A Full Day Visit to Dean Village in Edinburgh

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Written By Dr. Mahnoor Awan

Dean Village is an idyllic and pleasant town located just a short walk from the city centre of Edinburgh, Scotland. Its name comes from “dene,” meaning valley. Dean Village is famous for its picturesque views, peaceful location, exquisite buildings, and tourist attractions. 

A stream of water running through the village makes it an absolute treat for those who love nature.

Dean village in Edinburgh

It’s good to explore this beautiful village in Edinburgh in just a single day. Honestly, it was not enough, but I clicked some beautiful pictures while on vacation. 

History of Dean Village

This village was formerly known as the “Water of Leith Village” because of its rich history of being a profitable grain milling area for over eight centuries.

One time, Dean Village had no fewer than eleven working mills, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith.

Water of Leith, Dean Village, Edinburgh
Water of Leith, Dean Village, Edinburgh

Dean Village’s trading business declined once the flour mills at Leith were constructed. Following this downfall, the village began to crumble and hit rock bottom in the 1960s. However, the picturesque Water of Leith and proximity to Edinburgh Castle and the city centre brought it back to fame in the 1970s and started being recognized as a serene oasis.

Restoration of the local workers’ houses and buildings began, renovations of buildings and cottages were started, and the formerly industrial region no longer inhabitable was cleared. That site is now a highly desired residential area in Edinburgh.

In 1983, a walkway was constructed running from Leith to Balerno, known as the Water of Leith Walkway.

Literary Fame

Dean Village has been featured in Strip Jack, a novel by Ian Rankin, where a woman is found dead in the river underneath the bridge. Peter May Lewis has also used it as a location in The Lewis Man.

A walk along Water of Leith
A walk along Water of Leith

Dean Village Attractions

Dean village houses some of Edinburgh’s prettiest buildings and places, including the Scottish National Gallery, Dean Cemetery, Dean Path, Dean Bridge, and Dean House.

Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was first opened public in 1960 in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden. It was later moved in 1984 to its present site on Modern One, Belford Road.

A scultpture in the garden of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
A scultpture in the garden of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

The building used to be a school in the past until 1984, the remains of which can still be appreciated in the well-kept architecture.

In 1999, the National Galleries of Scotland inaugurated Modern Two just across the road from Modern One. This building conducts temporary exhibitions in addition to displaying permanent ones.

Dean Cemetery

Dean cemetery is a Victorian construction located north of Dean Village. It has Queensferry Road on one side and the Water of Leith on the other. An extension was made in the 20th century towards the Ravelston Terrace.

One of the many remarkable headstones in Dean Cemetery
One of the many remarkable headstones in Dean Cemetery

Dean Bridge

It was designed by the famous Thomas Telford and completed its construction in 1831. It has a four-arched architecture being 106 feet above the water level and about 400 feet wide. Queensferry Street runs across the bridge.

A view of the Dean Bridge from below
A view of the Dean Bridge from below

A Full Day Visit to Dean Village in Edinburgh

I am one of those who love the countryside a lot more than the central city, so when I visited Scotland, Dean village had to be on my list.

Since Dean Village is close to Edinburgh Castle, I decided to visit them both on the same day.

I started my day early and drove to the NCP Edinburgh Castle Car Park, just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle. It costs about £5 less if you pre-book in advance. I would also recommend pre-booking because it ensures you a spot since it gets filled early in the day.

Roadside view of the North sea in the background
Roadside view of the North sea in the background

A short walk led me to the Edinburgh Town Centre, where I enjoyed seeing the beautiful shops, cafés, and Scottish musicians playing bagpipes. I quickly stopped for my morning cup of coffee and a veggie sandwich.

It started drizzling on the way, making the walk even more memorable. The pitter-patter of raindrops on my umbrella, the smell of wet soil, and the cool breeze made it all perfect.

Towards Edinburgh Town Centre
Towards Edinburgh Town Centre

I stopped on Princes Street to see the famous Floral Clock if Edinburgh, a gorgeous display of flowers. The floral layout changes every spring. The vibrant coloured flowers arranged to form a clock are a sight to see.

The Floral Clock
The Floral Clock

In about 15 minutes, I reached Dean Village, which, even though it is just a walk away from the town centre and Edinburgh Castle, is surprisingly peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of the city.

The houses and cottages in the village have remarkable architecture. A lot of the buildings have maintained the Victorian outlook.

Buildings having Victorian Outlook

The Dean Path leads to the breathtaking Water of Leith. The council has paved a path that takes you to the Walkway. It is a lovely walk, perfect for anyone who loves a stroll. With the fallen leaves rustling beneath my steps, the sound of the water stream, and the sun shining through the pockets between the trees, I walked very slowly, wanting to experience nature for as long as possible.

The waterfall is spectacular. I saw groups taking selfies, children running up and down the steps, and people of all ages having the best time before heading back to the busy part of the city.

Water of Leith
Water of Leith

After the Water of Leith, I visited the Dean Cemetery. Just a 5 minutes walk away. There are a lot of cemeteries scattered all around Edinburgh, but this one is especially remarkable.

I have never seen the kind of stone plaques and headstones anywhere that I got to see in the Dean Cemetery. They have been extremely well preserved regardless of the harsh weather of Scotland.

There are a few benches as well; however, I only stayed for a short while, said a prayer for all those who were resting, and left for my next destination.

Do keep in mind that the cemetery does not allow the entry of dogs and ensures that nobody steps on the ground or the graves.

Dean Cemetery sign board
Dean Cemetery sign board

It only took 10 minutes to reach the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It has beautiful architecture with vast lush gardens around it. Entry to the gallery is free. However, no guided tours are offered.

Art 1 of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Art 2 of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

I got to see some of the most distinguished art pieces, including the works of maestros such as Picasso, Emin, Dalí, Matisse, Miró, and many other renowned artists.

Art 3 of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

This museum is a must-see if you love Contemporanea art. Some of the artworks blew my mind away. It took me about 2 hours for the whole tour, and I enjoyed it.

There is a nice café within the museum where you could enjoy snacks or a cup of tea.

On my way back to the town centre, I visited the famous Dean Bridge. An interesting fact about the bridge is that in 1888, the number of people committing suicide from the bridge rose so high that the Edinburgh Corporation had to take action by elevating the parapet’s height. The difference in stonework can still be appreciated.


Is visiting Dean Village worth it?

So the question is, is Dean Village worth visiting? I’d say yes, for sure! It is a small village away from the crowded city centre, a tranquil oasis within Edinburgh.

The village offers scenic beauty of the Water of Leith, beautiful architecture of the local residences, a well-kept cemetery, a magnificent gallery of modern art, a historic bridge, and whatnot!

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