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Dean Village in Edinburgh

Just a few steps out of the busy hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s noisy traffic and tourist-laden shops sits a quaint pocket of calm. A walk down old Bells Brae hill delivers you into the heart of the charming, picturesque Dean Village.

A world apart from the commercial callings of the city, Dean Village is a picture postcard residential retreat. You won’t find shops or restaurants vying for your attention here. What you will find though, is a beautifully presented and well-preserved village, with some homes dating back to the 17th century.

house-in-dean-village with flower boxes in the window and christmas wreath on the door
Old house in Dean Village

Dean Village lies on the banks of the Water of Leith and once was supported by a thriving milling industry. Eleven water-powered mills were in operation in Dean Village in the 17th century, with its milling industry dating back to at least 1128 AD. The milled flour and other grains supplied the bakers of Edinburgh and the area was a milling centre for 800 years.

Today, the water mills have long since been retired. The clacking of horses and carts along the worn cobblestones is but an echo. Now we hear the clicking of visitors’ cameras and the Water of Leith flows unhindered by the water wheels of the past.

Where is Dean Village?

The delightful Village of Dean is just a short walk (5 -10 minutes) from one of Edinburgh’s main streets, Princes Street. Princes Street was part of the New Town plan designed by James Craig in 1767 and now houses many shops and restaurants.

Dean Village Map

Is Dean Village worth Visiting?

Is it worth taking a detour off the main tourist areas of Edinburgh to visit Dean Village?

We’d have to answer with a resounding yes.

If you like medieval architecture, river walks, photogenic scenery and stepping back in time, then you’ll enjoy a visit to Dean Village.

We visited in winter and took a stroll along the Leith River to St Bernard’s Well before backtracking and spending another half hour or so snapping away at the views of Dean village over the river. I’d imagine it is even more beautiful in spring and summer.

Dean village in summer with trees all in bloom
© Canva I found this image to show Dean Village in full bloom in summer

What to do in Dean Village Edinburgh?

You won’t need to spend too much time here. The village is pretty small and unless you are planning on walking for a few kilometres along the Water of Leith Pathway, all the things to do in Dean Village will take, at most, an hour. The additional options, such as visiting the art gallery and cemetery are within easy walking distance of the village.

Remember that Dean Village is a residential area, without shops or cafes, so if you want a spot for lunch or a coffee, you can walk along the path to Stockbridge or head back up to Princes Street. (See Map above)

Muted view of the side of Wells Court, the river and houses in the background
Dean Village

1. Wander Dean Village’s cobbled streets and admire its historic buildings.

One of the most imposing buildings in the village is the tenement flats of Well Court. In 1880, the then editor of The Scotsman newspaper, Sir John Finlay, commissioned the building as accommodation for locals working in the milling industry. It was restored in 2007 by the flat owners and Edinburgh World Heritage.

Look out for plaques and millstones throughout the village with symbols of pies and baked bread, representing Dean Village’s milling past.

View-of-Well-Court-from-Bridge
Well Court (on the left of the photo)
Plaque on a wall in Dean Village with symbols of bread making
The plaque reads: ‘In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread’ Anno Dom 1619

2. Take in the Views of Dean Village from different Perspectives

There are a couple of bridges in Dean Village which allow you to see it at its best from several vantage points.

If you approach Dean Village by walking down Bells Brae hill, you’ll immediately come to an old stone bridge. Already the view along the Water of Leith to the village is lovely. The view from the other side of the bridge looks down the Water of Leith and you can see the Rhema Christian Church (formerly the Holy Trinity Church) on the hill.

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Rhema Christian Church overlooking the Village of Dean
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View of the village from the bridge near Bells Brae

You can then either cross the bridge and head past Well Court or take a stroll along Hawthorne Bank Lane where you will reach a metal bridge that gives you even better views across the Leith.

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Hawthorne Lane – leads you to another bridge across the Water of Leith
View of Dean Village from metal bridge
Dean Village viewed from the iron bridge

The main bridge that crosses over above Dean Village, the Dean Bridge, was built in 1832 to improve access to the New town to the north of Edinburgh. As you walk along Miller Row by the river, the enormous arches and busy bridge towers above you.

dean-bridge-above-Millers-row
Dean Bridge above Dean Village as seen from Miller Row

3. Stroll along the Water of Leith

The aptly named Miller Row will take you alongside the Water of Leith. Old trees line the path, green moss and lichen well settled among the branches and along the stone walls.

Miller row sign and village dean houses in background
Miller Row in Dean Village
Millers Row pathway with a few houses on the right and a mossy wall on the left
The beginning of Miller Row takes you along the Water of Leith
moss covered stone wall s either side of a pathway
Miller Row – Pathway to Leith along the Waters of Leith

On this walk, you’ll see three old Millstones on your left that were once used in the old Lindsay’s Mill, and further along, you’ll come to an Italian inspired structure built to house the well (spring) discovered in the late 18th century.

millstone-at-dean-village
The old millstones on Millers Row

The well, known as St. Bernard’s Well was believed to hold healing waters, repudiated to even heal blindness. For two centuries, the well, housed in an ornate Greco-Roman design with the Greek goddess Hygieia (Goddess of Heath) at its centre, was used by locals. However, in 1940, the well was closed as it was found to contain arsenic and other impurities.

Statue of greek goddess in the middle of a doric column structure
St Bernard’s Well with the goddess of health in the centre of this greek themed structure
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Side view of St Bernards Well

The Water of Leith Pathway actually runs from Balerno, further east and runs for 13 miles. For more details on the whole route and to download an audio tour check out the Walkway website here.

Water-of-Leith
The water of Leith in the Village of Dean

4. Visit the Village of Dean Cemetery

If you follow the path along the river from the metal bridge, you will pass the Water of Leith Weir and soon come to some steep steps on your right. At the top of the steps turn left and you’ll come to the Village of Dean Cemetery. Opened in 1886, this historic cemetery soon became quite the place to be buried – it was one of the most secure in Edinburgh. This was important back in the day as the era of body snatching from fresh graves had been a huge problem in Edinburgh. Several notable people are buried here and some of the trees were planted more than 100 years ago.

A little further west of Dean Cemetery is the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It is free to visit the gallery which is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

Accommodation in Dean Village

If you fancy staying a few nights in the village there are a few apartments that get great reviews on Booking.com and Tripadvisor

Dean Village Edinburgh … That’s a Wrap

A detour to the delightful Dean Village is well worth it while exploring Edinburgh. It’s within easy walking distance of the centre and is perfect if you’re looking for a little bit of calm. Don’t take your car here, it won’t be easy to park unless you have booked accommodation.

Pinterest pin for Dean Village Edinburgh

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