A glimpse of Edinburgh’s many faces by bike path

Glorious weather in winter is reasonably rare in Edinburgh. We’re much more accustomed to driving rain, wind and the occasional dump of snow. So when I tweaked the curtains this morning to see the city squinting from solid, unrelenting sunshine there was only one thing to do. Go for a ride.

I plotted out a route with my trusty SPOKES Edinburgh cycle map (well worth the six quid price tag!) and set out in the late morning with a belly full of porridge and tea.

Starting at the Union Canal, I pootled along the towpath. There were loads of other folk out enjoying the weather, so the going was slow but idyllic. Anyway, the towpath is hardly the place to be tearing along at a rate of knots and is the perfect route to soak up the urban scenery. The house boats at Harrison Park are a particular highlight.

canal at Harrison Park Edinburgh

You can stop here at the Zazau house boat for a cuppa and cake.

boat house canal edinburgh

The boat house at Harrison Park, a local landmark.

Just past Longstone there’s a bridge connecting to the Water of Leith path that will eventually take you to Balerno. No cars, no junctions, no nonsense. Just straight up and over to the path.

view of Edinburgh canal from bridge

The view back to the canal from the bridge. You’d hardly think you were in a city!

I took the Water of Leith path up along the river, which was gurgling away in the sunshine quite the thing. There are a few paths and such that lead off the route, so still plenty to explore there for another day. Then there’s a fabulous railway tunnel, dark and exciting and echoey and old.

Tunnel on Water of Leith path to Balerno

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Just after the tunnel there’s a tiny wee pothole-laden road that takes you over another bridge and into Colinton. One right-turn onto Redford Road and then there’s another tucked away path that you’d go right past if you didn’t know it was there.

This took me through a part of the city I am very unfamiliar with and I got lost several times. In true tourist fashion I had to whip out my trusty map and make sure I was on the right track. Essentially, you follow the Braid Burn through Colinton Mains Park, then the Braidburn Valley Park and out into Greenbank. It’s all path the whole way. No traffic. Yippee!

Then on to the Hermitage of Braid. I only recently discovered the Hermitage and what a revelation it was. The route through makes you feel like you are in the middle of the wooded countryside, with a babbling burn and trees stretching to the sky. But you’re still in the city.

Braid Burn in Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Beautiful burn in the sunshine.

Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Stately homes since gifted to Edinburgh are plentiful on this route. One example in the Hermitage of Braid.

The Hermitage takes you out to the back of Blackford. As a west-of-the-city girl my knowledge of the south is pretty poor. Even so, you don’t expect to see a huge tract of farmland and fields. So many different views and landscapes and less than halfway around the route. Edinburgh really is an amazing place.

Fields and farmland on Blackford Glen Road Edinburgh

This is still the city. Just behind Blackford, on Blackford Glen Road.

A quick traffic-light-controlled junction later and I was back on path again, taking a gander through Inch Park and then up past Craigmillar Castle (sadly you can’t see it from the path). The views were stunning, so I tried my best to take a snap with my iPhone. But it doesn’t really capture the vista to be honest.

Arthurs Seat from Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh

Look at my stunning city!

I followed the path to its conclusion, took a right and (again all completely away from traffic) made my way down to the Brunstane burn to encounter more fields and countryside and wilderness… But still in the city.

Brunstane Burn path

This is an older photo of me on the same path. All the same fields and stuff!

Next stop was Portobello, where I filled up on lunch and had a cup of tea. Of course, after seeing extinct volcanoes, giant trees, rivers and burns, parks and fields I would have to take a snap of the beach.

portobello beach

Sun, sand and no sangria. But copious cups of tea in Portobello.

There was more path involved to leave Portobello and eventually come out at Granton. Path, path, path with only a small piece of road to negotiate before getting onto, yep you guessed it, path. You hug the coast all the way along to Cramond. It was glorious because of the views across the waters. Depending on where you are along the route, you can also see the Forth bridges in the distance.

View across to Fife from Silverknowes

What a great view to Fife from Edinburgh.

View to Cramond Edinburgh

The beach on the way to Cramond.

A wiggle through Barton via more path and residential streets and I eventually made it home, one fantastic Edinburgh adventure under my belt. Thank you so much lovely, glorious bike!

The trusty steed

The trusty steed triumphs again.

So there you have it. One 27 mile route from the Union Canal down to Cramond, taking in pretty much every type of environment or view you can think of. Desert and mountain didn’t feature, but a whole range of other sights did. Aren’t Edinburgh cyclists spoiled for some beautiful views?

Here is the route mapped. Try some of it for yourself.

It’s almost entirely off main roads. All those stunning views with no cars, no traffic, no impatient drivers or jams or engines revving. Absolute bliss for a pootler like myself. I’d say about 5% needs to be negotiated with a regular flow of traffic – namely Seaview Terrace (Porty), Lower Granton Road and Redford Road.

Route Pros

  • Views and a big range of environments
  • No major hills or exhausting climbs
  • Very little traffic to deal with
  • Never far from help in case of mechanical disaster
  • Did I mention the views?

Route cons

  • Very busy with dogs (sorry dog owners, but I fear dogs off the lead as they are unpredictable)
  • Route is quite muddy in places – not suitable for skinny tyres

Have you done any of this Edinburgh route? Got any favourite parts? Let me know in the comments 🙂


  1. That’s a lovely route Claire. I’ve done all the bits before but never joined up like that. I’d say that’s a greatest hits mixtape of Edinburgh City cycling. You’ve got to get up pretty early to beat the dog walkers, but those days of early sunshine are coming, good to be getting in the miles now so you can take full advantage when summer comes. I almost whooped there…

    1. Good call Ben, it is the greatest hits isn’t it? I suspect an awful lot if people don’t even know these routes exist for the bike. Can’t wait for spring; yesterday was a trailer for the main event 🙂

  2. My commute to work involves the Water of Leith from Balerno then onto canal. Lovely way to start the day. Can recommend the route as you can go from the centre of town to the Pentlands without putting a wheel on a major road. Plus there’s plenty of new cafés (and pubs) in Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno for a wee refreshment and tasty nibble!

    1. Hi Rich, thank you for your comment! You certainly have a lovely commute in the morning – how do you fare on the way home with that cheeky and relentless uphill to Balerno? I think that path is stunning but I do stress out about the mud as always worried my tyres will slip.

      I’ve heard there’s an excellent cake place in Balerno but the name escapes me. Will absolutely have to find it 😉

      1. One of the joys in following the Water of Leith is it’s a gradually climb which you hardly notice. Beats going up Lanark Road in a headwind I tell you! Also the tunnel can be an adventure, especially when the lights go out!

        There’s a lot of work been done on the path quality over the years. Obviously after heavy rain there’s a few dodgy bits but nothing you can’t skirt round.

        And I too would like to know about the cake place. I presume it’s in the church which runs coffee mornings. 2 cafes have opened in Currie recently plus a posh deli in Juniper Green.

      2. Yeah the uphill is quite slight – I’ve done it a few times and come out triumphantly in Balerno with a big grin on my face after keeping the river company. I do the Ferry Road path a lot at the end of the day and it fair knackers me; I’ve got about 500 ft of climb and usually do it hungry and tired! Always a good excuse for cake…

  3. I rode from Ratho to Haddington this afternoon. 30 miles and no more than 5 miles of it was on roads. Absolutely lovely weather and a great pleasure. Even if it was headwind all the way…

    1. That sounds amazing. I did my first East Lothian loop last week with Belles on Bikes (for another blog post!) and loved the route. Do you have it mapped at all? Would love to give it a go.

  4. Hi Claire, Great start to your new blog and very motivating!! I can’t wait to try this. I have a website called ‘Healthy Edinburgh’ and would love to repost this on my site. If you’d consider sharing this as a ‘Guest Blog’ please head over to http://www.healthyedinburgh.com and drop me a line using the email link on the right hand side. I’m also on fb and twitter. I do plan on including some cycling routes but I haven’t got my bike ready for the new season yet. Cheers, Suzy

    1. Hi Suzy, thanks for your comment. Of course I’d be happy for this to go on your site. Any way to get more folk out and enjoying the fantastic views and scenery that Edinburgh offers. I’ll drop you a line 🙂

      1. That’s fab!! Its not within ‘wordpress’ so I can’t just ‘reblog’ – but we can discuss. Look forward to hearing from you.

  5. Looks fantastic – your enjoyment of cycling shone through , I always try to cycle with a smile , even during near death traffic experiences I am thankful to be healthy – Live to ride x

    1. Hi Mike, thank you for your lovely comment. Yes, I absolutely do love being on my bike. Also love my commute in the morning and end of the day – great way to start and finish work.

      Excellent point on being healthy – we don’t appreciate our health until it’s in trouble…

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