Exploring Edinburgh: Stockbridge to Dean Village

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Have you walked the Water of Leith path? Which is your favourite section?

8 thoughts on “Exploring Edinburgh: Stockbridge to Dean Village

  1. Yes, we walked from Dean Village right down to Leith a few years ago. I can’t remember if we walked back too, I think we did. I loved it; we often walk through Dean Vilkage after visiting the modern art gallery. Even the new flats seem more attractive than normal with their balconies overlooking the water.

    1. It’s a lovely walk, isn’t it Anabel? 🙂 It’s something I’d love to do more often in the summer and I agree: water + sunshine makes even the most average of places look pretty. I hope you’re doing well!

  2. I love the Dean Village. So picturesque, and so quiet that you really could be in the middle of nowhere!
    I’ve never walked the full length of the Water of Leith walk (there are some sections that are probably best avoided!) but I do love the lower section by the shore!
    Have you ever walked along the canal? The section through Polwarth and past Harrison Park is lovely!

    1. It was such a good find! (I say that, but I know it’s in every guidebook everywhere…) I would definitely do it again in summer, just need to find a decent ice creamery to stop off at 🙂 I’ve never walked along the canal, no! Have you got a link to the route I could have a swatch at? PS I’ve got a Nikon with standard lens. Thinking of upgrading ever so slightly to a 18-135mm lens. Worth it, i.e. does it make a difference? Cheers!!

      1. Sorry, I don’t have a link (and couldn’t find anything).

        The eastern end begins at Lochrin Basin (accessed from Fountainbridge at the junction of Gardner’s Crescent) which is only a few minutes walk from Tollcross.
        From there the walk to Harrison Park is probably no more than half an hour and it’s quite a nice wander and very picturesque, especially at the Harrison Park end.
        I’ve never walked any further than that, but – like the Water of Leith – there are sections further out that I probably wouldn’t choose to walk along!

        I use Canon so don’t know much (anything) about Nikon in particular, but if you find yourself cropping photos after the fact rather than being able to compose as you’d like in-camera then I’d think that the 135mm would be worth buying, as you’ll have more than double the reach (I’m assuming the standard is an 18-55mm) without sacrificing at the wide end of the lens.

        When I bought my Canon I also picked up the 18-200mm and although the vast majority of my photography is at the 18mm end I wouldn’t be without the ability to zoom. I’ve been thinking about picking up a wider wide angle lens (10-18mm) and the main thing putting me off is that I’d end up changing lenses more often, whereas a good all round lens that covers both wide angle and telephoto can stay on the camera all day long!

        If you’re looking for advice about Nikon lenses in particular then it might be worth giving @grantbullocharch a shout on Instagram, he’s been using Nikon for years and is pretty knowledgable.

        I don’t know if you saw that I’d commented on a couple of your older blog posts? I was stalking you (ha!) to see if you’d ever written a post about the Isle of Arran? Julie and I have just booked a weekend there in June but have no idea what to see and do. Any tips?

        Thanks

  3. Aw I did part of that walk by accident on Tuesday when I went for an interview in Stockbridge and it was amazing!! I never knew all that stuff was there, hidden right around the corner 🙂

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