Secret Gardens In Edinburgh You Had No Idea Existed

The Walter Scott memorial is one of Edinburghs most iconic landmarks
The Walter Scott memorial is one of Edinburgh's most iconic landmarks | © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Tori Chalmers

To quote Frances Hodgson Burnett from The Secret Garden ‘If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.’ Pockets of flora filled with ever-changing life surrounded by an abundance of mesmerising hues and interesting textures, gardens – big or small – serve as a safe haven for green-fingered folk and deep thinkers. Nestled away from prying eyes amidst the city’s ancient closes and meandering walkways, embrace this dose of respite and explore the secret gardens of Edinburgh.

Dunbar’s Close

Rooted in history and coiffured to perfection, Dunbar’s Close is surreptitiously positioned in a spot devoid of the hustle and bustle common to city life. A little Wonderland punctuated with expertly manicured greenery, wise old trees, shady patches, and flowers poised ballerina-like, Dunbar’s Close mirrors the layout of a 17th century garden. The brainchild of Scottish biologist Sir Patrick Geddes, this horticultural masterpiece was the result of a noble mission of creating a myriad of inner city gardens, with the notion that health and environment work in tandem.

Secret Herb Garden

Rustic and delightfully soothing, the Secret Herb Garden, situated below the spectacular backdrop of the rolling Pentlands upon Edinburgh’s periphery, is a specialist herb nursery. Not only that, this little jewel of a secret has a café and shop overflowing with vintage furniture, beer and bees. The scenic gardens, which are undeniably worth exploring, span out across 7.5 acres of wild land and are guarded by native hedgerows and a wandering stream. Discovering the nations of herbs in the glasshouse is a must.

Dr Neil’s Garden

As transcendental as poetry, Dr Neil’s Garden is a visual utopia and artist’s palette of powerful colours and plants. Hidden and alluring, the garden is situated next to the 12th Century Duddingston Kirk with cinematic views of Arthur’s Seat. Unsurprisingly, this secluded spot is known as ‘Edinburgh’s Secret Garden’ and has long been a catalyst of inspiration for literature and art, with its weaving paths and blooming swathes of botanical gold. What began as work on the local Duddingston Church Glebe in 1963, transformed into the creation and formation of the garden by dynamic husband and wife duo Drs. Andrew and Nancy Neil.

Johnston Terrace

A magnet for wildlife and a natural oasis bang smack in the urban jungle, Johnston Terrace is managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. At 0.07 hectares, this little land of life happens to be the SWT’s tiniest wildlife reserve. Thanks to The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a space tailored for bees was crafted in the hope that gardeners would mirror the layout. The varied habitat of hedgerow, trees, grassland and even a pond welcome lots of grateful creepy crawlies in need of a home. SWT rectified the former unkempt garden 1982, which held the site of a Gaelic Chapel.

Chessels Court

Yet another concealed mirage of a place in the heart of the city, the stark baron arches of Chessels Court reveal a pleasantly surprising open garden space. Created in the 1700s as a courtyard for flats and praised for its hidden herb garden, Chessels Court is a hop away from the Scottish Parliament Building and historic Royal Mile. This secret sanctuary offers a calming spot to read a book or to simply think for a moment. Pristine little pockets of gardens and plants, attended to by community groups and council gardeners, complement the raised grassy area.

Sandeman House Garden

Something straight from the wildest of imaginations, Sandeman House Garden is one of Edinburgh’s many glistening green gems. Situated at Trunk’s Close, landscape architects Turnbull Jeffrey deserve all the credit. The circular space feels like the landing pad for some portal to an alternate universe, guarded of course by omnipresent trees and greenery. This beauty belongs to the Scottish Book Trust and can be found near John Knox House.

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