Last Updated on 2nd October 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
A small stream babbles nearby and you can hear birds chirping in the surrounding trees. The quaint area of Dean Village is far removed from the normal bustle of busy Edinburgh city life. And yet it lies just ten minutes from the end of the city’s main shopping district, Princes Street. Here’s how to visit Dean Village, as well as a quick history of this charming Scottish neighbourhood.
Dean Village: An Oasis of Calm in the middle of Edinburgh
Walk to the end of Princes Street and turn right onto Queensferry Street. Take a left at Bells Brae and carry on walking until you reach a quaint little gatehouse. A forgotten relic from a bygone era… A little sign to the left-hand side of this building is all that indicates Dean Village lies in the valley below.
Take the narrow cobbled lane into Dean; ‘dene’ means deep valley and is an apt description for what you’ll find below. Although Dean Village was once an entirely separate village from the city of Edinburgh, expansion over time has seen the two settlements merge.
History of Dean Village
At one point, there were eleven mills along the river, driven by the power of the surprisingly strong current of the river. Housing for the mill workers sprung up around the mills and river, and the area now boasts some of the most exclusive addresses in all of Edinburgh.
The most famous of all the workers’ houses is Well Court. Today it has been fully restored and sits at pride of place in the very heart of the village, overlooking the river below. Around the village, you’ll find secret plaques indicating the village’s previous export. Carved stone shows images of bread, and mill stones are dotted around the little lanes.
By the 20th-Century, the majority of the flour mills at Dean Village were closed down. Nearby mills at Leith were much larger and more powerful, rendering the mills at Dean Village expensive to run. It wasn’t until the 1970s that renovation works were undertaken and the village became recognized as a place of calm in the middle of a capital city.
A Walk Along Leith River (Water of Leith Walkway)
Dean Village lies alongside the gentle trickle of Leith River. As such, it’s possible to walk from the village and take the river path towards the sea. Along the way, you’ll pass an old millstone, an extravagant temple, and an ancient viaduct, among many other things.
Although it may seem tempting, I don’t suggest going into the water as the current can be quite strong. After all, going into the water is forbidden and at one time it powered some major mills! Other remains of mill buildings and the like can be seen, although the real draw of the area is a distinct lack of visits and peaceful atmosphere…
There are also no bathroom facilities or restaurants in Dean Village as it’s a very residential area. Instead, why not bring a picnic with you? There’s a little meadow a short walk away from the Village along the Water of Leith which makes a lovely place to sit and enjoy a bite to eat. Of all the day trips you can take from Edinburgh, this is the quickest to reach and perhaps even the most enjoyable…