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Looking for the loveliest gardens in Edinburgh? This guide details the popular green spaces in the city and lesser-known hidden urban parks so you can take a leisurely stroll, people watch or eat your pieces in peace. Unless otherwise stated, all of these Edinburgh gardens are free to access.
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Popular Gardens in Edinburgh
1. Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens is the most publicised park in Edinburgh.
Positioned in between Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town, the garden is split in two. Collectively, the gardens are just under 40 acres.
East Princes Street Gardens is close to Edinburgh Waverley Train Station and West Princes Street Gardens is sandwiched between The Mound and Lothian Road (West End).
The park is accessed from many points including Waverley Bridge by Princes Street, Market Street close to the Edinburgh Dungeons, The Mound and King Stables Road.
The park closes in the evenings for public safety.
Edinburgh Castle sits on the cliff above the western end of the gardens. The cherry blossom trees make beautiful frames for the castle in spring.
You can read more about the cherry blossoms in Edinburgh here.
In autumn, you won’t find a flurry of copper tones like you see in the likes of Perthshire but there are a few frames worth getting your camera out for!
Down by the Ross Fountain there is a standalone red leaved tree which is striking.
East Princes Street Gardens
Due to its proximity to Edinburgh attractions and popular streets such as Cockburn Road which leads to The Royal Mile, East Princes Street Gardens is the busiest of the two. It is also the smallest in size.
This garden is where you will find the Scott Monument and its 287 steps.
West Princes Street Gardens
West Princes Street Gardens has a number of attractions and monuments dotted around the park such as St Margarets Well and The Ross Fountain.
One of the most unique things about Princes Street Gardens is that it houses the world’s oldest floral clock which dates back to 1903.
Each year the Flower Clock is planted in honour of an individual or group to celebrate their contribution to the city.
30,000 plants are used to create the Flower Clock and it has moving hands which tell the time.
You can find the clock at the north-east corner of West Princes Street Gardens.
You will also find the cute Gardener’s Cottage aka as Great Aunt Lizzie’s house from CBeebies TV in the West Gardens.
Princess Street Gardens isn’t just a green space. This Edinburgh landmark also plays home to the Edinburgh Christmas Market and world-famous Hogmanay Street Party music celebrations where musicians play on the Ross Bandstand.
Princes Street Garden Rules
- Dogs must be on leashes at all times.
- Ball games are prohibited.
2. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh also known as the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh has four parks, covering 70 acres, to explore in the New Town of the city.
There are around 100,000 plants in the Botanics and some date back to 350 years ago.
Edinburgh Botanics is known for its iconic Victorian Temperate Palmhouse but there are actually 10 glasshouses in total which house over 3,000 exotic plants.
There is a section of the garden for native Scottish plants in the Heath Garden.
Where the Botanics is located is a little piece of history!
To celebrate Mary Queen of Scots marriage in 1558, the famous Mons Meg fired a gunstone and it landed in what is now the Royal Botanic Garden.
You can visit Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle today.
The Gardens are located one mile north of the city centre and can be reached by public bus.
Come winter, instead of hibernating from the cruel Scottish weather, visitors arrive in crowds to see the annual Botanic Gardens Lights.
Over one million twinkling lights create a trail throughout the gardens and immersive installations are put on display.
Across the road from the Botanics is Inverleith Park so you can get a double dose of urban greenery when you visit.
Read next | Parks in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Parking
There are limited blue badge parking spaces for disabled drivers.
On the weekends, free parking is available at streets close to the Botanics.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
- Price: Adult £7, Under 15 go free
- Address: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
3. The Meadows Community Gardens
The Meadows is a 63-acre public park in the south of Edinburgh.
Once home to Borough-Loch, this urban park is popular with students, families, runners and cyclists all year round.
There is an interesting set of murals on the Scottish Power wall, which is behind the park, called ‘Processions’ by artist Astrid Jaekel and poet Rachel Woolf.
Within the park is The Meadows Community Garden which includes an orchard, wildflower plot, mini meadow and open classroom.
The Meadows Community Garden welcomes visitors at all times, and sets up regular community sessions on Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm.
During this time, you can drop in to see what the team does and to give a hand.
The volunteers are passionate about biodiversity and promoting bird and insect life.
The raised beds in the Meadows Garden are wheelchair and pram accessible and the community picnic bench is very popular.
The Meadows Community Garden campaign, Don’t Burn the Meadows, calls for a ban on disposable BBQs in The Meadows.
You can find out more about The Meadows Community Garden team, Greening Our Street, on Facebook.
If you want to support The Meadows Community Garden you can text “Greening” to 70490 to donate £3.
- The Meadows Address: Melville Dr, Edinburgh EH9 1ND
4. George Square Gardens
Unless you are a student at the University of Edinburgh, you probably only visit George Square Gardens during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
For three weeks in August, the Assembly company festival shows take over this garden cramming it with bars, food trucks, outside seating and live acts.
This is one of my favourite hangouts during the Fringe as there is also a fun vibe and variety of drink and food.
Outside of August, this is a quiet tree-packed garden surrounded by university buildings.
Tucked away in the northwest corner of George Square Gardens (opposite the Hugh Robson Building) you will find the Edinburgh Labyrinth.
This circular space is designed to encourage users to slow down the pace of life while they walk around it.
- George Square Gardens address: George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ
5. St Andrew Square
St Andrew Square is a green space at the east end of George Street.
Most locals use St Andrew Square as a walkway to get to and from George Street, Rose Street or Princes Street.
As a focal point, the Melville Monument stands 140 feet high and at the top is the politician Henry Dundas.
Dundas was the Secretary State for War who was impeached. He is also responsible for the delay of the abolition of the slave trade.
His influence saw the slave trade in Scotland continuing for another 15 years.
A controversial figure in Edinburgh’s history.
A variety of activities are put on at St Andrew Square such as outdoor movie screenings in the summer.
This used to be the location of the ice skating rink during Edinburgh’s Christmas events.
There is a Costa cleverly disguised in rustic colours in the square and plenty of walls to pull up a perch while you people watch.
Don’t fancy sitting outside?
You can enjoy views of St Andrew Square from the Harvey Nichols bar on the fourth floor.
Very close to St Andrew Square is a tram stop which goes to Edinburgh Airport, city bikes which you can rent on the spot and Edinburgh Bus Station.
6. Nicolson Square Garden
Nicholson Square Garden is a small on-street green space nestled among the manically busy Nicholson Street in the south of the city.
You can grab lunch at Elephant and Bagels and eat it in the garden or have curry at The Mosque Kitchen then let it settle among the trees and plants.
Hey foodies! Here’s what to eat in Edinburgh
In the middle of the park is a monument called the Brass Founders’ Pillar which was made in 1886 by Sir James Gowans.
Secret Gardens in Edinburgh
7. Dunbar’s Close Garden
Hundreds of people walk past Dunbar’s Close Garden every day.
Hidden away down a close at the Canongate end off the Royal Mile, this garden is a quiet spot packed with green shrubbery.
In the distance, you can see some of Edinburgh’s historical landmarks.
Look out for the flats (apartments) as you come into the garden with their uniform yet colourful stairwells.
- Address: 137 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BW
8. Surgeons’ Hall
Walking along South Bridge you can’t miss the museum and venue, Surgeons’ Hall.
Designed by the Scottish architect, William Henry Playfair in the 1820s, this striking building with towering pillars has a number of rooms for hire including a hall and library.
Us peasants can enjoy the quiet gardens for free and pay to gain entry into the museum which depicts the story of medical history in Scotland.
Find out more about the museum and accompanying walking tour in our dark tourism guide of Edinburgh.
9. Starbank Park
Starbank Park in Newhaven, close to Leith, is a well-loved park with views over the Firth of Forth waters.
Although this guide is mostly aimed at gardens in Edinburgh, Starbank deserves a notable mention for its bee and butterfly friendly planting with thanks to the volunteers at the Friends of Starbank Park.
The park has been a public space since the late nineteenth century when the old Leith Town Council bought the classical, two-storied Starbank House and its grounds, including a cultivated rose garden.
Starbank Park is brought to life with its annual flower bed set into a raised bank and shaped like an eight-pointed star.
This star is shaped like a seafaring compass and reflects the long history of navigation by sailors who would leave and return to the Firth of Forth.
Friends of Starbank Park put on events throughout the year such as Easter egg hunts and Halloween parties.
Keep up to date with the team behind this award-winning garden their Facebook page.
10. Japanese Garden in Edinburgh
Locals and visitors alike always show a pleasantly surprised look when we tell them that Edinburgh has its own Japanese Garden.
The garden can be found at Lauriston Castle and accessed for free.
If you want to take a guided tour of Lauriston Castle and the grounds there are timed events for £5.
There are also several events run by volunteers.
Parking is available and Lauriston Castle can be reached by public bus.
There is a coffee shop on site but it is not always open.
Here is a picture of my cousin Ella enjoying the gardens. In Edinburgh with kids? Here’s our guide to family-friendly activities.
- Address: 2 Cramond Rd S, Edinburgh EH4 6AD
11. Deaconess Garden
Deaconess Garden is a lesser-known garden in the south of the city.
You might see it pop up in your newsfeeds around springtime as there is a lovely cherry blossom which creates a unique landscape shot of Arthur’s Seat.
The frame includes the former Deaconess hospital from 1894.
Deaconess Garden has an information point with news of what is going on in the local community so if you’ve just moved to the area, check it out.
12. Gardens in Saughton Park
Saughton Park is located in the southwest of the city and associated with Friends of Saughton Park.
According to the Friends of Saughton Park website, Sauch means willow and Haugh means level or low-lying land next to a river.
Within the park, you will find the historic Rose and Winter Gardens which date back to the 12th and 13th-century when Saughton mansion estate was built.
Fruit and vegetables are grown in The Physic Garden cared for by the volunteers at the Friends of Saughton Park.
There are a number of raised beds in The Physic Garden and many of the plants have been donated.
One of the aims of the Friends of Saughton Park is to grow plants such as snowdrops and foxgloves for medicinal use.
The Community Orchards have a mix of wild and trained orchards with fruit trees such as apples, pears and peaches.
Ball games are prohibited at the walled garden.
You can read about Edinburgh’s park in detail at our parks guide
Bonus: Jupiter Artland
Jupiter Artland Foundation is one of Scotland’s most significant arts organisations, with five gallery spaces and an expansive outdoor sculpture collection, featuring landscaped gardens and site-specific commissioned artworks from some of the world’s most significant artists.
Located just outside Edinburgh, Jupiter Artland is a registered charity, founded by the philanthropist art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, now with 36 permanent site-specific works across 100 acres of woodland and meadows.
Committed to nurturing the work of outstanding contemporary artists and continuing to commission new works to grow the ever-evolving landscape, Jupiter Artland opened to the public in May 2009, and in 2016 was nominated for the Art Fund’s prize for the Museum of the Year.
Exhibitions and installations by artists such as Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Christian Boltanski, Joana Vasconcelos, Nathan Coley, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Laura Ford, Anya Gallaccio, Andy Goldsworthy, Jim Lambie, Cornelia Parker and Marc Quinn are located around the gardens.
Each artist selected their own plot.
The sculpture, Anthony Gormley’s work is also featured.
You may know his 6 TIMES project, the life-sized human cast iron sculptures dotted around the Waters of Leith.
The exhibitions are set within the grounds of Bonnington House, a 17th century Jacobean Manor House and visitors are encouraged to freely explore the Artland and discover the artworks at their own pace.
The walk takes around one hour to complete at a slow pace.
Some exhibitions that include video may add time to your visit.
On arrival, visitors receive an art walk map to help locate each exhibition.
The map also provides details about the art including the title, artist and summary of work.
The small diagrams are really handy.
As well as permanent exhibitions, there is also temporary artwork.
For example, Rachel Maclean’s multi-media installations, Spite Your Face, Germs and Eyes To Me in 2021.
Maclean also has a permanent piece called upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop.
A visit to Cafe Party is highly recommended.
This playfully pink cafe is designed by Nicholas Party.
The soup and cakes are tasty. One tea, soup and cake cost £15.
There is also a food truck and benches if you prefer to sit outside.
Jupiter Artland’s learning programme includes free visits for nurseries, schools, universities and community education organisations.
Jupiter Artland’s child-led ethos to learning sparks curiosity and builds resilience, creativity and critical thinking skills in the minds of young learners.
Since the programme began in 2009 over 20,000 learners have been welcomed to the collection as part of free or subsidised visits.
Jupiter Artland’s mission is for every school child in Scotland to visit or experience Jupiter Artland either through a visit with hands-on activity or through Jupiter Artland’s pioneering digital projects.
Each year the festival, Jupiter Rising brings together art, music and performance in the landscape.
Jupiter Artland is accessible for wheelchair use. More information can be found here.
Edinburgh Gardens Rules
- Put all litter in the bins provided.
- BBQs can be used in designated areas only.
- Ball games cannot be played in Princes Street Gardens or Saughton Walled Gardens.
- Fishing is not permitted unless authorised by a permit.
- Metal detection is not prohibited without a permit.
- Camping is not allowed within one mile of a public road.
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There are plenty of green space options in Scotland’s capital and many of them offer sea views and additional cultural activities such as sport or art. There’s another garden on my bucket list, Dr Niels by Duddingston Kirk, have you been?