We’ve been having such nice weather in Scotland during the past few weeks that I’m actually in mourning — no more three month university summers! So to atone, I took a day off work last week, stuffed my day pack with a fleece and a camera, and went for a wander with B.
After much indecision, we consulted our tiny Edinburgh Walks book and strolled — in the sun! — towards the Water of Leith Walkway. Spanning over twelve miles from Balerno to the European-inspired Shore at Leith, it’s billed as a slice of green in the heart of the capital. And it really is.
We joined the walkway at Stockbridge itself, leaving behind the blend of upmarket cafés, delis and decorating shops for something a little less urban. And, from the initial walk under the arch of The Dene, it felt like we’d entered some sort of back-in-time model village right in the heart of Edinburgh.
The first thing we noticed on our walk — apart from the midday sunlight making shadows on the leaves — was the stately statue of St Bernard’s Well. I had no idea what it was at the time, but it reminded me of the iconic Dugald Stewart Monument on Calton Hill.
Turns out that this Stockbridge sculpture sits on the site of a natural spring, discovered in the eighteenth century. It’s essentially a monument to the ‘healing powers’ of the water, embodied in the bust of the Greek goddess Hygieia (whose forehead has sadly been given a tramp stamp by a local ned).
We wandered lazily below the light-splattered leaves, quickly passing underneath the monstrous arches of Dean Bridge and leaving the village’s old mill stones — surrounded by maltreated grass and a flaking bench — to our right. Then, in front of us, Dean Village began.
If you have at all researched Edinburgh tourist hotspots, you’ll know that this place is at the top of the list… with gold stars all around it. Before it was swallowed by the sprawling Scottish capital in the nineteenth century, Dean Village was known for its grain milling. Because of this it sits — like a cluster of turreted dolls’ houses — on the edge of the Water of Leith.
You would never believe this spot was just outside the heart of the city. It’s quiet, flowers flowing out of fence boxes, the water tinkling past, the hazy heat creating a film-like filter over the whole scene. We stood on the footbridge leading to Damside, just listening to the water and getting jealous of the guy who could sit and eat his lunch in a perfect garden in possibly the most picture-perfect spot in Edinburgh.
We walked on towards Balerno, but after a manmade waterfall we were redirected: there had been a landslide, and this section of the walkway between the Village and Sunbury Bridge was now impassible. (Although someone did write ‘this is crap, it’s safe!’ on the sign… Ha.) Instead, we decided to retrace our steps and spend a few more minutes in the magical Dean Village, before slowly weaving up the road to take one last look at the houses below from Dean Bridge, over a hundred feet above the Water of Leith.