Water of Leith

Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.​
Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.

I think we can call this a series now. I’ve written about rivers the last few weeks so I might as well continue. I have a list of three that I could write about, and have photographs of, including today’s offering, the Water of Leith, which runs from the Pentland Hills right through Edinburgh to Leith where it flows into the Forth. The Water of Leith was once surrounded by mills and industries though today there are a few factories interspersed with flats, allotments, the Union Canal and Colinton Dell as the river wends its way out of the city. The Water of Leith Walkway runs for 13 miles from Leith to Balerno and I’ve walked all of it at one point or another, sometimes in sunshine, other times in rain or even with snow on the ground. The last time I was there was last summer, my only visit to Edinburgh in a year, and walked from Leith towards the city centre. It included stopping by the quotations inscribed on the pavement near Great Junction Street, including the ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’. I’ve always rather liked that and it currently graces an advertising hoarding on the West Stand at Easter Road, even though it was actually to do with Leith Athletic rather than Hibs, I gather.

St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.​
St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.​
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.

The Water of Leith also passes near some of Edinburgh’s foremost visitor attractions including the Royal Botanic Garden and the Modern Art Galleries. That section from Stockbridge to Roseburn is my favourite, going by St Bernard’s Well, under the Dean Bridge and through the Dean Village before winding past a weir on the way to Murrayfield. At the weir are benches in memory of those who have died from HIV and AIDS and it is one of the most beautiful spots in Edinburgh. I remember being able to go into St Bernard’s Well one Doors Open Day and it had information panels shedding more light on that particular stunning structure, designed by Alexander Nasmyth and based on the Temple of Vista in Italy. St Bernard’s was also a football team, incidentally, who played at the edge of the New Town near Scotland Street. They took their name from the Well, so Wikipedia tells me. Their name lives on in a couple of amateur teams in Edinburgh though they left the Scottish League around the Second World War. There’s a plaque to them in King George V Park, if I recall. The Dean Village, meanwhile, had many mills harnessing the Water of Leith though now it is pretty much residential and a pleasant part of town.

Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.​
Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.

Beyond Slateford is Colinton Dell, which is particularly stunning with a weir and woodland. Colinton Village comes next, which is a conservation village and every time I’m there I always marvel that this seemingly rural place is in the capital of Scotland and very near the City Bypass. In Colinton is the Colinton Tunnel which has been artistically decorated. Some day I’ll be able to go and have a look – it’s only happened in the last year or so. The walk leads out through Currie and Juniper Green to Balerno, which is a nice village in the lee of the Pentlands. Invariably the bus back into Edinburgh takes only a few minutes to cover what has been walked in a few hours. Thankfully the memories and the good vibes from the walk take longer to fade and they encourage me to plan a visit for when the time comes.

7 thoughts on “Water of Leith

  1. It is a beautiful quotation. I often walk The Water of Leith as I live just over a mile walk from it. I walk from Baberton to Colinton Dell, sometimes through Union Canal back to Baberton, or from Baberton to Balerno, or crossing it on my way to Pentlands. Views and landscape are incredible at Water of Leith.

    Liked by 1 person

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