/ The Edinburgh Guide
Edinburgh — By Andy Hayes on March 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm
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The Top Five Best Gardens of Edinburgh

One of the greatest joys of Edinburgh is the great outdoors.  While it isn’t always warm enough to get a tan, the city’s parks and gardens offer tourist and locals a place to get some fresh air and relax.  I’d like to highlight my five favourite gardens of Edinburgh; each one is different and special in its own way, and if you manage to find a clear day here, I’d suggest you visit one or two of them.  You might be surprised just how lovely they really are.

Dunbar’s Close Gardens

I hate to write about the Dunbar’s Close Gardens, as they’re somewhat of a local’s secret.  But it’s a huge gardens with an entrance right on the Royal Mile, just steps from Starbucks and the Scottish Parliament – you’d think the place would be teeming with tourists.  But because it’s a reserved and not-so-ostentatious stop, most don’t give it a second glance and walk on by.

The gardens are down a short close (alleyway), and are only open during daylight hours.  You get fantastic views of the Old High School and Calton Hill.  Head down the steps and towards the back for total peace and quiet.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

A popular choice with the locals as well as the tourist that bothers to venture this far, the Royal Botanics is not only free but well manicured.  I love the desert garden as well as the giant hedge (worth going just for that), and you should check their latest schedule for news and events as their special exhibitions are well worth the admission charge.

The current location near Inverleith Park is actually the third home for the gardens; opened in 1670, they were once in Holyrood Park, then near modern day Leith Walk, before getting the roomier space here to the North.

Corstorphine Hill Walled Garden

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you might be familiar with Corstorphine Hill and just not know it — you see, this is the hill where you’ll find the Edinburgh Zoo.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a big zoo person, and while Edinburgh’s Zoo is lovely, it’s not for me.  But the views are stunning, and you can get the same views by walking any of the trails that criss-cross around Corstorphine Hill.  The Walled Garden, just restored by local residents, is now teeming with fresh flowers and plants, and it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You can get here via a 26 bus or any Edinburgh Zoo bus.  The walled garden is on the west side of the hill.

Princes Street Gardens

How could we leave out one of Edinburgh’s shining gems, the grassy slopes of Princes Street Gardens?  It doesn’t seem so nice when you consider the gardens were once the Nor Loch, a steaming cesspool of sewage and dead bodies in medieval times, but perhaps that explains why everything is so green.

All kidding aside, the gardens are well worth a visit; be sure to explore both the east and western sides of the gardens, split in the middle by the Mound and the Art Gallery Complex.  I have it on good word the ice cream at the stand at the west end of the gardens is tasty!

Hopetoun Crescent Gardens

Our last entry in the top five is another recently restored garden: the Hopetoun Crescent Gardens.  These gardens were once looking a bit grubby, but now they’re spiffy, shiny, and inviting for anyone who passes by.  You wouldn’t have occasion to be here, though – it’s just off the beaten path from Leith Walk, but I point to this as one of the many reasons why just letting your feet take you can be the best way to experience Edinburgh.  There are lots of gardens, some locked, others not, so why not get some exercise, fresh air, and see what you find?

Images by chatirygirl, startagain, Edinburgh City Council, chris_o_ramma, Edinburgh City Council



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