Explore the Gardens of Edinburgh

Guest post by Charlotte Baker

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Located in the Lothian region is the city of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s capital and second-most populous city. Sitting on the southern edge of the Firth of Forth, the city serves as the seat of the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and the highest courts in Scotland. It is also one of the biggest financial, cultural and tourist centres in the United Kingdom. In fact, Edinburgh welcomes an average of 5 million visitors every year.

Charming and unique, “Auld Reekie” (as it is fondly called by locals) is best known for its collection of majestic buildings, world-renowned museums, historic monuments and so much more. More than that, Edinburgh is also famous for its lovely landscapes. The Scottish capital is filled with sprawling gardens (some of which only locals know about), public parks and green spaces where locals and tourists can escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. 

Looking for peace and quiet while enjoying the outdoors? Explore the exceptional gardens of Edinburgh. If you are carrying extra bags and backpacks, look for an Edinburgh storage locker to safely leave your belongings while you meander the grounds.

Dr. Neil’s Garden

Although Edinburgh boasts a number of world-renowned gardens, the city is also home to some incredible greenery that even locals do not know exists. One of the best examples is Dr. Neil’s Garden, located in Duddingston. This literal hidden gem is tucked away behind the famous Arthur’s Seat and is sitting just beside the Duddingston Kirk.

The garden is named after married doctors, Andrew and Nancy Neil, who, in 1963, worked tirelessly to transform a waste ground into the blooming oasis that it is today. During this time, the doctors also encouraged their patients to help out in the garden as it can be therapeutic and beneficial to their physical health. Today, Dr. Neil’s Garden is one of Edinburgh’s best gardens and allows locals and foreigners to have some quiet time while enjoying unparalleled views over the loch.

Princes Street Gardens

people on green grass field near brown concrete building during daytime

Located right in the heart of the city centre, it would be pretty hard to miss Princes Street Gardens, which is arguably the most popular garden in Edinburgh. Sitting between the Old Town and New Town, the massive public park covers over 37 acres and has been open to the public since 1876. Since then, it has become a favourite among Edinburgh locals as well as the hundreds of tourists that arrive in the city every day, especially during the summer months.

Apart from the spacious areas to hang out in, there are also several points of interest and monuments found within the Princes Street Garden. One of the must-see attractions in the park is the Scottish National Gallery, which houses an impressive collection of Scottish and international art. Other noteworthy landmarks include the Ross Fountain, the Scott Monument and the Gardener’s Cottage.

Dunbar’s Close Garden

The Royal Mile is one of the most popular areas in Edinburgh, which is why it is hard to believe that there’s a hidden gem, known as Dunbar’s Close Garden, tucked away not far from the famous street. Sitting at the foot of the city’s main thoroughfare, the garden resembles the layout of a 17th-century traditional Burghal garden – complete with perfectly manicured greenery, blooming flowers and shady patches.

Dunbar’s Close is the brainchild of Sir Patrick Geddes, a prominent Scottish biologist, and was made to promote the need for gardens within the city limits. Geddes believed that health and environment go hand in hand, which is why he created this horticultural wonder. After going through a period of ruin, The Mushroom Trust saved the garden, which is how it got the moniker “mushroom garden”, and had it brought back to life by local landscape architect Seamus Filor. Today, it serves as a hangout spot for families, friends and couples. 

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

You simply cannot talk about exploring gardens in the city without mentioning the renowned Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Established in 1670, it is the oldest botanic garden in Scotland as well as one of the city’s top tourist attractions. The Botanics, as it is commonly referred to locally, covers over 70 acres of land and is home to an incredibly rich and diverse collection of plants from all over the world, divided into four different sections. To date, there are more than 13,000 species of plants in existence in the garden.

More than just a public garden and hangout spot, the Royal Botanic Garden is also known worldwide as a top-notch scientific centre for plant study and conservation. It is also actively involved in a number of conservation projects conducted both locally and internationally. One highlight of the garden is its glasshouses (the only area that charges a fee for entrance), where you will find approximately 2,400 types of plants originating from various countries.

Sandeman House Garden

Situated just off the Royal Mile, just a short distance from the John Knox House, is the Sandeman House Garden, one of the many stunning green spaces in Edinburgh that is hidden in plain sight. The secluded spot, which is owned by the Scottish Book Trust, is the brainchild of landscape architects Turnbull Jeffrey and is open daily for public use. 

Nowadays, more and more people are becoming aware of the existence of the Sandeman House Garden. It is a popular spot for those who want to relax, have a picnic lunch or read a book without going too far from the city centre.

Chessel’s Court

Just a stone’s throw away from the Royal Mile and the Scottish Parliament Building is the Chessel’s Court, where you can find a picturesque open space filled with lush greenery. Chessel’s Court was established during the 1700s to serve as a courtyard for flats and has since gone on to become a secret sanctuary for those in the know. 

The garden is reminiscent of an 18th-century traditional tenement and boasts little pockets of plants, herb gardens and heart-shaped ivy. The Chessel’s Court garden is also part of local history; according to folklore, it is the spot where notorious city councillor-turned-criminal Deacon Brodie was caught.

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