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  • Brianne Moore

Exploring Edinburgh: The Water of Leith

A river runs through it (the city, that is!)

“I’ve got a thing on Saturday, but how about Sunday? If it’s nice we can take a walk along the Water of Leith.”

The rather whimsically named Water of Leith is a river that wends its way from the Pentland Hills, past the ruins of Cairns Castle, through the suburbs of Balerno, Juniper Green, and Roseburn to Edinburgh. There, it flows through Dean Village, where it once powered grain mills, beneath the dramatic span of Dean Bridge, past the New Town areas of Stockbridge, Inverleith, Cannonmills and Warriston, before finally emptying into the Firth of Forth at Leith.

The charming stroll Susan and Philip go on takes them along the Water of Leith Walkway, which follows the river for just over 12 miles from Balerno to Leith. Along the way, they pass St Bernard’s Well, an 18th century Greco-Roman mini-temple that marks the site of a natural spring that was once thought to have healing properties. The building, designed by Alexander Nasmyth in 1789, features Doric columns embracing a statue of Hygieia, the goddess of health. The inscription over the doorway reads ‘Drink, and you will be well.’ People visited the well to ‘take the waters’ (as they visited Bath!) for nearly 200 years.

If you take a walk down the Water of Leith (and I really recommend you do!) keep an eye out for the wildlife: the river itself is stocked with brown trout, as well as wild grayling, eels, stone loach, minnow, three-spined Stickleback and flounder. These provide a feast for water birds like heron, which frequently perch in the fast-moving water, waiting for a tasty meal. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of roe deer, badgers, and even otters!


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