With its elegant Georgian streets and the ancient closes of the Old Town, many people are surprised to learn that Edinburgh is not just famous for its large spaces such as Princes Street Gardens or the Meadows, we are also a city of secret and private gardens.
Dr Neilís Garden
Hidden behind the church in Duddingston is Dr Neilís secret Garden. A labour of love by two local doctors over many years, the garden is now managed by a trust. Beneath Arthurs Seat, beside the shores of a loch on a gentle hillside and incorporating twisting paths, flower beds and water features, this is a real treasure. Hidden in the corner of the garden is Thomsonís Tower, designed by William Henry Playfair, and built in 1825 for the Duddingston Curling Society to store its stones.
Originally created as a courtyard for old town buildings, Chesselís Court is a grass and paved area that is now packed full of trees and plants. Approached through four modern archways and close to buildings including holiday apartments, Canongate Kirk and the Scottish Parliament, this is another great garden in which to escape the busy city.
This garden in the grounds of Bonnington House on the outskirts of Edinburgh at Wilkieston is a living sculpture, created by Robert and Nicky Wilson in recent years. Mesmerising earthworks winding around water features and exhibitions of artworks fill the space that is a joy to visit in the summer months.
Dunbarís Close Garden
Beside the historic Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile, Dunbars Close Garden is laid out in the style of a 17th century garden with manicured trees, bushes and beds. A haven from the busy old town, this garden is a great spot to sit and contemplate.
Most visitors to Edinburgh will never see the private gardens of the New Town. The grand streets such as Moray Place and Queen Street are host to private gardens where only the residents have a key to the gates. The grandest of these is Regent Gardens on the side of Calton Hill. Laid out in the 19th century and featuring a ha-ha, tennis courts and terracing, the gardens are reached through the gardens of its owners – a real secret treasure.
To learn more about Edinburghís gardens you need to get out and about in the city and peer down the closes of the Royal Mile or just ask the locals. Alternatively, Green Yonder tours run a popular walking tour for those keen to discover more and soon you will find Edinburgh is a city of secret gardens.
Douglas Walker is Chair of Unique Venues of Edinburgh.