Dr Neil’s Garden which lies close to the Royal Mile is a tranquil contrast to the buzz of the city.
Dr Neil’s Garden
Dr Neil’s Garden is a wonderful, often unexpected contrast to the buzz of the Old Town, which lies only a few miles away. It’s one of the nicest of all the parks and gardens in Edinburgh. It’s a very special place.
This remarkable garden is located in Duddingston Village, one of the oldest and prettiest parts of Edinburgh on the eastern edge of Holyrood Park and the slopes of Arthur’s Seat.
Although there is a car park, one of the great joys of a visit to Dr Neil’s Garden is the walk through the royal park.
As more people discover Duddingston they often stop to admire the lovely 12th century Duddingston Kirk and Duddingston Loch, the largest freshwater loch in Edinburgh and the location of Henry Raeburn’s, painting, The Skating Minister.
© Creative Commons
The village is also home to the Sheep Heid Inn, which may well be Scotland’s oldest surviving pub with links to Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI who would sometimes stop on their travels between Holyrood Palace and Craigmillar Castle
Dr Neil’s Garden, sometimes known as Edinburgh’s secret garden, is not to be confused with the Secret Garden Gin distillery, which sits close to the Pentland Hills or any of Edinburgh’s other secret gardens – and there are a few.
About Dr Neil’s Garden
The first question on everybody’s mind is usually who was Dr Neil?
Founded by two doctors, husband and wife Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil both general practitioners in Edinburgh founded the garden.
Working, in their spare time, on what was then a rather scrappy piece of ground piece of land used for grazing began in 1963. In 1997 they established Dr Neil’s Garden Trust to ensure its future.
As part of the project, they encouraged some of their patients to volunteer, get involved and enjoy the camaraderie, fresh air and physical exercise.
Both doctors sadly died in 2005
Initially many of their plants were brought back to Edinburgh from their holiday travels in Europe
Plants and trees in Dr Neil’s Garden
Much of this wonderful green space with its meandering paths, little bridges, from here to there and strategically placed benches and sheltered terraces is given over to conifers, heathers and alpine plants. Among this delightful cornucopia of colour are rhododendrons and azaleas.
There are Cornelian Cherry, pale blue iris and exquisite lemon peony which add yet more colour.
For tree lovers, there are majestic Californian Redwoods, White Fir and the wonderful Monkey Puzzle
One well-known publication called it “an exquisite marriage of nature and nurture
The peace is occasionally disturbed by the quack of a duck, the shrill cry of a gull and a pair of birds setting up home together. The abundant butterflies go about their business quietly.
In 2012-13, part of the Garden was dedicated as a physic garden, designed by head gardener Claudia Pottier
The uniquely daisy-shaped design is a reminder of the love that Dr Neil had for horticulture and medicine. so, if that’s a particular interest, the nearby Palace of Holyroodhouse also has a physic garden.
Tucked away in one corner of the garden is Thomson’s Tower, designed by prominent Scottish architect William Playfair who, among his other work, was responsible for the University of Edinburgh Old College Playfair library.
This unique octagonal building, built in 1825, was in the words of Historic Environment Scotland (HES),” used as a meeting place for the Society which invented the modern game of curling.”
The nearby loch, frozen in winter was the ideal place for curling. The HES website has an interesting article about Thomson’s Tower.
Today the renovated tower is used as a small curling museum, display studio and interpretation centre dedicated to the Garden and other local amenities.
The Garden and Tower hold a number of exhibitions and events throughout the year. It’s a popular venue for some of the Edinburgh Festival performances.
The Duddingston Kirk Garden Room café is the perfect place for a snack, not forgetting the Sheep Heid for something more substantial.
Interestingly some of the visitor reviews said that the garden was a,
- tranquil hidden gem
- tranquil spot
- place of peace
- so beautiful
- a place to escape the crowds
The administrators add some more context. They say, “Dr Neil’s Garden is so much more than a garden. It’s a friendly place that welcomes all to its peace and beauty… The Garden stimulates change through play, learning, the arts, healthy activity and by addressing disability.”
The garden is forever indebted to the many volunteers to help with the day-to-day work.
- Discover some of Edinburgh’s other parks and gardens on Truly Edinburgh
Entry to the Garden is free of charge although donations are appreciated. There may be charges for special events, hiring the Garden or Thomson’s Tower.
For more information about the garden, click the button below which will take you to the official Dr Neil’s Garden website.