If you are looking for a pleasant, easy wander through one of the most beautiful cities then this has got to be near the top of your list. I had tried this about 30 years ago but the path just gave up somewhere near Saughton. And in those days nice people like me didn’t really want to go to Leith. But now Leith has been gentrified and the path goes all the way to the sea. Seems like time for a revisit.
A helpful parent dropped us off at the start in Balerno: this isn’t the source of the WoL (that’s Harperrig reservoir a few miles along the Pentlands) but it’s where the walkway starts. The area was packed with Chelsea tractors and I thought we’d be joining the crowds on the walk. Fortunately it was just Saturday rugby practise and they wouldn’t be joining us (although their din took a while to disappear). Being a bright sort of person you’ll immediately realise that we are going downstream and so I give Jazz the good news that it’s downhill all the way.
In the first section we are below the level of the road and immediately we forget we are in the city. One thing I enjoyed doing as we went through the various sections was watching how the use of the path changed. The whole route has cyclists and local dog walkers but in this affluent area up to the point it goes under the city bypass we are in jogging land, but don’t let that put you off because it is a really lovely part especially around Colinton Dell.
The path pops out at the Walkway Centre in Slateford near where the Union Canal crosses the WoL in a high aqueduct and we join up with the John Muir Way for a few kilometres. It was a bit of a shock to meet a busy road after being deep in woodland peace for so long. We are now in the city proper and follow the meandering river through areas like Saughton with its nice park, around a large area of allotments, past Murrayfield stadium and then down towards Dean Village. This is a little gem hidden away underneath the main road passing high overhead on Telford’s beautiful bridge. The stretch for the next few kilometres to Stockbridge and Canonmills is through seriously attractive city-scape and hence tourists abound.
Stockbridge was bustling. I used to have a Saturday job down here and don’t remember it being so up-market: from the accents it sounded like a Surrey suburb. So we quickly move on and the next stretch is through Canonmills. Here it looks like the nice little WoL we’ve been following isn’t always so well-behaved as the council has been spending a fortune in a new flood prevention scheme. There is a newly built wall with flood gates that goes on for at least 4km: it looks a bit like the Berlin Wall through the city (obviously with fewer gun towers).
After passing the Botanical Gardens we are on the final stretch into sunny Leith. Things have certainly changed since the last time I was here: it’s all cobbled streets, posh waterfront restaurants and wine-bars, and even open-top tourist buses now. Sadly there isn’t an obvious “well-done, you’ve made it” board, so it was just a matter of waiting for the parental pick-up. And then it started raining.
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