Dean Village is a tranquil green oasis on the Water of Leith, just five minutes’ walk from Edinburgh’s Princes Street. It is the kind of place that can cause jaws to drop when stumbled upon unexpectedly with the air of a pretty clachan tucked away, on higgledy-piggledy levels in the heart of a busy city.
In the past the village was the centre of the flour milling industry and the remnants of what must have been bustling activity, including the converted water mills, can still be seen today.
If you look carefully you can spot mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies on some of the older buildings.
Its history can be traced back as far as 1128 and in a city famed for its picturesque spots, Dean Village can always impress visitors.
Living in one of the historic buildings is a delight, according to Elizabeth Fraser, whose husband Gordon bought the lower flat at 10 Hawthornbank Lane 20 years ago.
At the time, Gordon was a property developer, and the main door apartment, approached down steps from street level, needed work.
Elizabeth says: “It needed gutting, with a new kitchen and bathroom installed but after the work was done, he rented it out for a few years and went travelling.”
Meeting and marrying Elizabeth, who was working as a teacher in her native Charleston, South Carolina, at the time, changed all that and for years the couple used the apartment for summers in Scotland.
Elizabeth says: “Gordon is from Edinburgh, so having this lovely place to come back to every summer was a real joy. Since I’ve retired, we’ve been living in it full time.”
It might be a cliché to say, but the views have literally graced many a picture postcard.
The windows of the apartment overlook the Water of Leith and Well Court, the ornate Victorian building commissioned as social housing in the 1880s by The Scotsman’s editor, Sir John Finlay, who lived in Rothesay Terrace above.
The uncharitable might wonder if his motivation had more to do with philanthropy or improving his own outlook.
No 10 Hawthornbank Lane is more spacious than you would imagine, and is filled with light, which is another surprise for a house you have to go down stone steps to enter, but Elizabeth says: “It is cosy, tucked into the hillside and very sheltered from the weather but we get a lot of afternoon light.”
The property has two good-sized bedrooms and a bathroom, a large sitting room which easily fits a dining table, and a fitted kitchen. The couple have furnished the sunny steps outside with pots and the windows are adorned with flower boxes.
It is perhaps a reminder that if you own one of the most photographed places in Edinburgh, you have to keep up appearances.
Elizabeth says that life in the 200-year-old building, for her as an American, has been like stepping back in time or “living in a history book”.
Perhaps the aspect they have most enjoyed in their time here is the enviable location, however.
Elizabeth says: “You step out of the door and there is a wonderful walk down the Water of Leith to Stockbridge where you can do your shopping at the fishmongers, pop into the post office or go for a coffee. Practically everywhere in the city is within walking distance.”
But the best aspect of the apartment’s position is the peace and quiet down beside the water.
Elizabeth says: “During the day you can spend an hour watching the herons fish and there is something so magical about being able to open the windows on a warm night and go to sleep with the sound of the trickling water beside you.”
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