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On this, my third trip to Scotland, I traveled with less of an agenda. At least, this was true for the time that my sister and I had apart from the Clan Maitland events. We built in six days of exploring on our own.
Our primary intention, while in this beautiful and intriguing city, was to wander about and soak up the city and the culture while enjoying our encounters with the people we met.
I said less of an agenda. I did hope to visit several places that I had yet to experience in Scotland. One of those was the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, founded in 1670, began as a garden to grow medicinal plants. Today the garden actually occupies four sites across Scotland: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore. Each offers its own special collection of plants. The Edinburgh site is the main garden. Its outdoor collection consists of more than 13,000 plant species and almost 300,000 individual plants.
Originally the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh flourished near Holyrood Palace, at the foot of what’s referred to as the Royal Mile. Hence the name. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Great Britain, after Oxford’s. That first medicinal garden occupied a 40 foot by 40 foot plot, and housed almost 900 plants. When the site became too small, the garden relocated in 1676 to Loch Nor, not far from High Street. Today Waverly Railway Station occupies that space.
In 1763 the garden moved again to Leith Walk, away from the more populous part of Edinburgh. And in the early 1820s the garden moved to its current location adjacent to Inverleith Row. The garden occupies 70 acres and includes a variety of collections including Alpine Plants, Chinese Hillside, Rock Garden, Scottish Heath Garden and Woodland Garden. There’s also an Herbarium on site, that houses more than 3 million specimens.
Creating Time to Explore
On my first visit to Scotland, in 2014, I learned about the botanic garden and yet lacked the opportunity to explore the grounds. In 2017, on our girls’ whirlwind trip through Ireland, Scotland and England, lack of time prevented a visit once again.
However, on this visit, my sister Debbie and I built in time to explore. Rather than fill our days up with activities, we spent our hours exploring the city and getting around on the famous hop on/hop off buses. When we purchased tickets for the bus rides, we learned that we could upgrade our one day pass the next day for a three day pass that included the Royal bus line, which included a stop at the Royal Botanic Garden. Oh yes, a trip to the gardens became very doable.
Scottish weather is typically cool and rainy. And so it was, our first few days in Edinburgh. We chose Monday as the day to spend outdoors in the gardens, based on the weather app.
Visiting Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
What a surprise when Monday turned out to be a rarity in Scotland….hot, sunny and windy! We opted for lightweight shirts and left our jackets at the apartment. Carrying our metal water bottles and pulling our hair back into ponytails, we hopped on a bus…and hopped off at the garden entrance. Admission is free although there are nominal fees to some of the greenhouses and exhibits on the site.
I’m a gardener. My soul finds great joy and peace in the gardens. I believe my love of working the earth is a result of my Scottish DNA. The Scots love their green lawns and patches of flowers and herb gardens. It’s one of the reasons I feel so at home in Scotland.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh delighted me on so many levels.
Debbie and I wandered slowly through the grounds, making no attempt to see all 70 acres. We agreed to stroll some paths and enjoy our surroundings and find a bench to sit on, amid the beauty found in the gardens.
That’s exactly what we did.
I love that the gardens are not formal. Instead, they are in a natural state. There are beds, of course, and groupings and pathways. However the overall feel of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is abundance, in a wild sort of way, and it seems so fitting for Scotland.
Refreshed in the Garden
We sat for a time on a bench, watching people walk by, sipping our water and laughing as the wind played with our hair. Just as it does when I’m in my garden at home, nature restored and refreshed me.
Simone Weil wrote,
There are only two things that pierce the human heart. One is beauty. The other is affliction.”
Beauty pierced my heart that afternoon, bypassing my mind completely. In fact, I walked through the garden and turned off my need to know the names of all the plants. I saw many that are not familiar to me. And yet, it seemed enough to take in beauty and the sweet scents from a variety of flowering plants and bask in the warm Scottish sunshine…and just be.
My sister and I were simply the Lauderdale girls, walking through the garden, sweaty from the sun, wind blown and incredible happy to be in Scotland. The experience at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was perfect…and worth waiting five years for.
In the sun….and windblown….and look how happy we are!
Check out these fun finds, for your visit to Edinburgh!
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