A Day at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
A Day at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a quiet, peaceful haven of floral tranquility and arboreal splendour. Located just a mile from the city centre, the beautifully landscaped gardens have existed on the present site since 1820 and are free of charge to visit (except for a small charge for the glasshouses).
It's one of my favourite places in the whole of Edinburgh and one of my venues for my beginner photography class. If you're feeling a little stressed or frazzled - it's the ideal place for some peaceful, quiet contemplation, in amongst some beautiful, restorative surroundings.
The 70 acres attract tens of thousands of visitors every year, who flock there to enjoy the beautiful, serene surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh also has a further three separate regional gardens elsewhere in Scotland: Benmore (Argyll), Logan (Galloway) and Dawyck (the Borders), all of which have their own distinct character and specialist collections, and all are worth a visit if you have the time.
The original Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was founded in 1670 near the Palace of Holyroodhouse, making it the second-oldest botanic garden in the UK. It moved to its present site in the 1820s and today plays an increasingly important scientific role in conservation, biodiversity and climate change research. You don't have to be a keen gardener to enjoy 'the Botanics', as they are locally known. The gardens contain a huge variety of exotic plants from all around the world, including colourful, vibrant azaleas and rhododendrons, which can be appreciated by anyone.
I have very fond childhood memories of running around the gardens like a crazy loon, looking for places to hide amongst the trees and undergrowth. As an adult it's a place you can go to learn about the flora and fungi of the British Isles and beyond. With an excellent visitor centre and restaurants, it's a great place to while away a good few hours with family and friends.
The glasshouses are another huge draw, and include a Temperate Palm House, Fern House, and Arid Lands House. All are quite unique and equally fascinating for both the gardening expert and novice alike. There's a wealth of things to see and do at the RBGE, and highlights include:
The Scottish Heath Garden
Begun in 1997, the present heath garden was designed to grow and display native Scottish upland plants in a realistic countryside setting. The charming small lochan and the tumbledown croft make for quite an authentic upland scene.
The Queen Mother's Memorial Garden
This beautiful ornamental garden was opened by the Queen in 2006 and is largely based around the intricate interlaced patterns of the Pictish Eassie Cross Slab, located near the Queen Mother's childhood home, Glamis Castle. The four corners of the garden represent Asia, Europe, North America and the southern hemisphere and are populated with plants from each region. The labyrinth in the middle, planted with bog myrtle, makes a very striking centrepiece. A wonderful garden in which to spend some quiet contemplation time.
The Chinese Hillside
Started in 1993, the Chinese Hillside contains a wonderful collection of Chinese plants and trees reflecting those to be found on a real Chinese hillside. The Garden has a serious role to help protect and conserve Chinese hill plants and the RBGE has close links with gardens in China itself. A lovely feature of the Chinese Hillside is the pond and pavilion which will delight any visitor.
The Rock Garden
Famous throughout the world, and an enduring favourite for many who love this Garden, is the wonderful Rock Garden. Containing thousands of alpines, crocuses, pulsatilla, tulips and primula, there's much to be admired.
A highlight of any visit to the Botanics has to be the wonderful glasshouses, which are divided into ten different 'climate zones' taking you right through the plant kingdom. The range of temperatures and humidities in these beautiful Victorian glasshouses is quite extraordinary, as are the incredible range of plants and trees growing in them. One minute you are in the tropics and the next the desert! They're a fabulous adventure for children.
Recently replanted due to problems with bindweed, the Herbaceous Border at the Botanic Garden has always been a spectacular display. The impressive, 165-metre-long, Beech hedge acts as the perfect backdrop to the amazing riot of colour in the summer.
Located in the centre of the Garden and originally the former home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, this lovely 18th-century mansion house hosts a variety of art exhibitions throughout the year.
The John Hope Gateway
The new entrance gateway to the Garden is named after a former keeper and forms the RBGE's new biodiversity and exhibition centre. Visitor facilities include a very lovely restaurant overlooking the new Biodiversity Garden, a science studio, exhibition space and shop.
The Botanic Garden is located at Aboretum Place and Inverleith Row, just one mile north of the city centre. Gardens are open all year round except for 25 December and 1 January. Opening hours are: November to January: 10am - 4pm, February and October: 10am - 5pm and March to September: 10am - 6pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.rbge.org.uk/the-gardens/edinburgh/visitor-information.
If you're visiting Edinburgh for the first time, why not join me on my Edinburgh Camera Tour, or learn more about your camera on my Beginner Photography Class. I offer one-to-one personal tuition in the Botanic Gardens, which makes the perfect place to learn more about your camera and photography. Alternatively, you can book directly by calling me on 07400 705 357.
If you'd like to join me on a special walking Tour of Edinburgh, please Email me or telephone me directly on 07400 705 357.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Inverleith Row/Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5LR