If you ask any local for the most beautiful sector of Edinburgh, they’re sure to say “Dean Village”. This former medieval suburb is considered to be one of the city’s hidden gems. Tucked away from the crowds, many tourists miss their chance to see this adorable quarter. However, if you have two days in Edinburgh or more, I’d encourage you to make the trek! In this post, I’ll cover some of the history of Dean Village as well as why I believe it’s a must-see spot in Edinburgh.
The History of Dean Village
Dean Village, although now an affluent area, had quite humble beginnings. When it was initially chartered in the 12th century, it was home to a large milling industry. It’s easy to see why this was a perfect spot for water-run mills, as a mighty river runs through the village. This led to the settlement first being called the “Water of Leith Village”. Fun fact: it wasn’t even part of Edinburgh’s “old town” in the past. The city hadn’t expanded this far out yet!
As you might have expected, the mills that were so important to the village’s development eventually fell into disuse. Subsequently, Dean Village also fell into decline. This continued until the late 1960s, when remaining historical buildings in the area began to be renovated and converted into housing. Thanks to this initiative, Dean Village is now a popular residential area.
How to get there
How you’ll arrive at Dean Village will significantly depend on where you’re staying in Edinburgh. In my case, my hotel was in Edinburgh Old Town near the Royal Mile. Although Dean Village wasn’t exactly around the corner, I decided to walk there. In the end, it was a sunny day, and the walk only took 25 minutes, so it was worth it! If you aren’t convinced about walking there, I recommend grabbing a taxi. The ride from Old Town should take less than 10 minutes.
What to do in Dean Village
I started my scenic tour of Dean Village on Dean Path, where you can cross a bridge over the Water of Leith river. If you take the same path as me, you’ll see a picturesque view of Holy Trinity Church on your right (first image above). On your left, you can see across the river to some of the residences on Hawthornbank Lane (third image). From there, if you continue straight on Dean Path, you’ll pass by beautiful Victorian homes as you make your way to the Water of Leith Walkway entrance, which will be marked in red on your left.
After you enter, you’ll walk down a few flights of stairs and find yourself in an incredibly lush part of Dean Village. Turn left and continue down this path to reach one of the most recognizable viewpoints in the area. You’ll notice a metal bridge that you can cross. From the bridge, you’ll be able to see one of the village’s iconic buildings, Well Court Hall. This housing development was completed in 1886 and provided residences for local workers. In 2007, Edinburgh World Heritage began renovations, reviving this building into luxury apartments with a historical touch.
I crossed the bridge and continued up Hawthornbank Lane, where the series of beautiful homes continued. Finally, I ended up back where I had started along Dean Path. If you’re short on time, this is what I would consider to be the quick introduction to Dean Village. You’ve seen all the essentials! However, if you’re gearing for more lovely pathways, continue your walk down Miller Row. This will take you under Dean Bridge. From there, you can even follow the greenery to Stockbridge Market. I walked all of this route, and I’d say it took about two hours (including all my photo breaks!).
Know before you go
From what I could tell, there were no public restrooms or restaurants in this highly residential area. For this reason, you might want to pack snacks if you plan to spend longer than an hour or so here. The weather in Edinburgh also seems to change quite rapidly, so I’d grab an umbrella before leaving the hotel. Furthermore, shoes with excellent traction are always a good idea as many of the pathways in Dean Village are made of cobblestone.
Where should I go after Dean Village?
Here are some options of popular sites to visit after Dean Village:
- Edinburgh Castle
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art ( Modern One)
- Princes Street Gardens
- Scottish National Gallery
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Check out some of my favorite Edinburgh guidebooks below. Click the cover to see inside!
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