Rock climbing adventures on the Union Canal

Walking along canals has its own charms, but this usually means a pretty flat day out.  However, this route takes you from Heriot Watt University to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho (5 miles) where you can watch amazing climbing stunts from the pleasant café – and even have a go yourself if you want.
At the darkest time of the year it’s good to have a few walks which are not too far away from home, and which offer options for cutting the route short and hopping on a bus home if the weather changes or you’re getting cold.  This route runs for 5 miles but it can be as short as 2 miles if you’re dragging the children away from their games for a breath of fresh air and they are short on motivation!  The lack of leaves on the trees in winter mean you get good views across to the Ochils and back to the city.  The route is described as if coming from central Edinburgh, but obviously the Union Canal continues on to Falkirk via Linlithgow, so you can walk to the EICA from that direction too
EICA is built in a former quarry and the climbing walls are an incredible sight – it is Europe’s largest indoor climbing arena, after all!  It makes a great destination for a short walk.
Artwork on the Union CanalDirections from Heriot Watt to the EICA via Ratho (5 miles), or from Ratho to EICA (2 miles)
This route starts from Heriot Watt university campus, where you can take Lothian buses 25 or 34 from Princes Street, or 45 from North Bridge in the city centre.  Buses enter the campus along The Avenue, so get off at the first bus stop and walk back to the junction with Boundary Road East – there are plenty of maps around.  Cross over and turn left along the signed Hermiston Walk walkway.  This leads through the pleasant, wooded campus to the A71 exit where there is a crossing point.  Turn left for a short distance to Hermiston House Road then follow this road to the bridge over the Union Canal.  Take the canal path away from Edinburgh (turning left from the bridge) as it cuts through fields to Ratho.  It’s about 3 miles to the village of Ratho, and as you get close you pass a number of interpretation boards and signs telling you about the history of the canal, which was opened in 1822.
You can also choose to start your walk from here, by taking Lothian bus 12 from Princes Street to the Ratho Bridge Inn bus stop.  From the village of Ratho, the path carries on for another mile until you see a sign and steps heading up on your right to the EICA.  Climb up to the reception and have a look around, with an optional stop at the café.  Return to the Bridge Inn and take the bus back to the city, or continue back to Heriot Watt to make an 8 mile circuit.

There’s more information about organised local walks here


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