Dean Village

Trip 42 Day 3

April 28, 2023

Later starting out today because we were exhausted from yesterday’s combination of travel, time change and 6 miles of walking. We’d seen beautiful photos of Dean Village and after finding it was only about 1/2 mile from our hotel, decided it would be a good visit for this afternoon. Walking down Princes Street, it took about 15 minutes.

The Dean Village is recorded as far back as 1145 and was the center for milling for 800 years. It was known as the Water of Leith village. The “Dene” as it was called at one time from dene, meaning ‘deep valley. It is a deep valley through which a small river flows. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by water from the Water of Leith. The area remained a separate village until the 19th century, but due to the development of much larger and more modern flour mills at Leith, Dean Village’s trade diminished. Now, it’s a quaint residential oasis you wouldn’t even know was there, off the busy streets of nearby Princes and Queensferry Road.

Dean Path

The Bell Brae ( Water of Leith Bridge) stone arch bridge over the river was built in the early 18th century but there is a building across from it that with inscriptions from 1537.

Most of the buildings along Bell Brae are of 16-18th century construction, but there are some more modern construction and renovations, either further down the river walk or just off Bell Brae (“brae” means steep bank or hillside). Walking down to the left, over the bridge and the cobbled streets of Dean Village, we made our way down to the river and the walk that goes alongside.

Water of Leith Walkway

Spring has come, but many of the trees are not yet fully budded out. There were a couple of fishermen out, but without any success as far as we saw.

Prior to the building of the four arched Dean Bridge in 1831, the only way across the river into Edinburgh was by a ford in the river, which had been crossed since medieval times (5th to 15th centuries

On the other side of Bell Brae bridge is Miller Row, which leads along the river and down under Dean Bridge, some 100’ above the river.

Dean Bridge (1831)
Mill stone

We retraced our path back up the river walk and Dean Path to reach the Toll House at the head of the entrance to the Village, where the plaque on the wall shows a construction date of 1619.

Dean Village Toll house plaque

Back up on Princes Street, we found the Johnnie Walker building and its animated, cantilevered (Binn’s) clock. It wasn’t a very long animation (YouTube) at 5:07pm (why?). On time, the kilted Highland figures marched out at seven minutes (and would at 37 minutes) past the hour. It is reported that these odd times are a specific Highland tradition. The pipers will first appear just after the hour to the tune of “Scotland the Brave”, and just after half-past to “Caller Herrin.”

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