One of my favourite walks at any time of year is along the Union Canal Towpath and on to Colinton Village via the Water of Leith Walkway. At this time of year it can be a bit muddy in places particularly after a couple of damp days like those we've had recently. However, today was a glorious day so I set off along the canal.
The Canal towpath joins the Water of Leith Walkway at the Lanark road and that takes you along an old railway track, which ended up in Balerno, toward the village of Colinton. There's been a village her since the 13th Century and in more recent times it was a thriving mill town, mostly paper and snuff. Now it's a sought after suburb of Edinburgh.
The path follows the river until it gets to a tunnel (always some interesting graffiti), which leads to where Colinton Railway Station once stood. There is still evidence of the station if you look closely enough. The path continues under bridge, constructed in 1873, before this time the only way to cross the river was over an older bridge near next to the parish church. A gap in the wall takes you into Spylaw Park.
Spylaw Park brings back a number of memories for me. I remember coming here on Sunday School picnics. I lived in Oxgangs, barely a couple of miles away, but it seemed as though we had travelled miles into the countryside. There was always the great smell of freshly mown grass and I remember the hive of industry around the Scott's Porridge Oats Mill at the end of the park.
A path continues through the park passing Spylaw House, once owned by James Gillespie an Edinburgh mill owner and philanthropist. The house was a Youth Hostel and is now a private dwelling. Under the Gillespie Road bridge again and out onto Spylaw Street and down towards Colinton Parish Church.
The church was founded in 1095 but most of it dates to from 1908 when it was rebuilt for the final time. It has a lych gate, which is unusual for a church in Scotland, and a mortsafe. As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson frequently visited the manse in Colinton, where his maternal grandfather, Dr Lewis Balfour, lived while he was the Minister of the Parish Church. It is thought that some of his poems were inspired by these visits including The Swing. Remnants of an old swing can be seen in a tree next to the manse.