Located a mere one mile from Edinburgh’s bustling city center, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh dates back to 1670 and as noted on its official website, is known throughout the world for its reputation for horticultural excellence and as a leading research facility. The garden is situated on 70 acres of land surrounding the historic, 18th century Inverleith House and as mentioned on Undiscovered Scotland’s website, is home to a remarkable collection of nearly 17,000 species of plants from across the globe.
History of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
According to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s website, the original garden began as Scotland’s first physic garden, which during the late 1600s, was used to train physicians. Two doctors, Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour, leased a small plot of land in Holyrood Park and later, added a second area at a site that has since become the east end of Edinburgh’s Waverly Station. As their collection of plants increased over the years, Sibbald and Balfour decided to join the two gardens and in 1763, relocated them to a piece of land on the road to Leith. Finally, between 1820 and 1823, the Garden was moved to its current location at Inverleith, eventually acquiring land from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and the grounds surrounding Inverleith House.
Highlights of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Gardens and Glasshouses
The “Botanics”, as the garden is referred to by locals, features a number of smaller gardens as well as the popular Glasshouses, each highlighting a particular species of plant-life or a specific area of the world. For example, the Chinese Hillside Garden houses the largest collection of Chinese plants outside of China, the Scottish Heath Garden recreates the landscape of the Scottish Highlands, and the Rock Garden contains nearly 5000 alpine plants growing amidst rocks from the Perthshire and Dumfries areas of Scotland. In addition to several other gardens, such as the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden and the Ecological and Cryptogamic Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Glasshouses recreate the environmental conditions many of the Garden’s tropical plants require in order to survive and thrive in Scotland’s often harsh climate.
From the first glasshouse built in 1834, the Tropical Palm House, to glasshouses by the names of Rainforest Riches, Plants and People, and Arid Lands, each of the RBGE’s display glasshouses feature native plants from various countries, including bamboo, agave, aloe, rhododendrons, and tropical climbers, among others. Additionally, the Orchids and Cycads Glasshouse is home to several orchids that are nearly 200 years old, and the Ferns and Fossils Glasshouse contains a 1000 year old piece of driftwood and a section of the petrified Craigleith Tree found in the mid-1800s at Craigleith Quarry.
The John Hope Gateway, named for the man who, as mentioned on the Botanics website, was the RBGE’s Regius Keeper from 1761-1786, serves as the Garden’s information and biodiversity center. Located within the building are the RBGE Shop, the Gateway Restaurant, education and interactive media rooms, and numerous exhibitions.
Once the former home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Inverleith House features temporary art exhibitions by invited artists and a series of public engagement events, including drawing classes, workshops, and a Director’s Tour of the gallery. Visitors are encouraged to check the RBGE’s website for a current schedule of events and exhibitions, as these change on a seasonal basis.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers several guided tours, such as Daily Garden Walks, themed and seasonal tours, group tours, and Afternoon Tea tours. While advanced booking is not necessary for the Daily Garden Walks, it is advisable to book the RBGE’s other tours in advance.
Eating and Shopping at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Gateway Restaurant offers visitors breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea on a daily basis. A child’s menu is available for younger guests, and traditional lunch is served every Sunday.
The Terrace Cafe is the RBGE’s self-service dining option and offers a variety of hot and cold dishes daily. Terrace dining is also available in fair weather.
The Botanics Shop sells items such as books, stationary, food gifts, gardening products, and live plants, including several rare and unusual varieties.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Opening Times and Admission
The RBGE is open daily, with the exception of December 25th and January 1st. Opening and closing times vary by season and therefore, those planning a trip are encouraged to visit the RBGE website for a list of opening and closing hours.
While admission to the RBGE is free of charge, visitors are asked to give a small donation to the Garden. Also, it is important to note that admission to the Glasshouses includes a charitable donation. However, for those who do not wish to contribute, standard Glasshouse admission rates apply.
Getting to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The RBGE is located off the A902, one mile north of the Edinburgh city center. Public bus service is available on a regular basis, and Edinburgh Waverly train station and Edinburgh Airport are both in close proximity to the Garden. Those traveling by car will find ample parking around the perimeter of the Garden and on side streets.
For more information about the Garden and its facilities, visit the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s website.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh