 60 species of bird have been recorded here, including woodpeckers, tree creepers, buzzards and tawny owls. The unspoilt nature of the area has long been recognised by countless citizens of Edinburgh as a quiet rural retreat and fantastic place for a picnic. Do, please, take your time to explore this beautiful woodland.


6 - Bog's Mill

We stand at the entrance to the once grand Redhall House and Estate. The house itself stands up the hill close to the ruins of Redhall Castle, which lay in ruins following a siege by Cromwell's troops in 1650. The property was built by local entrepreneur Sir George Inglis, who hired Robert Bowie to landscape the riverside with paths, ornamental trees, a walled garden, and a fine hexagonal doocot – or dovecot if you prefer! The bridge is called Bogs Mill Bridge, harking back to the old mill which, although now supplanted by a modern house, once made the paper exclusively for Bank of Scotland 20 shilling notes.

As you head downstream from here your will pass Redhall Walled Garden on the north side of the river, occupying the site of Jinkabout (paper) Mill from 1750. The garden, which was once the kitchen garden for Redhall House, was built with hollow walls warmed by hot air from a boiler. The garden is now run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health as a training centre. It welcomes visitors, has regular Open Days and is well worth a visit. You will also pass a grotto, Moorish in style, built in the grounds of the long gone Craiglockhart House. Have a look at the unusual shell covered ceiling.

The geology of this area is noteworthy, with exposed outcrops and deep dells carved from the rock. There are also many fine trees including 500 year old oaks, 1000 year old yew trees and a smattering of more exotic species planted only 250 years ago during the landscaping phase. You have to imagine this whole area as being the gardens of only one family. The next audio point is at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre across Lanark Road, 1/4 mile away. There you may have a rest, a refreshment and a chance to learn more about the river’s heritage and wildlife.


7 - The Water of Leith Visitors Centre

Your have now arrived at slateford, the site of an ancient river crossing, with "slate" derived from the slate-like rock in the riverbanks. The steep gorge upstream and marshy flats downstream led the village to become an important transport hub. Bridges carry the Lanark Road, the Union Canal and the Caledonian Railway line across the river at this point. The main industries of the village were the bleaching green, printing work and quarrying at the Redhall and Hailes quarries to the west. In 1964 the road was widened losing much of the old village.

The old school house remains and is now home to the Water of Leith Visitor Centre. Open daily from 10.00am to 4.00pm. The Centre hosts a fantastic free interactive exhibition about the Water of Leith, a host of river & walkway information & serves light refreshments. Come on in. The Centre is also the headquarters of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, a small charity who works with volunteers to conserve and enhance the river as a haven for wildlife and an educational and recreational resource for all. So if you fancy rolling up your sleeves and helping the river why not join us as a volunteer or support our work as a member.

Heading downstream of the centre on the new elevated walkway, you will notice the scene is dominated by the Slateford aqueduct built in 1822 and railway viaduct built in 1847. Access by steps has been created linking the walkway with The Union Canal. Here the cycling route rejoins the walkway to head downstream.

This section of walkway was only opened in 2002 and while it passes through industrial and retail areas, as well as the allotments and Saughton Prison, it teems with wildlife and wildflowers. Keep a watchful eye open for the Kingfisher with its distinctive plumage and loud shrill whistle call. The next Audio point is at the entrance to Saughton Park after you have crossed Gorgie Road.


8 - Saughton Park

Saughton Park was once part of the lands of Stenhouse and had an elegant mansion of its own, Saughton House. Today it is difficult to imagine that in 1908 the park housed a massive Scottish National Exhibition, with all manner of shows, displays, a concert hall, bandstand and huge fairground with waterslide and roundabouts. Around 3 and a half million people visited during the 6 month of the exhibition. All that remains today are the white bridge into the site from Balgreen Road, the iron footbridge here at Ford's Road and the rose gardens.

Today the area is a large park, run by City of Edinburgh Council. Home to playing fields, a children’s play park and a very popular skate park.

Once you have entered the park you have a choice of 2 routes. You can either choose to follow the river bank to your right through the gardens and past the impressive Gorgie Weir which bring you round in a loop, or alternatively you can proceed ahead past the walled garden to Ballgreen road when the two paths rejoin. The Winter gardens within the park are a pleasant diversion and include a Rose garden, Floral displays, Walled garden and Glasshouses.

The river bank skirting the park is rather beautiful with many fine trees. The area is also home to many water fowl including mallard duck families and in the winter months you can see Goosanders – a diving duck with a saw like bill for catching fish. They have impressive black and white plumage with the male sporting an emerald green head and the female, an orangey brown head.

Watch for the next audio point downstream in Roseburn Park on a false bridge past Murrayfield stadium.


9 - Roseburn Park

The scene here is dominated by Murrayfield Stadium, named after Archibald Murray who bought the ground from the Nisbets of Dean in 1734. The Scottish Rugby Union acquired the ground from the Edinburgh Polo Club and the international stadium was built after the First World War. While excavating the ground, a coffin containing the skeleton of a soldier and his musket were found, possibly one of Cromwell's troops who encamped here. Roseburn Park takes its name from a burn draining into Corstorphine Loch. The loch was originally a glacial lake, giving rise to a large area of marshland, which was finally drained in the 17th century. This area flooded dramatically in April 2000 and has or will (depending when you hear this) been extensively modified by a flood defense scheme.

The area has long been a popular spot for the river’s wildfowl. A pair of swans nest here and ducks, coots and moorhens can also be seen.

The path downstream now takes a short zig zag through the streets and across Corstorphine road, a main thoroughfare in the city. Take care on the crossing and watch for the walkway sign returning you to the river bank on Roseburn Cliff. This section of path can also become flooded during high water. This area is know as Coltbridge and you can see the fine old stone bridge near Corstorphine road before you rejoin the walkway and will soon pass under the Coltbridge viaduct, once the Granton Branch of Caledonian Railway, now the North Edinburgh Cycle Track to Newhaven. The next audio point is at Bells Mills near footbridge to the Gallery of Modern Art.


10 - Bell's Mill

This is my favourite spot along the river – listen, all you can hear is bird song and running water, yet we are close to the centre of the city. Across this footbridge and up the steep steps you can access the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art – open daily. The galleries influence has spread to the river at this point with a number of works of art and memorials along the wall and most obviously the Statue by Antony Gormley standing in the pool at the back of the weir.

The Haugh or meadow land next to the river at this point is managed by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust and has recently been the focus of volunteer effort to improve it for wildlife. Hundreds of wildflowers have been planted and a meadow cutting regime put in place – what wildflowers can you spot? In Summer look out for oxeye daisy, st johns wort, meadow cranesbill, yarrow and the tall purple bellflowers.

The weir and lade cottage across the water marks the beginning of the Bell’s Mills complex, one of the oldest milling sites on the river dating from the 11th Century. The pool above the large oblique weir is ominously known as the cauldron. The lade still flows into the land to the north of the river, now home to the Edinburgh sports club and a modern housing development. Only the mill owners house and the granary survive and today form part of the Hotel you will pass as you continue downstream. Bells Mills was the last mill to operate under the power of water and was owned by the Walker family. In 1972 it was grinding wood flour to make linoleum when it exploded in spectacular fashion destroying the mill and injuring many mill workers including Lawrence Walker the owner. The next audio point is near the footbridge in Dean Village.


11 - Dean Village

Welcome to the Dean Village – it is hard to imagine that this was once Edinburgh's industrial slum, home to 8 grain mills, a brewery, distillery, chemical works and skin factory. You passed the damhead weir a short way upstream from here. The impressive vertical weir powered all the mills on the north side of the river.

We are standing at the location of the original ford crossing, used by all travellers wishing to head north from the city centre. The area was known as the Village of the Water of Leith and it became the centre for flour milling under the Baxters, who owned all the mills and granaries. They supplied Edinburgh with all its flour until steam milling came to Leith in the 19th Century. We are next to the Well Court development. This social housing complex was commissioned in 1884 by the philanthropist J R Finlay, proprietor of the The Scotsman newspaper. The impressive red brick building has a clock tower and a community hall, and was recently renovated by the Edinburgh World heritage trust.

You can use either bank on the river to continue your walk, this side is easier with bikes and buggies. The route across the footbridge takes you past the hawthorn cottages built in 1895. There is a wonderful mix of housing and architecture in the Dean Village so take your time to look around. The next audio point is a short distance downstream on the old stone bridge in the Village.


12 - Dean Village Part 2

You are standing beside the Old Dean Bridge, built in 1643 by the Baxters. Look for a carved stone in the wall showing the symbols of the Baxters' trade - crossed peels, the wooden shovels used to move loaves into and out of the ovens. The Baxters also built the Tollbooth, the impressive ochre yellow building across the road, in 1675. This was a granary, their headquarters, and of course where they gathered a toll from citizens using the bridge they built. The inscription above the door reads ‘God bless the Baxters of Edinburgh who built this house’.

Across the river are the building of West Mills, converted in to housing in the 1970s and if you follow the path down Millers Row you will encounter a small park on the site of Lindsays Mill. In the park you will see 3 mills stones. These are not the traditional locally quarried millstone but are made from imported French quartz. When grain became cheaper to import from America, it was much harder and drier than local grain so they needed a tougher stone. The stone are in sections bound by a steel band as they were too heavy to import complete.

Also in the park you will hear the roar of World End Weir another large vertical weir on the river. This weir fed the Great Lade, an impressive lade (or Mill race) which ran for over 2 miles powering some further 8 mills from here to Cannonmills. Along much of its length the great lade was carried in a wooden trough above head height. This great feat of engineering was however a public health hazard as the river was also Edinburgh’s main sewer and home to a host of industry. It was closed in 1881 reputedly by a landslide, in a single blow wiping out all milling from Dean, through Stockbridge to Cannonmills.

As you continue downstream you can appreciate how deep in the valley you are as you pass under the rivers most impressive bridge. Dean Bridge was designed and engineered by Thomas Telford and was built in 1830. It was commissioned by John Learmonth the lord provist and Princes Street coach maker, who owned all the land to the north of the river. The venture cost £30,000 and in the 19th century an additional parapet was added to negate suicides. The next audio point is at St Bernard Well.


13 - St Bernard's Well

Having passed the private designed gardens flanking the river and the smaller St Georges well you are now at St Bernard’s well. A natural spring was discovered by three Heriots’s school boys whilst out fishing in the river in 1760. Lord Gardenstone, the senator of the college of justice, believed he had benefited from the health giving properties of the waters so commissioned Alexander Naysmith in 1788 to build this well.

A circular temple created above the well features a statue of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health and cleanliness. In 1888 the well was lavishly refurbished by the publisher William Nelson to include a mosaiced interior. Later the well was gifted to the city and finally closed in the 1960s, ironically due to the unhygienic nature of the water which was foul and sulphurous. The Well is open to the public during Sundays in August and during doors open day in September. It is well worth a visit.

Down the steps and along the lower path you will see a natural medicinal herb garden created by volunteers. Continue downstream to Stockbridge and pass through the impressive stone bridge built in 1824. The next audio point is on the main bridge in Stockbridge.


14 - Stockbridge

Stockbridge is thought to have taken its name from the first timber, or stock, bridge over the river. The village was a rural community with many of its population working in the flour mills or tan pits. In the 18th century it became a popular retreat for city dwellers coming to sample the mineral waters at nearby St Bernard's Well. In the early 19th century, landowners like Sir Henry Raeburn, the portrait painter, developed charming Georgian streets such as Dean Terrace and Ann Street, the latter named after Raeburn's wife Ann Leslie.

Gradually the city expanded to envelope the village and today Stockbridge is an attractive and bustling shopping and residential area. The Walkway continues down the steps, leading Falshaw Bridge, from where you will need to follow a short diversion on to the road to continue along the Walkway onto Arboretum Avenue. However, to see the next Gormley standing man you will need to look upstream from the bridge.

The next audio marker downstream is along Rocheid Path near the lifting footbridge.


15 - Rocheid Path

You are now opposite the Stockbridge Colonies, across the river. The housing was built between 1861 and 1911 by the Edinburgh Building Cooperative, and its development aimed to provide low cost housing for skilled workers and artisans, moving people to a healthier environment, away from the slums and disease of the Old Town. The colonies style is particular to Edinburgh, and each flat originally had four rooms with an external toilet and a small garden. They were built as double flats, upper and lower, with the upper flat's front door on the opposite side to the lower flat's front door, allowing each dwelling to have a front garden.

In April 2000 this area flooded badly and the far bank has undergone extensive flood defense work.

The path you are walking along is called Rocheid Path in memory of the Rocheid family who built Inverleith House. The house and extensive grounds is now the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens. Open daily, one can visit the Gardens by taking Inverleith Row north, once you have left the Walkway on Cannonmills Bridge, some 500m downstream. Do not cross this new lifting bridge but continue downstream and cross the river using the next footbridge. The path and steps will bring you out onto the road at Brandon Terrace where there is a good selection of cafes and public conveniences.

At Cannonmills follow the walkway signs carefully as you will need to cross the busy road and continue along the path which follows Warriston Road. Another interesting diversion from the walkway is nearby Warriston Road. Another interesting diversion from the walkway could be nearby Warriston Cemetery, further along the road past the entrance to St Marks Park. Laid out in 1842 by David Cousins as a fashionable burial ground for the wealthy, sadly present day neglect and vandalism have only served to reinforce the gloomy gothic atmosphere.


16 - St Mark's Park

This area is known as Powderhall, a name which is said to have originated from the gunpowder factory which once existed nearby. Some say the name is derived from the old Scots 'Poldre Haw', meaning 'Marshy Haugh'. During the 19th century the stretch of the river covering Cannonmills, Warriston and St Marks Park was known as 'Puddockie', a popular area for catching frogs and toads (or puddocks) and tadpoles.

The area was once dominated by an athletics stadium laid out in 1869. It was also the side of the first Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Championship, and in 1922 during the final meeting here both sprint events were won by Eric Liddell, upon whose story the film Chariots of Fire was based. It was used for many years as the home of the professional New Year Powderhall Sprint, but hosted a variety of sporting activities including football, rugby, speedway and greyhound racing before being demolished in 1995 to make way for housing.

If you look into the river at this point you should see another Gormley ‘standing man’ statue in the river. These statues were erected in 2010 and form part of the work of art called “6 Times” by the celebrated artist and sculptor. These are designed to topple over on hinges in severe flood events to prevent the build up of blockages in the river. So if you cannot see it, he must be face down in the water, and has yet to be restored to the vertical!

Continue downstream and you will soon pass under another disused railway line and emerge at Redbraes weir. This weir fed a complex of mills, mainly grain, but included a skin works and also dyeing and bleaching works. Can you guess what was the purpose of the tall chimney? … No, it was not to remove smoke but it served as an air vent for the main sewer – charming!

Keep your eyes and ears open as this is a popular area for catching a surprise of that colourful bird, the Kingfisher, although a flash of electric blue may be all that you will catch.

Beyond the weir, cycleways and the walkway converge an area called ‘steadfast gate’, so be sure to keep to the riverside path. A flight of steps will lead you up onto Newhaven Road, which is still on the official walkway route, and here you will find another audio point No. 17.


17 - Bonnington

This section of walkway was only opened in 2003 and marks the final phase of the project to create a continuous walkway from Balerno to Leith. This was funded by The Millennium Commission and The City of Edinburgh Council. It has opened up a very industrial section of the river which is in stark contrast to the more rural aspects of the upper reaches or the fine architecture through the more elegant New Town.

However, it is not without its own charm or interest. Another Gormley statue makes an appearance in the river – unless he has toppled over in a recent storm and awaits resurrection! The large Bond building nearby was built in 1870 as a sugar refinery and has recently been converted into private dwellings. In fact the whole area around here is undergoing considerable transformation from an industrial landscape to a residential one as the successful development of Leith sprawls up river so to speak. However, we are not yet in Leith, but in Bonnington – or Bonny Toon, a one time village between Edinburgh and Leith. It was an important crossing point, and, lying in a natural flat plain, it was ideal for milling which can be traced back to the 12th century.

Once again you will need to follow the walkway signs carefully to keep on the right track to Coalie Park, where you will find the next audio point – unless of course you are heading upstream!


18 - Coalie Park

This area is known as Coalie Park. The river bank as been landscaped following its use as a coal depot and railway yard. In the past this marked the tidal extent of the river and it was also used as an area for repairing ships. In fact, invented a special technology here for hauling out ships for repair without the use of a dry dock.

Hear the water is impounded and slow moving. The Docks in Leith prevent the natural tidal ebb and flow of the water. Significant silt accumulations are visible and sadly being the lower end of the river you can also find more rubbish than on the upper reaches. However this does not hamper the wildlife. This is one of the best spots to see the river wildfowl. There has been a resident pair of nesting swans for many years and during the winter visitors from the Forth are common such as cormorants and Tufted duck.

As you continue downstream there are a number of interesting features to look out for including works of art and stone carvings. Watch for the remnants McGregor's mill and the North Leith Church which dates form 1493. The next audio point is at the rest area on Sandport Place.


19 - Sandport Place

Welcome to Leith. The mouth of the Water of Leith river formed a natural harbour, and since Roman time settlements have sprung up on either bank. These were joined by a ford, a ferry and then the first bridge in 1486. The area has a fascinating and long history. It suffered battles between French and English, and religious strife, but by the 18th century the growth of overseas trade and ship-building had made it Scotland's chief seaport.

It was also an industrial hub for ship-building, sail and rope-making, bottle making, timber yards, and soap and sugar factories. While it served as Edinburgh's port, and much of its lands were owned by Edinburgh, it was a separate and independent burgh from 1833 until 1920, when its amalgamation into the capital was resented by many Leithers. A downturn in Leith's industries in the 20th century has caused a slow decline in Leith, which was only arrested in the 1980s with greater public and private investment.

Now there are signs of revitalization everywhere, with restored buildings along the shore and at the waterside a cruise liner terminal and the former Royal Yacht 'Britannia' all acting as a magnet for visitors. Leith has had to wait a long time for all this, but then the town's motto is "Persevere".

The Walkway continues along the part pedestrianised street called The Shore. This impressive row of buildings might be said to be the heart of Leith, with its mix of housing in the Timber Bush, and its variety of waterside bars and restaurants. Here we see further works of artwork, memorials and statues of interest including a reminder of another side of Leith's history, a harpoon gun once used on whaling vessels by the firm Christian Salvesen. The final audio point is at the end of the Walkway at the Victorian Swing Bridge.


20 - Victoria Bridge

The Victoria Bridge, the last of Leith's opening bridges, was restored in 2000 and marks the end of the Water of Leith walkway. It also marks the end of the rivers 24 mile journey from the Pentland Hill, through our capital. We are at the beginning of Leith docks, originally the area simply contained piers but in the mid 19th century a complex of docks were created including the Victoria Dock in 1851, The Albert in 1869, followed by Edinburgh Dock in 1881 and finally the Imperial Dock in 1903.

The docks were famous for shipbuilding since 1700s and in the early 19th century they worked at full stretch to support the Napoleonic War. However, as steel fabrication overtook timber the harbour was not deep enough, and so the industry declined with the last shipbuilding yard closing in 1980.

There are many interesting buildings on this final leg to the end of the river including the circular Signal Tower. One of the oldest buildings in the area, dating from 1685, was originally a wind powered mill for rape seed. In the Napoleonic wars it was converted to a signal tower. Development is springing up all over the area and there are grand plans for the re-development of the docks.

So why not explore the many bars, restaurants and shops which have made Leith a popular destination. If you want to spot the final Gormley Statue, take this road towards Ocean Terminal and follow round the estuary side of the shopping centre and you will see him standing out on one of the old dock piers.

We hope you have enjoyed your journey down the Water of Leith and have found this commentary interesting and useful. To find out more about the river or to help with its protection please contact the Water of Leith Conservation Trust at www.waterofleith.org.uk