Situated on a hill to the north of the city, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has 77 acres of beautifully landscaped garden and extensive glasshouses featuring plants from the world’s different climatic zones.
The garden is always immaculately kept and affords great views of central Edinburgh. Lots of squirrels keep you amused as you walk round and the garden attracts a wide range of birds, that seem surprisingly unconcerned by the garden’s human visitors.
It’s only a short walk from Edinburgh centre although I normally arrive by car and have never found a problem parking in the surrounding streets. Entry is free to the gardens, but there is a small charge for the glasshouses, with a 20% reduction for Seniors.
By the main entrance is a large, new Visitor Centre, useful for getting your bearings before setting off along the garden’s many pathways.
There’s lots to see in RGB Edinburgh but my favourite parts are:
- The rhododendron glades in springtime – a mass of colours from one of the largest rhododendron collections in the world.
- The 2 acre rock garden made up of hillsides, gulleys and streams, containing over 5000 species.
- The Chinese hillside, where a wide range of Chinese plants are displayed in a natural panorama of winding paths, a pavilion and a waterfall.
- The glasshouses, with so many different areas (and different temperatures) that you can easily get lost – don’t miss the orchid collection.
You can easily spend a whole day exploring the garden so it’s handy that there is a café at Inverleith House on the central hill in the garden. On my last visit I broke my day with an excellent lunch in the stylish Gateway Restaurant in the Visitor Centre.
The RBG Edinburgh has three additional sites in Scotland: Benmore Botanic Gardens near Dunoon in Argyll and Bute; Dawyck Botanic Gardens in the Scottish Borders; and Logan Botanic Gardens near Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway. These rural gardens each have unique and interesting features – for example, the Gulf Stream enables Logan Botanic Gardens to have a range of exotic plants – and each garden deserves to be described separately.