Jupiter Artland is a modern art sculpture garden and art gallery situated in the grounds of Bonnington House near Edinburgh. The outdoor art installation features works by Charles Jencks and others and it is regarded as one of the finest privately-owned modern art collections in Britain.
Review of Jupiter Artland
I don’t know about you but I love getting surprises, whether it’s an unexpected birthday bash, a winning scratchcard or that rarest of treats, an extra chicken McNugget in my Saturday night munch box (who doesn’t love free McNuggets?).
So it was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
I wasn’t even purposefully going there as my original intention had been to take the A71 off the Edinburgh bypass and head in the direction of Livingston and its enormous shopping centre.
What stopped me from giving my credit card yet another unnecessary workout was a small sign near the junction of the B7015 that simply read ‘Jupiter Artland’, a statement that was intriguing enough to make me give up my dreams of retail therapy and go explore this previously unheard-of attraction instead.
What I found as I made my way through the entrance gate was a sprawling outdoor contemporary sculpture park where nature and man-made designs collide in a collection of thought-provoking artworks.
Enormous landscaped mounds rise serpentine-like out of the ground in gently sweeping arcs separated by giant pools of water, while bizarre sculptures – some made from concrete, others from metal – can be glimpsed through the broad leaves of a thick woodland.
In the middle of the trees a grand stately home can be seen lording it up over the artworks and in the opposite direction wide-open fields of grass circle the park interspersed with a variety of decorative trees and yet more sculptures.
It’s a surreal place to be sure, but it’s also utterly unique and it seems to have gone above-and-beyond in its efforts to bring modern art to family members of all ages, which I reckon is something that’s definitely worth applauding.
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Things to do at Jupiter Artland
Jupiter Artland was founded just ten years ago by two art-loving philanthropists who were keen to provide a space for the public to see art and landscape sculptures.
To that end, the park was created inside 100 acres of meadow and woodland in the grounds of Bonnington House, a gorgeous 19th-century country house located 4 miles west of Edinburgh.
While the house is off-limits to the public the surrounding grounds are open to explore at your leisure, with the first sculpture ‘Love Bomb’ sited just a few yards from the car park.
This enormous 12-metre structure depicts the bizarre form of a modified orchid, impossibly vibrant in colour and looking for all the world like I’d expect a triffid to look if one suddenly stepped out of the pages of John Wyndhams ‘Day of the Triffids’
Love Bomb gives a good taste of what you can expect from a visit to Jupiter Artland because it’s so weird you can’t stop staring at it – just like the ‘Weeping Girls’ that you’ll find hiding in the woodland near the great house.
These sculptures all feature young girls in nightgowns, faces covered in thick matted hair, and to my mind they look like that freaky girl in the movie ‘The Ring’ and they’re genuinely creepy even in the middle of the day.
God only knows what it would be like walking through the woods late at night and stumbling into one of them.
You can probably guess by now that I’m no art critic but I can at least tell you what seeing Jupiter Artland’s sculptures is like from a layman’s perspective, and I have to be honest – I really enjoyed my visit.
You don’t need an appreciation of art to enjoy this visitor attraction because it’s such a nice place to be in, especially the Charles Jencks landforms and I saw more than one family just sitting on the grass looking out over the pools of water to enjoy the warmth of the summer sun.
The landforms are the first thing you’ll see when you enter the park and they’re by far the largest sculptures on the site, although they’re possibly followed a close second by ‘Rivers’, a boathouse used to store specimens of water from all over the UK that’s set in an impossibly tranquil pond and country meadow.
Other sculptures include a sombre tended graveyard surrounded by concrete, and a coppiced wood where giant stones are suspended inside the limbs of trees, all of which are interspersed by smaller works that are guaranteed to make you stop for a little quiet contemplation.
All-in-all this attraction is a lovely diversion from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh and it has to be one of, if not the, best place to see modern art in southern Scotland.
While the National Gallery of Modern Art is worth a visit as well (and also features a landform sculpture by Charles Jencks) it’s a little bit stuffy compared to Jupiter Artland and obviously isn’t as nice to walk around when the sun’s shining, though it’s arguably easier to get to from the city centre.
That being said you could easily spend an entire afternoon at Jupiter Artland which would be helped no end by the fact that the on-site café is absolutely amazing and has some of the most delicious home-made cakes I’ve ever had the privilege of demolishing.
Unfortunately, the café closes for winter but opens again in May which is when I suggest you visit anyway as it’s a little quieter than summer and the gardens are starting to explode with colour.
There are exhibitions and special events held throughout the year so you’ll likely find something of interest whenever you decide to visit but you might want to check the ‘What’s On‘ section of their website for times of up-and-coming talks, tours and workshops before you leave home.
- I can pretty much guarantee you won’t find anywhere else quite like this unusual visitor attraction.
- Jupiter Artland encourages art appreciation for children and there are frequent talks and workshops held on-site.
- You don’t need to be an art snob to enjoy these artworks and all members of the family will enjoy the land sculptures.
- You’re not allowed picnics in the grounds but the café is excellent – though expensive. Go to the Livingston shopping centre if you want a cheaper meal.
- You can take the bus to get to the park (#27 from Edinburgh), but driving your own car is much faster.
- National Art Pass holders get in for almost half price.
Bonnington House Steadings,
To get to Jupiter Artland you can either drive or take the bus. Buses are operated by First Group. Take the #27 from Regent Road or Haymarket station in Edinburgh.
If driving, follow the A71 towards Kilmarnock and turn right just past Wilkieston onto the B7015.
Click the map for directions
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Jupiter Artland
- Military Museum Scotland. Legion Hall, Wilkieston, Kirknewton EH27 8DU. 3-minute drive. A highly-rated privately-run museum that takes visitors through the history of the British military over the last hundred years. The museum features exhibits, displays and military artefacts.
- Almondell and Calderwood Country Park. Almond Lodge, Broxburn EH52 5PE. 16-minute drive. Large country park midway between Edinburgh and Livingstone that offers walking and cycling trails. It is also frequently used for horse riding.
- Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. South Platt Hill, Newbridge EH28 8AA. 7-minute drive. A climbing centre built into the walls of a quarry that allows visitors of all experience levels to scale a variety of ascents. The centre also has an assault course and a well-equipped gym.
- Five Sisters Zoo. Gavieside, West Calder EH55 8PT. 13-minute drive. A family-oriented zoo that has a collection of animals from meerkats to woodland bears. There is also a play park, a restaurant and regular keeper demonstrations throughout the day.
- Livingston Designer Outlet. Almondvale Ave, Livingston EH54 6QX. 12-minute drive. One of the largest shopping malls in Scotland with over 70 large stores. As well as designer clothes the mall has restaurants, cafés, an 8-screen cinema and an adventure golf course.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- The Bass Rock – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe Bass Rock is absolutely enormous and reaches 107 metres above sea level at its highest point, with most of the sides of this 320 million-year-old volcanic plug standing almost vertical above the pounding waves of the Firth of Forth.
- Seton Collegiate Church – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideSeton Collegiate Church, known locally as Seton Chapel, is a collegiate church south of Port Seton in East Lothian. The church is situated next to the magnificent Seton House – which can be glimpsed through the trees at one end of the site – and the grounds are a total oasis of peace and quiet.
- Hailes Castle – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideLocated a mile and a half from East Linton in East Lothian, Hailes Castle sits in a beautiful riverside setting that’s perfect for an afternoon of exploring followed by a picnic next to the gentle River Tyne that flows behind it.
- North Berwick Law – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideStanding 187m above sea level, North Berwick Law dominates the landscape around the popular town of North Berwick.