Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Edinburgh - walking the Water of Leith

My eternal guide to Edinburgh is Miroslav Sasek, the Czech illustrator whose This is... series of travel books for children gave me a grounding in the great cities of the world as a small boy. This is Edinburgh (1961) ranked Scotland's capital alongside London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Venice or New York when it comes to visual amazingness. My father would borrow the large-format picture books from Ealing public library and I would love to read them.

I have been to Edinburgh eight times over the past ten (blogged) years; the city never fails to appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities; it's certainly a place everyone with an interest in history, culture and architecture should see at least once.

Squeezing in some sightseeing around business trips as I do, however, Edinburgh requires repeat visits to get in all of its main attractions. I've already been to the castle, seen Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, walked down the Royal Mile, climbed Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill, and explored the New Town. But I haven't yet done the Water of Leith walk, which my childhood memories of Sasek focus on a picture of a spectacularly high, arched brick bridge with double-decker buses on it. This is the Dean Bridge, carrying the Queensferry Road over the Water of Leith.

So with two afternoon meetings ahead of me, I set off on a rainy morning to take in that corner of Edinburgh that I've never yet been to. And seeing it in late November, there were few tourist and only a handful of hardy local dog-walkers and strollers out and about in this weather.

The Water of Leith is the river that rushes tumultously through Edinburgh, with many weirs and waterfalls along the way, skirting north of the New Town on its way to the Firth of Forth at Leith. Passing through the Dean Village, the river is at its most picturesque, adding yet another must-see area to the agenda of anyone visiting Scotland's capital.

The Water of Leith disappears over a waterfall. One thing I'm not too keen on is the mustard-and-custard colour schemes of non stone-faced houses.

Classic MGB GT, echoing this picture from another capital city's riverside...

Dean Bridge; not as spectacularly tall as Sasek had led us to imagine, but with a bus on top.

Dean Bridge, seen from Miller Row. According to Sasek, the bridge is 106ft over the river.

Here's Sasek's take on the views above - a slight exaggeration of vertical scale, though I guess he'd have set up his easel higher up than my camera's eyepoint.

And his view (turned some 30 degrees to the left of my photo below).

Stone tenements, church tower, bridge and rushing waters.

And maybe sweep to the left to bring in that courtyard...

Below: on through the next section of the Water of Leith, where I espy St Bernard's Well. Risking a slip. I edge out over exposed rocks to get this shot from (almost) midstream.

Below: St Bernard's Well, this time from the footpath.

Below: the bridge linking India Place and Dean Terrace; note the solid and ornate construction of the steps from the riverside up to the bridge.

Below: looking west along the Water of Leith from the bridge above. Rain on the cobblestones adds the appeal.

Below: a curious clock tower perched on a building on the north side of the bridge taking Kerr St over the Water of Leith.

Left: flights of steps, a stone-clad retaining wall, a pillar-box, and umbrellas in the rain. North West Circus Place at the junction of India St.

It rained solidly all day; after walking for the best part of two hours, I was drenched and had to return to my hotel (the eminently reasonable Frederick House Hotel) to dry my outerwear with a hair dryer! I cannot remember having been so wet in many decades!

This time last year:
Poland's north-west frontier

This time two years ago:
Cars must fade from our cities

This time four years ago:
Unnecessary street lighting wastes money

This time five years ago:
Warsaw's heros on the walls 

This time six years ago:
Tax dodge or public service? 

This time eight years ago:
Warsaw's woodlands in autumn

This time nine years ago:
Still here, the early snow

This time ten years ago:
Another point of view


White Horse Pilgrim said...

When I was young, I had a book with a picture of Edinburgh that included a tell-tale cloud of steam from the railway cutting below the castle. Most atmospheric!

Michael Dembinski said...


Yes - Edinburgh is THE most atmospheric city I've visited, and I'm from London. Such a concentration of sights that stir my emotions in just a few square miles.