From formal to the more relaxed, there are a number of gardens in the city that are well worth a visit. In the spring, they burst into life with new shoots and the promise of warmer days; in summer they offer a refuge from the sun’s baking heat (which we sometimes experience!) and in the autumn, they become covered in a blanket of crisp brown leaves, as nature slowly moves into winter.
Whether you’re a budding horticulturist, or struggle to keep a vase of vase fresh for a few days, these green places offer everyone a chance to get close to nature, unwind and take a step back from life’s often hectic pace:
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Set amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh dates back 350 years and is one of the finest botanic gardens in the world.
Enjoy the serenity of the Chinese Hillside, explore the world-famous Rock Garden or stroll amongst the magnificent Giant Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden. Plus, there are artworks to view in the Garden's exhibition space, Inverleith House.
Open all year, and with a range of seasonal events on offer, the gardens are free to visit, however a small fee is required if you choose to visit the greenhouses.
Princes Street Gardens
Situated between the Old and New Towns and in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens are a peaceful expanse of green space and floral beds, as well as a diverse and fascinating collection of public monuments and memorials.
The gardens have undergone many changes – from a loch, to a sewer, to a private garden, with a railway line added, and to a public memorial garden.
Today, they play an important part in the life of the city and are home to various festivals throughout the year, the biggest being in the weeks leading up to Christmas when they are transformed into Edinburgh’s Christmas Market.
Escape the hive of activity of The Royal Mile.
A wander down the narrow cobbled Dunbar’s Close opens out into a surprisingly tranquil and elegant 17th century-style garden, with lush trees and elegant shrubs.
Donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978, it is believed the close was named after David Dunbar, a writer who, in 1773, owned tenements on either side of this close.
Entrance to the garden is free of charge.
The Archivists' Garden
Hidden behind the impressive General Register House at the east end of Princes Street is a beautiful botanical haven. The Archivists' Garden is filled with 57 different varieties of plants - all connected in some way to Scotland's collective memory, whether through myth and folklore, heraldry, or association with individual famous Scots.
Designed and created by David Mitchell, curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, it fills the open courtyard space between General Register House and New Register House. Although just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street, this is a lovely quiet spot to relax in and have a quiet moment of reflection.
Open during office hours, with free admission.
Dr Neil's Garden
Sometimes been called Edinburgh’s Secret Garden, Dr Neil's Garden is nestled beside Duddingston Kirk, close to the banks of Duddingston Loch.
The garden was a labour of love for the late Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil who transformed what was formerly waste ground into the beautiful, blooming haven it is today. Boasting a huge variety of plants and flowers, this is a perfectly peaceful spot with stunning views over the loch and of Arthur's Seat.
Entry is free of charge (except during advertised events) but donations are welcome.
The Secret Herb Garden
Nestled at the foot of the Pentland hills at the edge of Edinburgh and set within 7.5 acres which are bordered by native hedgerows and a gentle stream, the Secret Herb Garden is a wonderful herb nursery.
Not only that, this little jewel also has a café, shop and distillery.
Portobello Community Garden
(Image Credit: Visit Scotland Kenny Lam)
Once a bandstand, the garden has 3 Coade Stone Pillars, plants and a quiet seating zone along the Portobello seaside.
Sandeman House Garden
This secluded spot is just off the Royal Mile, down Trunks Close, and belongs to the Scottish Book Trust.
Open to the public during the day, it’s ideal for relaxing with a book or having a spot of lunch.
Johnston Terrace Garden
Managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and their smallest wildlife reserve, Johnston Terrace Garden is a peaceful garden in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, close to Edinburgh Castle.
Demonstrating how a wildlife refuge can find a home in an urban area, the best time of the year to visit is between June and August when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Access is by prior arrangement with the Trust’s head office.
Lauriston Castle Gardens
A hidden gem in Edinburgh, Lauriston Castle is situated near historic Cramond. The beautiful grounds, which are free to visit, cradle the sea and offer stunning views. The calm and tranquil Japanese garden is definitely worth a visit.
A great way of keeping fit and healthy, both mentally and physically, Edinburgh’s green spaces are packed with ways for the whole family to stay well all year round – for more ideas, have a look at our Guide to Finding Wellness in Edinburgh all Year Round>