Walking Solo: Leith’s Harbours & Wetlands


Posted by in June's Magazine

Carolyn McKerracher

This week, I’ve been working from home.  

Now, when I say, ‘working from home’, I mean I’m trying to develop a couple of my own ideas, unpaid of course. Having spent much of my life in jobs I hated, all of which had a detrimental effect on my mental health, I’m once again taking a risk and trying to go it alone. 

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Now, when I say, ‘go it alone’, I mean protect some space to develop these fore-mentioned ideas, whilst also fitting in paid sessional work elsewhere (which I love), to pay the mortgage and eat cake. Not necessarily in that order.

I haven’t got the balance right yet, but I’m working on it. Life is too short to spend most of it hating your job. Some people manage this, whilst living for the weekends. But I couldn’t. I can’t. No more.

Today, feeling the need for a walk to clear my head and improve creativity (honestly, it works), but not having the time to venture off down the coast, I decided to walk local.  

This month, Leith is buzzing with Hidden Door and the Jazz and Leith Festivals, so why not add in some time out and take a surprisingly diverse promenade around the hidden neuks and crannies of North East Edinburgh?

The adventure starts on the north side of Constitution St, outside the Royal Bank of Scotland (for how much longer we ask?). Walk up towards the now defunct casino, left onto Ocean Drive, then first right onto Stevedore Place, which provides a terrific view of Albert Dock. Follow the path to the left, along old railway tracks to a gravity defying chain sculpture then turn right, back onto Ocean Drive.

Ahead, on the right, is the HQ of the Vine Trust, a charitable development agency, which works with poor communities in Tanzania and Peru. The barge sits opposite the imposing bow of HMS Fingal, a luxury, floating hotel, prices from £200 per night. 

Newhaven Harbour from the Fishmarket

Keep following Ocean Drive, past the blue bridge, Rennie’s Isle, the Scottish Government and the ongoing housing developments, then turn right at the roundabout and head up to the sign for ‘Britannia Walk – view point picnic area’ (who knew?), past the memorial to Captain Thomas Peck Hunter, awarded the first Victoria Cross to the Royal Marines in WWII. Follow the arrow to the back of OT and past The Steel Shed, the former home of DOK, the not-for-profit contemporary artist organisation, who had to hand over the premises to a developer. There, at the far end of an old jetty, stands Leith Docks Man, the sixth and final sculpture in Antony Gormley’s ‘6 Times’ series.  

After your picnic, retrace your steps then walk along the front of OT, up to the big roundabout. Turn right onto Melrose Drive and head past Forth Ports’ cruise ship terminal, where, if you’re lucky, a big boat may be in.

Just past the terminal, on the left, is Marine Parade Graffiti Wall, which, at 300m, is the longest graffiti wall in the UK, created by over 80 artists from around the world as a partnership between The State of Leith, Mainline store, Spectrum Arts and the City of Edinburgh Council. 

Keep walking, past Chancelot Mill and Asda, then cross Sandpiper Drive to Sandpiper Road and take the first right onto Glenarm Place, then left onto Windrush Drive.

Next, take a shortcut on the well-worn track (not very John Muir) across the greenspace and turn right onto Western Harbour Drive. Despite the isolated feeling to the development at Platinum Point (a café or two would be nice), the new greenspaces have potential. Follow the avenue of lime and beech trees all the way to the bottom of the road and stop and peer through the wire meshing to admire the pond and wetlands. 

Just past the terminal, on the left, is Marine Parade Graffiti Wall, which, at 300m, is the longest graffiti wall in the UK

It’s unclear why these are fenced off, but hopefully this is part of someone’s grand plan for the area. At the very end, turn left, then right onto a white chalk path at Lighthouse Park, an unexpected haven of wildflowers, mixed woodland, a conifer plantation and magnificent views across the Forth.

After pausing to fill your lungs with sea air, follow the Western Harbour Breakwater along the edge of the sea, past the David Lloyd gym, the back of the Premier Inn and up to the idyllic Newhaven Harbour, perhaps stopping off for fish (cooked or otherwise) at Newhaven Fishmarket.

From there, either follow Lindsay Road back to the Shore, or retrace your steps via Asda. Or, take a short detour up Hawthornvale; bear left onto the cycle path, then turn right to Milk Café at the Sculpture workshop. Another peaceful haven of trees, wildflowers, birdsong – and cake. 

Thus revived, I headed home, to work, to plan, to dream.

Info: For more photographs,
see WalkingSolo.Scot on Instagram

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