Water of Leith Walkway: Stockbridge, Dean Village and St Bernard's Well, Edinburgh

If you're a regular reader of this blog and if you read my Singapore one too you'll know we like to go for walks when we can and Edinburgh, whilst a good deal hillier than Singapore, doesn't disappoint for options.

We live in an area of Edinburgh called Stockbridge which happens to be on the route of the Water of Leith Walkway therefore just begging to be walked (even if not all at once) by us. The complete walk runs from Balerno, a suburb of Edinburgh eight miles from the city centre to Leith and covers a total of twelve miles. As I mentioned we've done different stretches at different times but as we live in Stockbridge we started there on our first walk on this route.

From our flat it really is just a very short walk to a very convenient starting point for the walk, just across the bridge in the photo below, down a staircase and you're besides the water ready to head towards Dean Village and beyond if you wish. This stretch of the walk takes you near to the Botanic Gardens, well worth a visit too, somewhere we often go to and I've mentioned in several previous posts. Also, as I haven't lived in a country with seasons for quite sometime it's a great place for reminding me what time of year it is by being able to enjoy there all that nature has to throw at me. This part and indeed all of the waterway, that I've done so far, is very accessible so great for everybody to enjoy. The beauty of this walk too is that you can do as little or as much as you want with many convenient stops to end your walk or turn back.

I admit this post is an amalgamation of several walks on this part of the Water of Leith including a detour we did on our way towards Dean Village that did not strictly following the waterway path, but we joined up with it again eventually and then worked our way back to Stockbridge and along the way saw some other lovely things in our neighbourhood. That particular walk towards Dean Village took us past lots more of the beautiful Georgian houses in the area. I totally adore all the buildings here in Edinburgh with their huge sash windows and impressive fronts. Such a contrast to my hometown and to the buildings in Singapore so I love looking at them.

Looking towards Calton Hill and some of its famous monuments.

Along our alternate route towards Dean Village we stumbled upon the old police box below. These are actually all over the city with many having been turned into coffee stands and the like now they are no longer used by the police. This one though was just locked up with no hint as to whether it now has another life. I noticed it as it was painted red whereas many of the others I've seen around have more typically been painted blue. According to one website I read most police boxes were blue though in Glasgow most were red. I wonder if there is a reason this one is red and whether it does now have another use hence its colour.

I love a graveyard as anyone who knows me well will tell you and our slightly extended diversion took us through Dean cemetery. This cemetery is Victorian and was a very fashionable one at that time with many grand monuments to those buried there mainly from Edinburgh's middle and upper classes. As seems to be the case with all the cemeteries I've visited in Edinburgh this too contains many notable former residents including, the poet William Edmondstoune Aytoun, John McEwan (part of the famous brewing family), Sir John Murray the oceanographer who led the Challenger Expedition of 1872 - 1876 to discover creatures of the deepest parts of the sea and inspired Jules Verne's, 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea', the architect William Henry Playfair (designer of much of Edinburgh's landmarks in the New Town) and many, many more. There are also a number of war graves from both the First and Second World Wars which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

From the graveyard we then walked through the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, there are a few pieces displayed in the grounds but the gallery itself is perhaps one for another time. We were soon back besides the Water of Leith again and heading towards the very picturesque Dean Village.

Dean Village was, like the area I live in, a one time village just outside of Edinburgh, remaining separate until 1826. It was known as the 'Water of Leith village' and was the centre of a successful grain milling area for more than eight hundred years with eleven working mills at one time powered by the Water of Leith. When the milling trade ceased the area became associated with decay and poverty but it saw a turnaround in the 1970s when it was recognised as a tranquil oasis close to the city centre and a large amount of redevelopment occurred. It is quite a desirable area to live in now and the picture perfect views certainly go someway to explaining why.  

Dean Village and the Water of Leith

The last stage of our walk took us back towards Stockbridge past St Bernard's Well. A natural spring was discovered here in 1760 and quickly became a visitor attraction, as did many springs and spa towns, as people believed at that time that 'taking the waters' was good for them. The pillared dome housing the well was built in 1789 by Alexander Nasymth and the statue inside represents the Greek Goddess of health, Hygeia. The well takes its name from a legend that St Bernard of Clairvaux once lived in a cave nearby. The well was closed in 1940 and remains so asides from a few days when it is open to the public to visit. Regardless though it's a lovely sight to see as you continue on your walk along the Water of Leith.

St Bernard's Well

After passing St Bernard's Well we were practically back again at our starting point of Stockbridge and our walk, for that day at least, ended as we were home again. As I mentioned the whole Water of Leith walkway covers a longer route and we've since done other parts too which I promise to share with you before long as well.

If you want to explore all or some of the Water of Leith walkway for yourself check out this useful link and map.


  1. What a lovely walk! Dean village especially looks stunning

    1. Yes it is, the old mills, workers cottages etc. have been converted into beautiful homes and flats and with the waterway running right through it it's quite stunning.


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