Somehow we ended up walking 30 km…
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Date: 18 April, 2021
Location: Water of Leith Walkway: Balerno to Leith, Scotland
Distance: 24.5 km (15.2 miles)
Elevation gain: 386 m (1266 ft)
Duration: 7 hours with breaks
Highlights: Variation in scenery, the Colinton Tunnel, stunning charm of the Edinburgh old town, sunset in the port at Leith
Summary: A long, but never boring, walk along the Water of Leith, following the river from Balerno to where it meets the sea. The terrain is very easy and the path is extremely well marked. Even once in the city, there are always signs pointing you in the right direction, but getting lost would be hard as you follow the river the whole way!
So it was decided: we were going on our first post-lockdown adventure as a flat! Unfortunately not everyone could make it, but Sophia, Char, Bilge and I woke up early to set off on a full day journey. We took a bus to Edinburgh (only £8 roundtrip for a one hour ride!), where we hopped on another bus which took us to the start of our walk. Having watched the movie Sunshine on Leith as a flat on our last night of quarantine (after we all caught and recovered from COVID), we were excited about the prospect of visiting Leith. All that was between us now was a 20 kilometre walk, following the Water of Leith Walkway all the way from Balerno to where the river meets the sea. Me and Bilge shared airpods for the walk, and he will be writing about the musical journey we went on together while on this adventure.
“We started our music journey on the bus to Edinburgh. With Muse in the background, we chatted and napped our way through the first bus ride. When we arrived in Edinburgh and started to look for our other bus, we decided to play Radiohead’s ‘Best Of’ collection. It brought me back to my childhood since it was the only CD I had for a long time and I listened to it on repeat endlessly.”
The walk started in the woods, following the river whilst we were surrounded in nature. After months in Glasgow, we were all excited just to be seeing something new and different! The fact that you can be so close to a city, but still so enclosed in nature is something that really surprised me. I skipped along the river with happiness. With the sun shining down and blue skies above us, we were all in very high spirits.
“After we reached the start of our hike, we started to walk to ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers, I believe the joke is self explanatory! For the first half of the hike we listened to Ashlynn’s playlist “the witch” which consists of industrial rock and synth pop. It was an interesting choice considering that we were in the middle of nature with almost no buildings! We queued a few disco hits and some songs from our Movie playlist “formalism,” which is a collection of songs that are featured in movies that we have watched together. Our musical peak was when we listened to ‘Supernature’ by Cerrone. Now that I think about it, our music didn’t fit the atmosphere at all!”
After walking a few kilometres we came across tunnel, 140 metres long and painted floor-to-ceiling with murals. As we walked through the “Colinton Tunnel,” we learnt that the murals tell the story of the poem From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson, which Char knew from her childhood. Seeing Scotland’s largest historical mural in person was incredible. It’s safe to say that I have never seen anything quite like it before! It’s a must see for anybody visiting Edinburgh – I have already added it to my “list of things to show” when people come to visit me.
“After we passed the tunnel, we shifted to some progressive rock tunes and walked with them playing in the background until we took our lunch break. After the break we decided to enjoy the silence for a bit – our music was the river, birds and screaming kids.”
“An hour or so later, the silence was disrupted when we needed to pee in the bushes, then proceeded to play ‘Fuckin’ in the Bushes’ by Oasis. After that point our music became more energetic. As we got close to the city, we listened to Oasis, Buzzcocks, The Cure and The Clash.”
As we continued to follow the river, the scenery began to change. We started seeing more houses and we couldn’t help but daydream about how nice it would be to live in such a beautiful place, with Edinburgh just around the corner. The merging of nature and urban landscapes was quite a contrast from the other hikes I have done in Scotland, which had (up to this point) been very rural. We all agreed that the variation in landscape was one of our favourite things about the route. Walking 20 kilometres in a day can get very dull if your surroundings don’t change, but this walk is constantly evolving, and at every turn you can expect to see some new kind of scenery!
As the day wore on, we started to enter the city of Edinburgh. One thing I particularly liked about this route is that, even when we were in the city centre, there was always a path alongside the river, so I always felt the peace and quiet that comes from seeing the water flow (it also makes it really easy to follow the trail, as you just see which way the river is going!). Although I had already spent some time exploring Edinburgh on previous trips, the architecture in the city still blew me away – the city feels like magic. Being surrounded by those stunning buildings as we followed the river was truly remarkable.
After taking a much needed break, we finally made it to the harbour town of Leith – what an amazing place to end our walk! With the sun starting to set and a band playing some funky music to welcome us, we all felt a strong feeling of achievement. We had a group hug and reflected on how far we had just walked! We went to grab some food and beers to get our blood sugars back to a normal level and sat down where we could enjoy the atmosphere of Leith for half an hour before starting our journey back to Glasgow.
We arrived home at 23:00, after what we thought was going to be a 20 kilometre walk had turned into a 30 kilometre one – 25 kilometres on the route plus an extra 5 kilometres going back and forth between the bus station and our flat. Needless to say, we all slept very well that night! I loved spending the day with my flatmates exploring outside of Glasgow and hope we can continue going on adventures together next year. (Also shout out to my flatmates for contributing photos for this blog post!)
This walk really increased my love for Edinburgh. I had visited Edinburgh on three occasions previously, but had mainly stayed in the city centre on those trips. Seeing the city from another perspective really showed me how incredibly beautiful it is and I look forward to more adventures in Edinburgh in the future.
“When we arrived at the city centre, we played the 'Trainspotting' soundtrack. The story takes place in Edinburgh, especially Leith, and I believe the soundtrack was picked very wisely since every single song fit the atmosphere perfectly. We sang, even screamed, ‘Lust For Life’ and ‘Atomic’ through the city part of the walk. We indeed had the ‘Perfect Day.’” – Bilge
Water of Leith Walkway: http://www.waterofleith.org.uk/walkway/
Getting to Balerno from Edinburgh: Bus 44 from Haymarket Station, get off at Cockburn Crescent
Getting back: A number of buses run back to the Edinburgh city centre from Leith