The Dutch Dyke

Route Stop 22

Next Stop -#23 St Andrew’s Church
Overview Western Harbour
The 1946 Western Harbour built out into the sea to form a deep water pool to benefit Leith Docks. (Newhaven Harbour circled in red.)

The making of Western Harbour

Stretching from the Newhaven Harbour Lighthouse to a now abandoned lighthouse known as Leith Lighthouse at its north end, near the entrance to Leith Docks, is a long breakwater.  It is often referred to by locals as “The Dutch Dyke”.   

It was given this name because the design finally  adopted resulted from exhaustive tests in the Hydraulic Laboratory of Delft in Holland. Work on building the Breakwater commenced in 1936 and was completed in 1942.

Its Construction Caught on Film

This massive project resulted from the Leith Dock Commission’s need to enlarge the existing docks. It added a large area of deep water protected by two breakwaters from the impact of waves. The construction process was captured for posterity in a film made by the Commission which, after privatisation, became the Forth Ports Authority.  

It can be found on the British Film Institute website here>


4_6034 A German Reconnaissance Map taken by the Luftwaffe in the early years of WW2 shows the Western Breakwater still incomplete — its construction was temporarily halted at the start of the War but was restarted in 1942, ‘Ihafenanlagen in Bau’ as the legend shows.  Also highlighted as possible targets are [C] Henry Robb & Co, Shipbuilders and Repairers, and [B] Newhaven Harbour.

Leith Lighthouse

At the north end of the West Breakwater is the now disused Leith Lighthouse. Built on a reinforced concrete platform, it’s a flat roofed, single storey building surmounted by an octagonal tower and a cylindrical lantern with a conical roof. Originally there was a massive semaphore device for signalling to ships. The main light, however, was later replaced by a small electric lantern on a pole bolted to the handrail!

Over time, this large pool became under-used and Forth Ports reclaimed a large area of land inside the West Breakwater. This area, now known as Western Harbour, is being developed to provide high-rise housing and landscaped parks. One, the Lighthouse Park near the end of the breakwater, is already established.

The Old Lighthouse at end of Western Harbour Breakwater

Lighthouse Park

A Premier Inn and a David Lloyd Sports Centre have already been built on this reclaimed land. A new Primary School replaced the existing Victoria Primary school in 2022. Built in 1844, the old school on Main Street had been the oldest primary school building in Edinburgh still in use as such.

Over the coming years, the population of Newhaven will grow significantly as a result of this redevelopment.

Today, the Breakwater provides a popular walk and cycle track for exercise for local Newhaven and Western Harbour residents.

The Lighthouse Park, an attractive destination at the end of the Breakwater Walk.
Previous Stop - #21 Newhaven ChurchNext Stop -#23 St Andrew’s Church