Originally a ford and mill village lying in a steep-sided valley cut by the Water of Leith, some 4 miles (6 km) southwest of central Edinburgh, Colinton has grown into a sizeable and desirable residential suburb of the city. The mills produced textiles, snuff and paper. The Bank of Scotland's first banknotes were said to have been printed on paper manufactures in Colinton.
Today, the road crosses the river high above the old village, with Spylaw Street descending to the old village, the historic Parish Church and Colinton Dell.
In 1874, the Caledonian railway built a spur from Slateford to Balerno, with a station at Colinton. Passenger services ceased in 1943 and the line finally closed when goods trains stopped in the 1960s.
Colinton Castle was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1654) in 1650, but repaired only to be partially demolished on the instructions of painter Alexander Nasmyth (1758 - 1801) to create a picturesque ruin.
Redford Barracks lie on Colinton Road, just to the east of the old village. Philanthropist James Gillespie (1726-97) had his home and business in the village. The author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) is known to have been a regular visitor to the village, his maternal grand-father having been the parish minister. The architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1834 - 1921) also lived here and worked on various buildings in the village. There are also cottage-style villas on Colinton Road by another noted architect Sir Robert Lorimer (1864 - 1921).
Today, Colinton is a designated conservation area.