It’s a new week! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend – did you do anything fun? We had quite a few adventures within Edinburgh and met some friends, both old and new. We even competed in a pub quiz night and didn’t come in last which was pretty amazing, especially since our team name was “And In Last Place…”. But we made a new friend in an older Scottish gentleman who agreed to let us team up with him next week. I think it could mean a victory.
But I digress. One of the things I promised myself was that while we were in Edinburgh we would try to do interesting, off the beaten path things. I do want to take Ryan to the super touristy spots, because they’re so popular for a reason, but I’d also like to discover new bits and pieces of the city as well. With the Fringe coming up, I’m trying to get us out and about as much as possible, since I have a feeling we’ll be quite busy with shows come the start of the festival.
We had quite a few gorgeous days over the last week. While I’m not one to shy away from going out in the rain, whenever I see the sun shining outside my window I want to get outside as quickly as possible. One such afternoon provided us with a neat adventure that I discovered through a bit of random Internet searching. It was a quick bus ride from our flat, but it felt worlds away.
Dean Village sits to the northwest of Edinburgh’s Old Town, about a half mile away from Princes Street. It’s a quick walk that will lead you down a steep street into the heart of the village.
Previously known as The Water of Leith Village, the first recorded mention of this little village was in the 12th century. King David I awarded the income of at least one of the mills to Holyrood Abbey; there were mills from about 1128, supplying flour and other milled grain to Edinburgh. At this point in time, Edinburgh only covered the Old Town area of today, allowing The Water of Leith Village to develop on its own. The village was a successful grain milling area, at one point having over 11 working mills.
Even though this area found success in milling for roughly 800 years, it began to decline with the building of the Dean Bridge by Thomas Telford in 1832. People once had to travel through Dean Village proper to get to Edinburgh; with the construction of the Dean Bridge, they now could travel over the village. Following a string of suicides off the sides of the bridge, high parapets were built in 1912, effectively cutting off views of the deep valley below. Dean Village was left behind.
Today Dean Village has been lovingly restored; all of the housing buildings have been updated and old industrial buildings have been renovated to house even more people. It is a prime place to live, an oasis in the city. We passed many people taking in the splendor in different ways; some were sitting and reading, one woman was painting a beautiful rendition of Well’s Court and other, like us, were taking photos and simply enjoying the views.
Dean Village comes from the dene meaning deep valley. Due to these steep valley walls, you couldn’t hear any traffic coming from the busy streets above, which definitely lent itself to the feel of being back in time. Well, if you could ignore all of the cars belonging to residents lining the streets. Taking the path out of the village toward Leith was a quiet and tranquil walk to take, and when it started to rain you could barely feel the drops through the lush trees that landscape the pathway.
We walked the length of the Waters of Leith path through Dean Village all the way to Stockbridge before we cut up into town for lunch. Another really cozy spot along thsi section of the path is St. Bernard’s Well. When a natural spring was discovered on this spot in 1760, it soon became a visitor attraction. “Taking the waters” as it was called, was thought to be very good for health; people believed it could cure every ailment they were afflicted with, from bruised legs to complete blindness.
The well was bought by Lord Gardenstone and he had a building commissioned to stand on the site. The circular temple building was designed by Alexander Nasymth in 1789, and Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, can be seen inside. It’s a gorgeous place to stop and pause, admiring both the architecture and river.
There are so many nooks and crannies to explore in Dean Village! If you ever get the chance to go I suggest you allow plenty of time to see every little part you can, but also just allow yourself to enjoy the experience. If we get the chance to go again I’d love to take a book or pack a lunch and spend an afternoon there.
Wherever you are, happy exploring this week!