[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
LEITH (Water of), a small river of Edinburghshire, entering the frith of Forth at Leith harbour. lt rises at the south-east extremity of the parish of Mid-Calder, from three springs, at a place called Leith-head, on the west side of one of the Pentlands, named West Cairn-hill, within a mile of one of the sources in Peebles-shire of one of the head-streams of Lyne-water, a tributary of the Tweed. Having flowed 3 miles northward through Mid-Calder, it receives a tiny tributary from Cauldstane-slap, a noted pass between Tweeddale and Mid-Lothian. It now runs 3 miles between Kirknewton on its left bank, and Mid-Calder and Currie on its right; 4¾ miles through Currie, receiving on the right the waters of Bevilaw burn; 2½ miles, measured in a straight line, but a much greater distance along its channel, through Colinton; 1 mile circuitously, partly across a tiny wing of Colinton, and partly between that parish and Corstorphine on its left bank, and St. Cuthbert’s on its right; 4 miles, measured in a straight line, through St. Cutbbert’s, and ¾ of a mile between North and South Leith. Its general direction, after leaving Mid-Calder, is north-east; and its entire length of course in a straight line is about 19 miles, and including windings about 25 or 26. During a drought, or even in weather but very moderately dry, the Water of Leith is a trivial stream, and has not a volume greater than that of many a burn or short-coursed brook; but, in a season of rain, it becomes swollen and impetuous, and combines the characteristics of a river and a mountain torrent. While in the vicinity of Edinburgh it wanders along a deep and picturesque dell; but between the metropolis and Leith it is so completely drawn off in dry weather into a mill-lead as to leave its channel almost empty, and from being made a common-sewer, becomes at all times, except during a freshet, a real nuisance to the population of its banks. The stream, in general, has a large share of the picturesqueness and romance which distinguish to many of the rivers of Scotland. At one time it trots along deep narrow glens amid rocks and hanging woods; and at another it glides among beautiful haughs, fertile in corn and grass. On its banks are extensive plantations, many elegant mansions, several fine rural villages, one of the most superb suburban districts of Edinburgh, and the most densely peopled portion of the town of Leith. Among its bridges are an elegant stone one built in 1840, and the viaduct of the Edinburgh and Newhaven railway, both at the village of Cannonmills, – the stupendous and magnificent Dean-bridge behind Moray-place in the western New town of Edinburgh, – the viaduct of the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, a mile farther up; – and the aqueduct of the Union canal at Slateford. The Water of Leith is probably the most useful stream of its size in Scotland; for even some years ago it drove in the course of 10 miles, 14 corn-mills, 12 barley-mills, 24 flour-mills, 7 saw-mills, 5 fulling-mills, 5 snuff-mills, 4 paper-mills, 2 lint-mills, and 2 leather-mills, – the rent of some of which, in the vicinity of the metropolis, was then upwards of £20 sterling per foot of waterfall. ln the ravine, ¾ of a mile above Stockbridge, and on the old road by the Dean from Edinburgh to Queensferry, stands the ancient village called Water of Leith. It is an irregularly built mean-looking place; but has some extensive flour-mills and granaries.