Water of Leith Walkway Stage 3 – Murrayfield to Dean Village

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

This section of the walk along the Water of Leith passes through the heart of the city and starts in the Murrayfield Rugby Grounds and passes through Roseburn Park, the Bells Mills area and ends in the Dean Village.

Murrayfield Grounds is named after Archibald Murray, who bought the ground from the Nisbets of Dean in 1734. The Scottish Rugby Union acquired the ground from the Edinburgh Polo Club and the international stadium was built after the First World War (the stadium has been altered and enlarged since). While excavating the ground, a coffin containing the skeleton of a soldier and his musket were found – possibly one of Cromwell’s troops who encamped here.

Roseburn Park takes its name from a burn draining into Corstorphine Loch. The loch was originally a glacial lake, giving rise to a large area of marshland, which was finally drained in the 17th Century. The Walkway continues via Roseburn Cliff and passes under the Coltbridge Viaduct.

As one enters the Bells Mills Area, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art is accessible over a footbridge. Originally John Watson’s School, the premises were designed in 1825 by William Burn for the maintenance and education of destitute children. The gallery opened in 1984. Donaldson’s School for the Deaf, designed by W H Playfair in 1841 is out of sight on the right bank. A hotel stands on the site of the ancient Bell’s Mills, the last working mill to draw its power from the river, which blew up in 1971. The granary, mill house and cobble lane survive. Belford Bridge (1887) marks the start of the Dean Bank footpath.

Dean Village: The walkway passes below the Dean Cemetery that occupies the grounds of Dean House, the 17th century home of the Nisbets. Many famous Edinburgh citizens are buried here, including Lord Cockburn, W.H.Playfair and Dr.Elsie Inglis. The village itself is sited in a steep sided gorge and was the original crossing point for travellers proceeding to Queensferry and the North. Once known as the Village of the Water of Leith, mills were present in the 12th Century and the village became the centre for flour milling under the Baxters, who owned mills and granaries and supplied Edinburgh with flour until steam milling came to Leith in the 19th Century. Some interesting features along this part of the walk are:

  • Old Dean Bridge – a carved stone in the wall nearby shows the symbols of the Baxters’ trade – crossed peels (the wooden shovels used to move loaves into and out of the oven) – with the much worn date 1643.
  • Dean Bridge – designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1832, built largely by the initiative of Provost John Learmouth who wished to develop his lands on the west side of the gorge. The bridge towers 32 metres (106 feet) above the river.
  • St.Bernard’s Well was discovered, according to tradition, by three Heriot’s School boys while fishing in the river in 1760. In 1789 the present circular Roman temple structure was added, with Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, at the centre. The well became popular because of the supposed health-giving properties of its water, but recent analysis shows it to be unfit for drinking. A plaque facing the river acknowledges the restoration of the well and its presentation to the City by William Nelson, the publisher, in 1888.

To see all the images* in this set, please click the link below:



Please do join me next time for Stage 4 and the final stage of the journey which will start in Stockbridge and pass through Canonmills, Bonnington and finally end in Leith where the river flows out to sea via the Firth of Forth.

Till next time, take care and gallop free.

* – images taken with the Canon 50D.

Ride with the Black Stallion: www.igallopfree.com

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