Edinburgh on Foot in 1.5 Days: Dean Village, Sausage and Mash, Haunted Edinburgh

By Charleen - October 05, 2019


It's amazing how much you can see exploring the compact World Heritage area of Edinburgh! We were charmed by Dean Village, ventured up and down eerie closes, hunted for the best shortbread from Edinburgh Castle down the Golden Mile, shopped cashmere and wool, followed the footsteps (and hand prints) of JK Rowling, climbed to the highest point and swooned over the concept of a chocolate cafe. 
Along the Water of Leith in New Town
Cockburn Street in Old Town
St. Giles Cathedral on High Street

Day 1. Dean Village, Sausage & Mash, Spooky Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle Apartments

After a long flight, we arrived at the Edinburgh Castle Apartments at 4:35 pm. This was conveniently located on Castle Street in New Town, just north of the Edinburgh Castle with easy access to shops, restaurants, trams and buslines. We booked the Studio Suite with a king bed and a "sofa bed" for 3 adults, and were pleased to find it was on the ground floor (no elevator, 4 floors). Overall, the room was spacious with a large closet. However, unless you are traveling with a child, I would suggest booking the next larger room. The sofa bed had thin cushions and felt small even for my 5'2" daughter. Check-in and check-out were quite easy, as the doors are locked by a keypad so there is no key to return, and the price was quite reasonable given the great location. 
View from front door of Edinburgh Castle Apartments
As the sun does not set until 9-10 pm in the summer, this allowed plenty of time to explore the scenic Dean Village, enjoy some delicious sausage and mash and seek out warmer clothing before meeting our guide for a free Orange Ghost Tour. 
An unexpected Pittsburgh connection in New Town. This statue honors the son of the William Pitt for which Pittsburgh was named. The sky was still bright at 10:20 pm!


Village of Dean: the "Water of Leith Village"

Although we did not have time to walk the 12 mile Water of Leith walkway, we greatly enjoyed our first stroll in Edinburgh to a highly scenic stretch of river, once the site of the grain mills of Dene that stem back to the time of King David I in the 12th century. It was only a 0.6 mile, relatively flat walk from the Castle apartments. We accidentally started to cross the Dean Bridge high above a lush green river valley before discovering we should have stayed left and headed down Bells Brae. This smaller road leads directly to the scenic region of Dean Village, changing its name to Dean Path upon crossing the river. Stepping across this cobblestoned single-arch bridge was like stepping into another world. There was even a classic red telephone booth on the corner!
View from the single arch bridge of Dean Path
The Victorian tenements with their red sandstone walls and baronial turrets were designed to house artisans and workers, while improving the view for philantropist Sir John Findlay. We made a partial circuit of the village by turning left on Damside and then left again to the Water of Leith walkway.  We crossed a small footbridge before heading back along the riffling waters for more views of iconic Scottish Baronial Revival and Tudoresque architecture punctuated by a cheerful yellow wall.
Scot-Revival architecture in Dean Village

Makars Gourmet Mash Bar

After heading back to our apartment to grab the slightly warmer clothes that we had brought, buying a sweater or two along the way, we turned our attention to dinner. I had read good reviews about Makars from some Trip Advisor travel logs, and noted that the one on the Mound was right on the way to the meeting spot for our 8 pm Ghost Tour later that evening.

The climb up the Mound towards High Street has a strong gravity factor, so wear comfortable shoes and allow plenty of time!  And no, as we found out the following morning, there is no passable shortcut through the attractive Princes Street Gardens.

The menu at Makars is dominated by sausages and different variations on mashed potatoes, although there were two good vegetarian options as well. The star of the show that evening was my husband's selection: Makars wild boar sausage with onion gravy served over spring onion and crispy smoked bacon mash (rumbledethumps).
Clockwise from top right: wild boar sausage, gratinated portabello, traditional smoked sausage
I had the chargrilled traditional smoked sausage with a garlic-sour cream aioli and the black pudding mash. The sausage reminded me of a good kielbasa, but I wished I had tried the Scottish cheddar/chive mash instead. A small dish of pickled vegetables served with each sausage dish helped to cut through some of the richness.

My daughter enjoyed the gratinated portabello mushroom stuffed with garlic, herbs and cheese, stacked on a garlic-herb butter rosti (fried shredded potatoes), selecting a salad instead of the mash.

The Orange Free Ghost Tour

With our stomachs full, we meandered up to our meeting spot for The Orange Ghost Tour, with the strains of solo street bagpipers rising above the hubbub. Marked by their orange umbrellas, this company gives free tours starting from 367 High Street across from St. Giles Cathedral, with the tour guides paid exclusively by tips. We did our first tour of this type in Philadelphia. It is a great way to get to know a city as the tour guides tend to be enthusiastic about their city and stories.
It was still surprisingly bright outside, although it was a tad darker on the stairs of the narrow closes that cut straight down from High Street. Although more macabre than ghostly, we learned a good deal of history, about the very real witch executions by drowning in the now-drained Nor Loch, the poor sanitation of the day, medical bodysnatchers, murders and bizarre events in those alleyways. Our tour lasted nearly two hours, and gave us a fascinating preview of Edinburgh for the day to come.
Anchor Close - site of one ghost story
Sir Walter Scott monument near the end of the former Nor Loch -- final resting place for accused witches & warlocks
Canongate Kirkyard - thwarting body snatchers

Click here for Day 2. Edinburgh Castle, Oink and Diagon Alley, Grassmarket, Golden Mile, Coro the Chocolate Cafe 


Click here for Holyrood (Queen's) Park and Hiking to Arthur's Seat

Read about our two days driving to castles, palaces, abbeys and a neolithic henge.
Day 3. Dunfermline, Castle Campbell, Stirling Castle, Antonine Wall, Cairnpapple Hill
Day 4. Linlithgow, Rosslyn Chapel, St. Martin's Kirk, Angels with Bagpipes

Tips: 
🐾 It can be quite cold even in the summer in Edinburgh. Pack at least one warm sweater that can be layered over other clothes, a warm hat, gloves and raingear. Fortunately, there are many shops with beautiful knit goods and plaid scarves nearby.
🐾 Edinburgh Castle and High Street exist on a sort of elevated ridge above New Town to the north and the Grassmarket area of Old Town to the south. The narrow steps of the pedestrian closes are great shortcuts for navigating Old Town. Together the Old and New Town areas of Edinburgh form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. New Town was a planned community built between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries, and is "new" relative to the medieval and reformation era roots of Old Town. 
🐾 With Google Maps, you can mark sites of interest, and then download maps for offline use on the iPhone. After searching for a site in Google Maps, you click the "Save" button and indicate which list. I marked hotels and potential places to eat with pink hearts using the "Favorites" list, and points of interest to visit with green flags using the "Want to go" list. That way, when we got hungry, we could quickly check what was nearby or on the way to the next sight. The lists can be accessed by clicking the three horizontal lines in the Search box, and then clicking on "Your places" and selecting the "Saved" tab. We kept our phones in airplane mode for the entire trip, and had no problems navigating using the iPhone GPS.


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