I walked the second section of the Union Canal today, from Harrison Park to Slateford. (See my first post for background on what I’m doing and why). Again this corresponded exactly to a section we walked back in 1989. For some reason I thought this stretch was much longer than the first one, but in reality it’s almost exactly the same length (about a mile).
This part of the canal, a pleasant meander through the suburbs of south west Edinburgh, really hasn’t changed very much at all in the last thirty years. It’s still quiet and pleasant and green, though slightly less green than it was past the Meggetland playing fields where several new blocks of flats have been built on what was once open grass. On the plus side, at least they’re reasonably nice looking compared to most modern flats, with their round towers and multicoloured brickwork. Another change (which applies to the whole urban portion of the canal) is that the towpath, once just a rough track, is now tarmacked and has LED lighting embedded in it, making walking the canal after dark much safer than it used to be.
There are three bridges over the canal between Harrison Park and Slateford, two of which are worth mentioning. The first of the canal’s original stone arched bridges survives next to Meggetland. When the route first opened there were 62 of these, 50 of which still stand today, which is not bad really considering it’s now two centuries since they were built. The one at Meggetland is number 4, with a handy new sign on it saying “Bridge 4” just in case the large “4” that’s always been carved onto the keystone wasn’t obvious enough. This bridge is no longer in use, having been bypassed by a nondescript new concrete bridge on the east side; all of the canal’s original bridges are now listed structures, so the ones that have required upgrading since the 1980s or so have their replacements alongside like this (prior to then the old bridge would just have been unceremoniously demolished, as most of the others within Edinburgh have been).
There’s also an unassuming metal footbridge at Craiglockhart, which I only found out recently has more of a history than I’d realised. It was actually built originally to carry a tramway to Redford Barracks, which perhaps explains why it looks more substantial than most footbridges. The tram line was never finished and it was only ever used to carry water mains, which you can still see attached to it in the photo above.
In addition to the overbridges, there are a couple of places on this section where another route passes underneath the canal. The first is where the Edinburgh South Suburban railway line tunnels under the canal (as well as a boathouse and Colinton Road) adjacent to the long-defunct Craiglockhart Station. This line is still used to allow freight trains to bypass Haymarket and Waverley, but hasn’t seen a passenger service since the 1960s.
The canal also passes over Slateford Road on a wide single-arched, slightly art deco style concrete aqueduct which, as the inscription above the arch suggests, replaced the much narrower original stone aqueduct in 1937. The Union Canal is well known for its aqueducts and we’ll be seeing much more of them (including in the very next section, in fact!).