The Story Behind Scotland’s Largest heritage mural

Colinton TUNNEL painting older men with a dog

Experience an immersive visual story, which celebrates the rich history of Colinton Village’s railway tunnel. As visitors walk through the tunnel, they are presented with a panorama illustrating life in the village to the present day. The mural in the Colinton tunnel was created by Chris Rutterford and his team of professional and volunteer artists and over 600 local young and older people contributed along. 


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At Glance:

  • Scotland’s largest heritage mural is in Colinton Tunnel in Edinburgh
  • The mural links the story of the unique railway that ran through Colinton tunnel with the community story
  • Over 600 local young and older people contributed along with the lead artist and his team of professional and volunteer artists.
  • The entire 140-meter tunnel is painted plus the brick wall outside of the tunnel
  • The illustrated poem of Robert Louis Stevenson who had a long connection with Colinton runs along the wall and connects with illustrations reflecting the community heritage



History of the Colinton Tunnel 

  • It was opened in 1874 by the Caledonian Railway on the route of a single-track branch line that connected Slateford with Balerno, serving mills along the Water of Leith
  • 1874 the first passenger took the train through Colinton Tunnel
  • In the 1920s, bus services secured a foothold, tempting travellers away from the railway. Although occasional excursions still ran, regular passenger trains ended in 1943.
  • 4th December 1967 – the last train ran on the line through Colinton Tunnel
  • 1967 to 1970’s – Tunnel closed and bricked up
  • It was restored, lit and re-opened in 1980 by Edinburgh District Council on the route of the Water of Leith Walkway.
  • When Colinton Tunnel deteriorate again a local group raised funds to refurbish it once more



How the Mural Came to Be

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’s said that his series of poems entitled, A Child’s Garden of Verses was inspired by his time spent in the Colinton village. He recollected memories from a distant childhood, particularly one that remember riding along the rails.

This poem From a Railway Carriage inspired the community to make the Colinton Tunnel public art installation. 


The poem reads:

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;

And charging along like troops in a battle,

All through the meadows the horses and cattle:

All of the sights of the hill and the plain

Fly as thick as driving rain;

And ever again, in the wink of an eye,

Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,

All by himself and gathering brambles;

Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;

And there is the green for stringing the daisies!

Here is a cart run away in the road

Lumping along with man and load;

And here is a mill and there is a river:

Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

By Robert Louis Stevenson

From A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885)



Why This Mural is So Important to the Colinton Village and Edinburgh.

The mural in Colinton Tunnel was created to bring more visitors to Colinton. The Colinton village has shops, restaurants and pubs so more visitors mean more support to the local community. 

In addition, to celebrate Robert Louis Stevenson’s connections with Colinton, the local Trust has created a poetry trail: A Walk with Robert Louis Stevenson. This was opened on 25th October 2014. There is a “Garden of Verses” Trail that will take you to a statue of young Robert Louis Stevenson. 

More information about the walk with Robert Louis Stevenson find here.

The tunnel also improved community safety. At some point the tunnel become rundown and it was poorly lit. It was quite an unpleasant dark and damp area, and actually, people were scared to walk through the tunnel. You can definitely see now a difference with those colourful murals and installed lighting.  

The Colinton tunnels helped also to prevent antisocial graffiti because high-quality artwork tends to be more respectful and not damaged.

The mural lifted the community spirit.   An amazing experience especially as created by local people, artists and school children. Including adults with special needs from the Camphill community group, Tiphereth has also donated their time to help out. 

Its Beautiful artwork is set in a fantastic natural surrounding with forest and sounds of the river and is most definitely inspiring as community-based.


Crowd of local people waiting for the famous Balerno Pug on the brick wall outside of Colinton Tunnel

Colinton Tunnel Mural






The Colinton Tunnel is free and accessible at all times and is located on one of the Water of Leith Walkaway paths, which is a popular route not just for walkers or dog walkers but for cyclists too.  

The mural is located not far from the village of Colinton in southwest Edinburgh, in close proximity to Pentland Hills. 



How long does it take to walk through the Colinton tunnel?

It does take a few minutes but can take longer if you want to see these beautiful paintings. The Colinton tunnel is also connected with a delightful walk that follows one of the most attractive sections of the Water of Leith, passing through the wooded Craiglockhart and Colinton Dells. 

How do I get to the Colinton Tunnel?

The best is to take a bus to Colinton Village. From the city centre, it’s nr 10 or 45. 

Who painted the Colinton tunnel?  

Edinburgh-based artist Chris Rutterford was invited to lead a community-based project which recruited volunteers, including local school pupils. 

How long is the Colinton tunnel

The tunnel is 140-meter long


About me
Scotland Itinerary planning

My name is Kate and I created Scotland Itinerary Planning to give you those life-changing experiences right in the beautiful country I call home.

I’m proud to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Living in Edinburgh has provided me a base to explore extensively around this magical little country.

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