The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh features over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens housing 100,000 plants just one mile from the city centre.
The popular attraction is famed for its diverse plant collections that include alpines, Scottish wildflowers, tropical flowers and trees from across the globe. Discover one of the most popular free attractions in the capital city of Edinburgh with this complete visitor guide.
|Address:||20a Inverleith Row,
|Opening Hours:||The Garden is open daily except for 25 December and 1 January
March to September: 10 am - 6 pm (last entry 5.15 pm)
October and February: 10 am - 5 pm (last entry 4.15 pm)
November to January: 10 am - 4 pm (last entry 3.15 pm)
|Parking:||On-site car park|
|Facilities:||Cafe, coffee bar, gift shop, toilets, wheelchair/pushchair access, guided tours|
One of the best botanic gardens in the UK is located in Edinburgh, and a short bus ride from the city centre will allow you to explore over 13,000 different plant species in the most beautifully landscaped and manicured grounds you’re ever likely to see.
Founded in 1670, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, with only the Oxford Botanic Garden beating it for age.
However, the garden in Edinburgh boasts the most diverse collections of plants anywhere in the country and across its 70 acres of land you’ll find yourself transported all over the world, from the low-lying mosses that live on Peruvian mountains to the dense green vegetation of the Brazilian jungles.
As a place to relax away from the busy city centre, the gardens are only equalled by the Water of Leith for peace and quiet and you’ll always find Edinburgh locals wandering through the grounds enjoying the serenity of the varied plant life.
For tourists, the facilities available easily match those found at any other Edinburgh attraction with cafés, a restaurant, snack stations, a gift shop, and an information centre catering to the needs of visitors of all ages.
1: The gardens are enormous and there are lots of plant varieties to look at from all over the world. Whether you’re a keen gardener or just fancy escaping the city, you’ll love a visit to Edinburgh’s botanic gardens.
2: The glasshouses are incredible. Being inside them is like being transported to a tropical jungle.
3: The gardens are completely free to visit which to my mind makes the RBGE the best-value tourist attraction in Edinburgh.
1: The cafes and restaurants are a little pricey, so consider taking a picnic. That being said, the Terrace Café in the centre of the park serves top-quality food.
2: There’s a fee to get into the glasshouses so take some spare change. It’s only a few pounds per person though.
3: There aren’t many designated parking spaces at the main gate so be prepared to hunt for a space on the roads that circle the RBGE.
Due to their immense size, the gardens can be entered via several different gatehouses so you’d be wise to pick up a map at the visitor centre to get your bearings at the start of your visit.
Unfortunately, many tourists fail to allocate enough time to fully appreciate the gardens but this is a mistake in my opinion as the Botanics easily equal Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile as one of the city’s premier tourist attractions.
The gardens themselves are divided into regions of the world that all flow seamlessly into one another, so walking from alpine rockeries into a Chinese hillside garden seems completely natural.
Speaking of which, those are two of the specialist gardens that have gained a small amount of fame in the world’s plant-growing community thanks to the huge variety of specimens growing in them.
If you want to see the majority of Scotland’s wild plant life in a short amount of time then a walk around the Scottish heather garden is a must, and children will delight in exploring the abandoned croft and moss-covered trees that enclose the area. You’ll even find a small loch nearby for that authentic Highland experience!
Although the gardens are free to enter it’s well worth paying the entrance fee to get into the premier attraction of the RBGE, which is the incredible jungle that lives inside the enormous glasshouses.
These glasshouses contain some of the oldest plants in the entire collection as well as some of the largest, which makes for a fascinating walk as you appreciate the 3,000 exotic plants that have been sourced from all over the world.
Other highlights include a woodland garden, a tree collection, a Rhododendron collection, alpine houses and a botanic cottage (which is used for education and community sessions), while the visitor centre houses exhibitions that change regularly.
In recent years the RBGE has developed into a world leader for the conservation of plants and currently holds 4% of all known species from across the globe, either in the main garden at Inverleith or the three smaller conservation centres at Dawyck, Logan and Benmore.
In addition, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh holds Scotland’s national reference collection for horticultural resources and over 70,000 books are held for the use of international researchers.
It’s difficult to rate Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden highly enough, but If you’re looking for a break from busy city life then all I can say is it’s a must-visit attraction.
As previously mentioned, Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens has its roots (no pun intended…) dating back to 1670 when Sir Patrick Murray donated his private plant collection to the city for preservation after his death. These plants along with other donations subsequently formed the basis of a leisure garden in Holyrood Abbey.
Before long this site proved to be too small for the ever-expanding collection so it was eventually moved to an area of ground to the east of the Nor Loch, in what is now known as Princes Street Gardens.
A third location was developed at Leith Walk in the 1700s in an attempt to move the plant collection away from the pollution of the city centre, and there it remained until it was finally relocated to Inverleith Row.
Things to Do
Explore the Glasshouses: Discover magnificent glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Each one showcases different climatic zones from steamy tropics to arid deserts, all filled with diverse and exotic plant species. You can walk amongst giant water lilies, towering palms, and delicate orchids, experiencing a botanical journey around the world without ever having to leave Scotland.
Stroll through the Rock Garden: This stunning garden is a haven for plant lovers. Showcasing over 5,000 alpine plants in a beautifully landscaped setting, you’ll be mesmerized by how delicate some of the leaves and flowers are.
Enjoy a Walk: The RBGE is set in over 70 acres of landscaped grounds with a network of well-maintained tarmacked paths running through the site. Go for a leisurely stroll through the woodland garden, the Chinese Hillside, and Scottish Native Plants Collection, and enjoy a free day out that will keep the kids amused for hours on end.
Join a Guided Tour: The Royal Botanic Garden offers a range of guided tours that cater to all interests and ages. From British Sign Language tours to afternoon tea tours, there’s always something exciting happening.
Relax at the Terrace Café: After a day of exploring the gardens, unwind at the Terrace Café. Enjoy locally sourced food with table seating in a relaxed setting. With a menu that changes with the seasons, it’s the perfect place to sit back and reflect on your time at the RBGE.
Things to Do Nearby
The Water of Leith. Inverleith Terrace, Edinburgh EH3 5NU. 8-minute walk.
A walkway that runs for 12 miles from the Colzium Hills outside of Edinburgh to Leith. The majority of the path is set on quiet pavement that runs alongside the river. Much loved by locals for its wildlife.
Dean Village. Dean Path, Edinburgh EH4 3AY. 27-minute walk.
Dean Village is a historic area in Edinburgh that was built around the long-since-abandoned mills that were powered by the water of Leith two hundred years ago. Today, the attractive buildings and scenic river provide a wonderful photo opportunity for visiting tourists.
Warriston Path. Edinburgh EH3 5JX. 7-minute walk.
A disused railway line gives visitors to Edinburgh a picturesque walk from King George V Park all the way to Leith. It is split into Warriston, Goldenacre and Trinity sections, with Warriston being the closest to the botanic gardens.
The Georgian House. 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4DR. 27-minute walk.
This authentic Georgian house is managed by the National Trust for Scotland which has restored each room to look exactly as it would have in the 18th century. The historic attraction offers fine paintings, costumes and furnishings to view on a self-guided tour.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. 28 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JX. 25-minute walk.
There are two venues for the SMWS in Edinburgh – The Vaults in Leith and Queen Street in the city centre. The Queen Street site offers one of the biggest single malt whisky collections in Scotland as well as a superb restaurant and private tasting rooms.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you need at the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens?
The time you spend at the RBGE can vary widely depending on your interests and the pace at which you like to explore.
If you’re a plant enthusiast you could easily spend a whole day exploring the various glasshouses, gardens, and exhibitions.
If you’re a casual visitor, you might spend between 2 to 4 hours. This would give you enough time to stroll through the gardens, visit the glasshouses, and perhaps have a snack at one of the cafes on site.
For those with limited time, you can focus on particular sections of the garden. For instance, you might choose to visit the Rock Garden and Chinese Hillside, the Glasshouses, or the Scottish Heath Garden in about an hour.
Is the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh free?
There is no fee to visit the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. There is a fee to visit the RGBE Grade-A listed glasshouses.
Is the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh worth visiting?
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is worth visiting for a multitude of reasons.
Plant Diversity: The garden is home to more than 13,500 plant species, making it a paradise for nature lovers. It’s an opportunity to see and learn about a vast range of plants from all over the world, including many rare and endangered species.
Beautiful Views: With its perfectly manicured gardens, stunning glasshouses, and picturesque views, the Royal Botanic Garden is a must-visit attraction. The Rock Garden, Chinese Hillside, and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden are some of the highlights.
Events and Exhibitions: The garden regularly hosts events and exhibitions such as art exhibitions, plant sales, workshops, and festivals.
Relaxation: It’s a perfect place to relax and unwind. You can enjoy a peaceful walk, read a book, have a picnic, or simply sit and enjoy the scenery.
Accessibility: The garden is largely accessible for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues, and there’s a good range of facilities on-site including cafes and shops.
Where is the east gate at the Edinburgh Botanics?
The east gate entrance is located on Inverleith Row/B901, 350 feet from the junction of Inverleith Terrace. Postcode EH3 5LP.