Exploring Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens

Retreats & Relaxation

The gardens comprise 70 acres of ground and over 36,000 plants

Affectionately known as “The Botanics” amongst the locals, the Royal Botanic Gardens are a hidden oasis only a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh’s city centre. The best way to get there is by Lothian Buses number 8, 23 or 27, which stop by the East Gate on Inverleith Row or, if you are interested in going around the city in one of the “hop on, hop off” buses, the Majestic Tour bus stops by the Botanic Gardens. There are never enough parking spaces near the gardens so it really is best to either walk, bus it or cycle. The East Gate and the Administration buildings are all very close to the National Cycle Network Route 75, which is a dedicated traffic-free cycle path. Bicycle parking is available at both entrances; however it is also quite limited.

Established in Inverleith Row in 1820, they have been a popular attraction for generations of Edinburgh’s families as well as the ever present tourists. The gardens comprise 70 acres of ground and over 36,000 plants. Entry to the gardens is free but to visit the Glass Palm House a fee is charged, which includes an audio tour for those interested in more information than is provided on the boards at each audio station. The other glass houses have free entry and  are a lot fun not only because of the various, exotic plants and trees, but also because of their different climate simulations. Some of them are so humid you feel that if you jumped you could hang in the air as it is so dense.

Feeding the birds

Many people who visit the Botanics do so because of the tranquil feeling of their leafy avenues and others use them as a wonderful day out for the kids, with plenty of squirrels and ducks for them to feed. Visitors from outside of the United Kingdom will definitely appreciate the fact that in the Botanics, the grass is always green and there is a lot of it. Not only the quality of the grass, which makes you want to roll in it but also the fact that you are free to wander, makes the day a wonderful experience. The Botanics are perfect not only for taking a walk but also for reading and picnics. When I was a child, I used to practice gymnastics and dance freely whilst hidden from the public eye as the architecture of the landscape here is an attraction in itself. One of my favourite parts of the Botanics is the rose garden and the rock garden, which on top of being pleasing to the eye also offers amazing views of Edinburgh, especially of Edinburgh Castle.       

A recent addition to the site is the new John Hope Gateway (2009) situated at the Arboretum Road Entrance. Named after John Hope, Regius Keeper of the gardens between 1761 and 1786, the building houses the shop, education room, a Real Life Science Studio, exhibition area, plant sales and the restaurant.

Inside the John Hope GatewayJohn Hope Gateway

The Gateway Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, with a menu full of locally sourced produce, some of it even grown in the gardens themselves. It is definitely worth a visit. Whatever the weather, there is always a lot to see and do at the Botanic Gardens. This year the activities include:

*guided tours of the gardens

*education courses

*family events

*walks and talks

*cultural events

*science events


Check the RBGE website for details.