This 8 mile traffic-free route follows the Union Canal path and a disused railway line. It takes you through the Colinton Tunnel, one of the most spectacular features of Edinburgh's cycle network. Once in Balerno you can visit the walled garden of Malleny House.
The route begins on the Union Canal which can be found in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh. It's like a mini Amsterdam with the colourful canal houseboats and alfresco dinning . There is even a canal boat serving coffee.
The canal is a popular place for locals. It can be busy with pedestrians and cyclists and is very narrow in places, so it is not a place to go very fast.
Despite being in a city the canal path has a surprising countryside feel with plenty of trees, ducks and swans.
After about 2 miles you will come to the Slateford Aqueduct. Although an impressive piece of engineering this is probably the most annoying part of the canal for cyclists. The narrow cobbled path makes it pretty impossible to cycle over and the signage instructs you to push your bike. Some cyclists still give it a go, but there is so little space for passing safely that I recommend just pushing the bike and once at the other end you will be able to pedal again.
After the aqueduct there is two minutes more cycling until you reach a turn-off . Look for the National Cycle Route 75 sign pointing to a path on the right.
This takes you up and onto a bridge that crosses the canal and then the A70 Lanark Road to join a path that was once a railway line. Passenger trains ran on this line until 1943, goods trains continuing until 1967. It follows the Water of Leith and heads into Colinton Dell.
This is a special part of the city and it is worth parking up the bike and doing a bit of walking along the many trails that take you through the woods and alongside the water.
One of the most exciting parts of the route is the railway tunnel at Colinton. This used to be a gloomy experience, but it has been transformed into one of the most beautiful parts of Edinburgh's cycle network, thanks to the mural painted on every surface of the tunnel.
The theme of the mural is local history and heritage. You will see an otter swimming, a train pulling into a station packed with interesting characters, a horse and carriage racing by.
After the tunnel you pass Spylaw Park in Colinton. In the park there is a particulalry striking grand house. This was the mansion of James Gillespie who made his fortune as a snuff merchant. He built the house in 1773 next to his snuff-mill and today it contains private flats.
All along this route there had been a thriving milling industry- saw mills, paper mills, barley and grain mills. The railway serviced these mills and led to a housing boom along the line as the train made it easy to travel to Edinburgh. Passenger usage was so robust that in 1914 a normal train consisted of 8 coaches and this was increased to 13 on Saturdays. After the First World War the railway started to go into decline, largely as a result of competition from buses.
There is very little evidence of the mills today. The one exception is the Newmills Grain Mill, a ruin not far from Balerno, alongside the cycle path.
These memorials to the area's industrial past are rare and what you will mostly find is trees, gently flowing water and the chance to spot wildlife. If you are lucky you might see deer, heron, badger and kingfisher.
Once you reach the end of the route, at Balerno, it is marked with a metal sculpture set into the pathway that signifies the twisting route of the Water of Leith. At this point you emerge onto Bridge Road. Turn left here to reach the centre of Balerno.
Main Street in Balerno contains a some pubs, a Post Office, a hairdresser and a pharmacy. It is a pretty little street the way that it curves uphill and is lined with attractive stone buildings and bright flower boxes.
Malleny Garden is sign posted from Bridge Road. You will see the large sign as you cycle towards the centre of Balerno.
Malleny House is not open to the public, but the gardens are in the care of the National Trust.
The entrance (admission fee) to the garden is through a small gate in the wall that has a bird, like a phoenix, incorporated into the ironwork. This is the Gore Brown Henderson crest, former owners of Malleny House. On the other side of the gate there is a coat of arms, representing the Rosebery family, also former owners of the house.
The gardens are small, but have many interesting features, including clipped yew trees planted in the 17th century, Victorian glasshouses and the largest rose collection in Scotland.
An interesting fact is that spring arrives up to 10 days later here than it does in the centre of Edinburgh. This is because the garden is north-facing and has an altitude of 170m.
Once you have seen the garden it is time to head back to Edinburgh, or if you want to go further you can keep following the National Cycle Route 75 signs. This cycle route goes all the way to Glasgow. It then continues to Portavadie on the Cowall Peninsula.
Have a look at my other blog posts about cycle trips from Edinburgh. Click on Edinburgh under the categories menu. Why not try the route to Musselburgh? It is also mostly traffic-free.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle. Follow my blog on Facebook: