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.
Video created by Bryce Morrison, Edinburgh U3A Movie Makers Group