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 site is famed for its diverse curated gardens that include rocky alpines and Scottish wildflowers. There is a visitor centre and cafés on the site.
Review of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
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.
Things to do at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
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 which 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 (and the hillside garden is also a favourite area in the RBGE because it has a mesmerizing waterfall cascading through it).
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!
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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 on a regular basis.
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.
If you want more Edinburgh sightseeing ideas check out my Edinburgh articles.
The history of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
As previously mentioned, Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens has its roots (no pun intended!) dating all the way 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.
- The gardens are enormous and there are lots of plant varieties to look at from all over the world.
- The glasshouses are incredible. Being inside them is like being transported to another country. There is a small fee to enter which is very reasonable.
- The gardens are free to visit which to my mind makes it the best-value tourist attraction in Edinburgh.
- The cafe’s and restaurant are a little pricey so consider taking a picnic. That being said, the Terrace Café in the centre of the park is very good.
- There’s a fee to get into the glasshouses so take some spare change.
- There aren’t many designated parking spaces so prepare to find a space on the roads that circle the botanics.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh,
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
- 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 who 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.
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- 360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in EdinburghAs well as being the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is one of the most-visited cities in the world thanks to its incredible collection of family-friendly tourist attractions. Discover a collection of virtual tours of attractions in Edinburgh with this article, where you can explore each one through a series of high-definition and ultra-immersive 360° photographs.
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideCamera Obscura and World of Illusions – located near Edinburgh Castle – is one of the oldest purpose-built attractions in Scotland. Visitors can experience six floors of interactive displays with exhibits that showcase optical illusions including holograms, a mirror maze and a mind-spinning vortex tunnel.
- Princes Street Gardens – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuidePrinces Street Gardens in Edinburgh is one of the largest public spaces in the city. Originally a body of water called the Nor Loch, the gardens were designed in the 1770s but weren’t created until 1820 when the loch was drained. Today, the gardens are a popular recreational area that features a number of popular landmarks including The Scott Monument, The Ross Fountain and The Ross Bandstand.
- The Balmoral Hotel – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Balmoral Hotel is a historic building situated in the heart of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The luxury hotel is located next to Waverley train station and was built in 1902 by the North British Railway Company. Today, it is a popular landmark that attracts visitors to its superb restaurants and bars.