Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Water of Leith

A walk along the Water of Leith yesterday to have a look at the Anthony Gormley statues that have been placed in the river. There are six in total. Can you find them all? Apparently the one nearest the sea is particularly hard to spot.

We didn’t walk the whole of the river: rather its most scenic section, from Canonmills to the Roseburn Viaduct and back.

Statue at Gallery of Modern Art:

The Water of Leith is one of Edinburgh’s secret places: locals all know about it, but tourists, drawn to the more obvious attractions of the Castle and Calton Hill, are usually ignorant. Yet ask someone who lives in Edinburgh, and for pleasure they would swap the sweaty crowds of Princes St for the cool glades of the Water of Leith any time. When I lived in that part of Edinburgh, the commute along the riverside on a bicycle watching herons, ducks, even once an otter, was the highlight of the day.

Dean Village:

Halfway along our walk, the river passes through a gorge and in the bottom of this gorge, is the attractive Dean Village. This was home to a mill in the days when Edinburgh was several fields away, but the passage of time has swallowed Dean Village within the Edinburgh conurbation. It remains however, a well-preserved time-capsule.

In Dean Village:

As we arrived at Stockbridge, teams of black-and-yellow clad competitors were splashing in the water, trying to reach a tag on the Gormley statue in the middle of the river. They were taking part in the rat race, a two-day event all around the city. I have been put off taking part in this event in the past as I assumed you needed your own gear for all the events – your own bicycle, rock climbing gear, canoe, etc – and that the competitors might, like those on the Caledonian Challenge, take it all a bit too seriously. But the gear seemed to be standard issue, and nobody seemed to be trying too hard. It all looked like a bit of a laugh – maybe I should enter a team next year!

Gormley statue from Stockbridge:

The next day we cycled out to North Berwick via the River Esk to the east of Edinburgh, past butterfly-heavy embankments of nettle and blazing willow herb, trees trailing their greenery in the water. The Rat-racers were here too: jumping in the river to paddle downstream. On a hot day, it looked very inviting!

In a country known for grand echoing hills and sweeping bays, the gentler-flowing rivers of Lowland Scotland are largely neglected and even, by many outdoor enthusiasts, belittled. Yet for enjoyers of pastoral scenery, these unsung rivers deliver: in Edinburgh alone are three tree-lined rivers (the Almond, to the west of the city, is the third) that in other countries would be classed as national scenic areas.


Anonymous said...

Dean village-water of leith is the only place in scotland I,ve seen three different kingfishers on the same river on the same day.Usually combine this with botanic gardens where I park on Arboretum way nearby as a visitor-passport holder to this fine city.Fancied diong this walk. You have beat me to it!

Ryan said...

Yes you're right, these beautiful hideaways are often forgotten as tourists head for the highlands or never stray too far from the city centres.