Local History

The power provided by the rapid flow of the river was harnessed to drive waterwheels in mills at over 70 sites along the river, establishing a string of villages. The mills produced a variety of goods for Edinburgh and further afield including, paper, flour, woollen and linen cloths, spices and snuff.
The people of Edinburgh have, for centuries, had close links with the Water of Leith.

In the past, the river played a crucial role in developing Edinburgh as an industrial city. Long before the construction of an artificial harbour, the tidal mouth of the river provided a haven for ships, allowing the Port of Leith to flourish as a focus for shipping. Notable imports and exports through Leith included timber, wine, esparto grass for paper and, of course, whisky.

The Port also became a focus for shipbuilding and whaling. During these industrial times, the river was grossly polluted. However, as the mills closed and sewers were constructed, the river was able to regenerate and recover. Now, the only remaining relics are weirs, lade streams, millstones and mill buildings scattered along the river valley. Call into the Visitor Centre for more information or why not book a talk from one of our speakers.

The Water Mills of the Water of Leith Book by Graham Priestley is back in print and is for sale from our Visitor Centre - or if you want information about obtaining a PDF please email or call admin@waterofleith.org.uk 0131 455 7367