The History of Leith

November 11, 2004

Water Of Leith

Situation: The valley of the Water of Leith from Balerno to Leith docks.
The Water of Leith may be only a little more than 18 miles long from its source in the Pentland Hills to the harbour in Leith, but for its size it has held an importance and an affection substantially more significant than many much longer Scottish rivers. It passes through some of the finest rural countryside in Lothian, with vignettes of exquisite beauty, through one-time thriving mill villages, it meanders by sections of Edinburgh’s dark old industrial past, vivid parts of the Capital’s story have unfolded along its banks and for at least 900 years it has played a key role in the development of Edinburgh and Leith.

Its vast potential for recreational use was first recognised in the Edinburgh plan of 1949, when imaginations were flaring after the war years, but the daunting and painstaking task of its development in the face of so many different owners, was at last taken up by the old Edinburgh Town Council and then the District Council in 1973.

Nowadays the dream of those far-sighted planners has been fulfilled because the Water of Leith Walkway, in the words of that 1949 concept, now “offers one of the finest riverside walks that any citizen could ask for”. Apart from its outstanding scenic delights, its industrial and historical heritage, the course of the Water of Leith is rich in wildlife, ancient and modern woodlands and a vast array of plants. It is remarkable that such a full hand of interests and attractions should be associated with such a little river and much of it within the city itself. The Walkway has been divided into six natural segments from the High School in Balerno to the 17th-century Signal Tower in Leith. Some of their points of interest are as follows:

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