The Water of Leith Walkway

Part Three: Stockbridge to Leith

Starting in Stockbridge at the junction with Saunders Street (NT 24635 74525), cross the Stock Bridge. In the river to your left, you can find another of the 6 TIMES statues.

The 6 TIMES statue at Stockbridge.

Immediately across the bridge, steps on your right lead down to the water – you’ll need to cross the road if you haven’t done so already. Follow the path until you reach another bridge, where you should bear left then turn right into Arboretum Avenue.

A sign marking the way at Stockbridge. It could do with a lick of paint.

Across the river are the eleven parallel rows of houses known as the colonies. The colonies were built in 1861 by the Co-operative Building Company, who were looking to build low-cost accommodation for working people. A house at the Colonies cost between £100-£130: a far cry from today’s property prices. They’re now a listed buildings, and form a key part of part of Stockbridge’s identity.

Looking across the water to the colonies at Stockbridge.

As the road bends left to leave the river, bear right and enter a gateway to join the Rocheid Path (NT 24490 75010). The path takes its name from the Rocheid family, as it was once part of their estate. The Rocheids lived at Inverleith House, now part of the nearby Royal Botanic Garden.

Continuing along the picturesque path, you’ll come to the Tanfield Footbridge – easily identifiable because of its metallic red colour. Cross the river here and continue along the opposite bank.

After climbing steps to reach a road, bear left and cross the river at a road bridge. Follow the road for a short distance, then take the first right onto Warriston Crescent. In 1848, the composer Frédéric Chopin stayed at Number 10 Warriston Crescent (NT 25191 75178) while visiting Edinburgh for a concert – look out for the commemorative plaque that was unveiled on the hundredth anniversary of his visit.

The plaque commemorating Chopin’s visit to Edinburgh.

At the end of the street, join the footpath signed Warriston Path. This soon meets the course of an old railway line, passing by Warriston Cemetery. When houses begin to reappear on your right, pass through a gap in the wall and follow the road downhill to rejoin the river and the signposted walkway (NT 25450 75580).

There is some strange wildlife on the railway path at Warriston.

Follow the path along the edge of St Mark’s Park, keeping the river on your right. After passing under a railway bridge, you might notice a large chimney standing alone (NT 25824 75722). This wasn’t part of some old factory or mill, but was actually a ventilation shaft for the sewers below!

The ventilation shaft near St Mark’s Park.

Continue past the weir at Redbraes, and the path soon meets the former railway line once more at Steadfastgate (NT 25775 76030).. Avoid the line heading east-west and instead make for a short flight of steps leading to a small stone fountain.

The weir at Redbraes.

These are the remains of the Sinclair Fountain, which once stood at the East End of Princes Street at the junction with Lothian Road. The inscription on the stonework is particularly poignant – if you’ve walked from Balerno, you may well be in need of a drink by now.

Drink and be thankful
A blessing on the giver.
Water is not for man alone.

Inscription on the Sinclair fountain.
The remains of the Sinclair Fountain at Steadfastgate.

Pass the fountain and proceed down the steps on the other side to emerge onto Gosford Place. Turn right into Bonnington Grove, then right again to join Newhaven Road. Follow the road here until you reach a path on your left that rejoins the river. This stretch of the river is decidedly more urban than anything from earlier in the walk as factories, warehouses and flats line the riverbanks. Cross the river twice, passing another of the 6 TIMES statues as you do so.

The third 6 TIMES statue en route to Leith.

When you reach a road, cross it and continue straight until you reach a bridge. Instead of crossing here, bear left, then take the first right to follow a path that returns to the riverside. This eventually rejoins the railway path that you left earlier at Steadfastgate. Follow this along the river until you reach Leith.

Although Leith may seem to be just another part of Edinburgh, the area is fiercely independent: until the 1920s it was its own burgh and as such was separate from the capital. As Edinburgh’s main port, Leith has been visited by many monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots, King George IV, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia; today that royal connection remains with the Royal Yacht Britannia, now a museum, being moored at Ocean Terminal.

It may seem like a long way, but you’ve finally arrived. This is the Shore, one of the trendier areas of Leith with many cafes and restaurants taking advantage of the waterfront location. This is where the Walkway officially comes to an end as the river approaches the former docklands before joining the North Sea

If you haven’t walked enough, take a stroll along the east side of the Shore to reach the Merchant Navy Memorial. This sandstone column shows various naval scenes depicted in bronze carvings, and commemorates the sailors of the Scottish Merchant Navy who gave their lives around the world.

The Merchant Navy Memorial.

After all that walking, take some time to relax before catching a bus back into the city centre.