Down deep, down into the Dean Village we go today. First, here is the tollhouse that guards the bridge that spans the Dean Gorge, linking the higher city. A plaque on it:
Though the bridge was designed by Thomas Telford, in the 1800s. Here it is from above;
Mark it; you will see it from below a little later. We take the left turn, hugging Bell’s Brae that runs down the side of the tollhouse, a much taller building than it first appears. Tall and thin, stretching down to the floor of the valley.
The village of Dean, of the gorge, ground the grain for Edinburgh’s bread. There have been mills here since at least the time of King David the first, in the 12th century. At some point during the hard years of the 20th century, the mills fell silent and the village decayed. Now, the remaining mill buildings have been restored as residential, and the village is prosperous, but as if fallen asleep.
That’s D forging ahead. The yellow building has this above one door:
And this above another, bricked up entrance:
The Water of Leith, which ran the waterwheels of the mills, now runs smoothly by, a rusted colour that laps over the weir.
See those houses at the top of the picture? They are houses of the New Town, on the terraces, looking out. The New Town, if you don’t know the city, was built between 1765 and 1850, and has UNESCO world heritage status. It is stately and steely and rich and cobbled, but does not concern us now.
Let’s explore the village. There are a few people out, walking their dogs, taking pictures. It’s a clear day and windless, though down here, perhaps there is a natural break from the North Sea Easterlies which scour the higher city.
Though there is more to see of the village, it feels like a good idea to take a walk by the Water, following the flow towards its mouth – though we won’t reach it today.
Pass under the bridge, look back:
The air sweet here, smelling of the soil and growth, and on one tree there are last year’s catkins hanging, still holding their yellow colour. Walk slowly, looking at the ivy-covered walls. Ahead, a cupola:
To a well, we think, to the Lady of Cups and her pet snake. The path continues above a short promenade where others are walking closer to the water. But we are nearly at the opening of the valley, led into Stockbridge, the area that will join us to the New Town again.
There is one last thing: We stand on the last bridge of the day, one we do not need to cross. Just for the looking back. And in the water, a man:
As mysterious as the lady of the cups and snake
But even more ambiguous in his expression and position. Supplicant? Memorialising the long human impact on the Water? Speaking to all of us who get to live with our feet out of the cold river? I’ve made his image older, because I found his expression a little too haunting, and this softens it. I do not want you to go away with a feeling of melancholy. I’m sure he chats to the lady or the snake, from time to time, asking for a sip from the well, and she tells him stories from the time when the millstones turned and carts and horses clattered along her path.
Now it’s time to climb the hill homeward, but you know your own way from here.