GUIDE TO WATER OF LEITH
(Balerno to Stockbridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Water of Leith.
WHERE IS IT?:Flows through the centre of Edinburgh. OS map 66. Starts in the Pentland Hills and enters Leith Docks into the North Sea. Maps are available of the river, showing all weirs, from the Water of Leith Visitor Centre or www.waterofleith.edin.org.
PUT-INS/ TAKEOUTS: Put in wherever you can, roads beside the river most of the length. The highest point of entry is just above Balerno where there is a fence across the river. Access points all down the river just choose which part you want to do.
APPROX LENGTH: 36 km.
TIME NEEDED: As long as you like.
ACCESS HASSLES: No problems, public footpath runs beside the river for almost the full length.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Wet/ Very wet. We checked the bridge over the river at Gorgie, if the level is too high the bridge cannot be canoed under. If the river is not in flood don't bother, too scrapy.
GRADING: 2 with many weirs, possibly higher in sections, especially Colinton gorge at higher levels.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Major hazard 2nd big weir in the Dean Village. 4m drop into 18 inches of water. DO NOT ATTEMPT as tempting as it may be. There is a concrete shelf running along the bottom of the drop that cannot be cleared. One of our members still has broken toes from when we ran it.
All of the weirs are easily inspected and portaged, we did not run one of the weirs in Colinton due to the towback at the bottom.
Pollution - it's a city river.
Currently there are trees across the river above Balerno and beside Saughton prison.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The river is a mixture of grade 1/2 small rapids with some big weirs ranging from 4m drops to 10m slides.
The river is very long with interesting sections through Colinton but is probably better ran by more experienced paddlers due to the overhanging trees in the upper section and the occasional need to dodge shopping trollies.
There are innumerable weirs but only the 2 in the Dean Village pose any problems, the upper one has a deep plunge pool, see hazards for the 2nd drop. Below the weirs in the Dean village there is a nice grade 2 run at higher levels with play potential.
We ran most of the river in 2 trips starting at Balerno and finishing next to Murrayfield Stadium then carrying on from Murrayfield to Stockbridge. The river is canoeable to the sea but below Stockbridge it is fairly flat with only 2 weirs to liven things up.
OTHER NOTES: This river is only worth doing if you are in Edinburgh when the river is high and you can't be bothered driving for an hour to reach a cleaner river. You can always get a good audience near any of the drops due to its popularity as a walking route for locals.
Was this a first descent?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Angus Holmes, Brooke Johnson, Heriot-Watt UCC www.hwusa.org/~hwucc