Take a Stroll Through Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) developed from humble beginnings on a relatively small patch of ground at Holyrood Park in 1670, to a huge and diverse collection of living and preserved plants, cared for at four locations in Scotland – Edinburgh, Logan, Benmore and Dawyck – each of which contains its own specialized collection. In addition to the more than 13,300 living plant species, the RBGE’s herbarium houses more than three million specimens which have been preserved. The RBGE serves as a vital hub of scientific study, with the emphasis on Conservation, Plants & Climate Change, and Scottish Biodiversity.

When Dr Andrew Balfour and Dr Robert Sibbald started the botanic garden as a physic garden at St Anne’s Yard in 1670, it consisted primarily of the private collection of Sir Patrick Murray. As the collection grew, and also to get away from the rapidly developing city’s pollution, in 1763 the garden was moved to a location on the road to Leith, only to be moved again in 1820 to its present location at Inverleith. In 1858 the Palm House was built and to this day is the tallest of its kind in Britain. This magnificent structure allows for the temperature to be maintained at the correct level to grow palms (hence the name) and other tropical and subtropical plants.

As a scientific institution, the RBGE aims to discover, describe and document plants and their relationships to the environment, their biology, their evolution and their conservation. To this end, the Garden’s huge collection of living and preserved plants is supplemented by a large library and comprehensively equipped laboratories.

In addition to being part of a worldwide network of scientific institutions promoting the conservation of biodiversity, the RBGE is a popular leisure destination for both locals and visitors. Referred to locally simply as ‘The Botanics’ the garden is the venue for a host of events throughout the year, including live performances, exhibitions and guided themed tours. Entrance to the gardens is free of charge, with a small entrance fee being charged for access to the glasshouses.

Collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh include the Chinese Hillside; Alpine Plants; Cryptogamic plants (lichens, algae, mosses and ferns); Orchids and Cycads; Ferns and Fossils; Rainforest Riches; Arid Lands; Temperate Lands; Peat Walls; Rock Garden; Woodland Garden; Scottish Heath Garden; and the Queen Mother’s memorial garden.