Visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for a peaceful day out spent walking amongst thousands of beautiful flowers. If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Edinburgh, exploring the Royal Botanic Garden should be at the top of your list. Head there on a sunny afternoon with a blanket and a book, tuck yourself under one of the towering trees and enjoy the fresh, fragrant air while reading in the shade.
Visiting the Botanics (as the locals call it) is one of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh. The lush exotic gardens, unique monkey trees, incredibly stunning glasshouses and gardens overflowing with history will leave you in awe.
The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh was created so doctors had somewhere they could study medicinal plants. As a nod to its roots, in 2020, the garden will give the general public the opportunity to sign up for a course on medicinal trees and herbology. I know it’s a genuine topic, but don’t you think it sounds like a class straight out of Hogwarts?!
With ten different glasshouses, including the Victorian Temperate Palm House, the Tropical Palm House and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, there are plenty of things to do at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Here are some of my favourites.
11 Things to Do at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh
Unwind with a picnic and a book
Edinburgh can be a pretty busy city and the Royal Botanic Garden provides a peaceful haven where you can step away from the urban hustle and bustle and lay among the grass, trees and plants. Thanks to its central location, you can always pop along to the gardens to have a picnic and relax, no matter where you are in the city.
When I lived in Edinburgh, I loved taking a blanket, laying it down on the grass among the flowers and spending the afternoon there reading my favourite book. At the time it was The Hobbit which I got from a church sale on George Street for only 50p during my first week in the city.
Take a stroll and explore the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh
As much as I loved laying on the grass reading, going on a scenic walk around the gardens was my idea of a perfect day. You can listen to the tranquil sounds of nature or do as I did — pop your headphones on and listen to your favourite tunes as you walk around.
A trip to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh can also be pretty romantic. Although I never took a date there, the gardens are a wonderful place to spend a romantic afternoon getting to know someone. They’re really quiet, which gives you a chance to chat and get to know each other. But there are still many things to see and do, so you shouldn’t have a lull in the conversation.
Tour the Glasshouses
The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has ten individual glasshouses! So whatever climate you’re in the mood to explore, the Botanics in Edinburgh has got you covered. I really love the Spanish moss in the Temperate Palm House.
Shrink down and gaze at giant water lilies
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I often talk about shrinking down. Like how a visit to the Scott Monument would be great if you could shrink down and fit inside the progressively narrow staircase. Or how the Scotch Whisky Experience invites you to enjoy the sensation of shrinking down and travelling around in a whisky barrel.
The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is the perfect place to feel like you’ve entered a giant’s world. The water lilies here can grow up to 3m wide! They are gently floating on water, surrounded by water flowers and plants. It’s an amazing thing to see.
Admire the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden
I absolutely love visiting the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The Queen’s mum loved travelling — something we definitely have in common!
The best part of her gardens? The plants are laid out to represent the 4 corners of the world. I also absolutely love the huge hedge that surrounds the gardens because it reminds me of The Shining and Alice in Wonderland.
There are no white roses being painted red in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, so I have no idea where the Alice in Wonderland connection comes from. Perhaps it’s because of the Queen’s Mother. Queen + gardens = Alice in Wonderland? Yes — that’s got to be it.
Visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh again and again
The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has something to offer all year round! I know most people wait until the spring and summer to explore the lush gardens, but the autumn and winter seasons are not to be missed.
The seasonal changes make the gardens amazing to return to throughout the year. Because of the seasonal changes, there’s always something new to see. Spring brings the arrival of fresh flowers, while autumn wows with a multitude of beautiful colour changes.
For anyone who isn’t keen on roaming around outside during the cooler seasons, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh provides a host of cozy indoor glasshouses full of plants which flourish and thrive year-round.
Explore the art exhibitions at Inverleith House
The former home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Inverleith House still houses several art exhibitions, including ones associated with general plant life, the history of plants and microscopic pictures of plant life. There are also a number of art sculptures throughout the Royal Botanic Gardens, including a bronze sculpture of a girl in the garden surrounding Inverleith House.
The exhibitions are ever-changing, so be sure to check out the Royal Botanic Garden website to see what’s on before you go.
Immerse yourself in the Christmas celebrations
As I mentioned earlier, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is wonderful in every season! If you love festive activities and you’re in Edinburgh for the holidays, be sure to visit the gardens after sunset. The light displays at this time of year are beyond incredible. You can still see the lights during the day, but they really come to life at night.
Walkthrough the enchanting showcase of illuminations and listen to the festive music as the light show casts a magical array of colours onto the glasshouses while you sip a delicious hot chocolate. It’s a fun and fantastic night out, equally perfect for friends and family.
Grab a bite to eat
If quiet picnics among the flowers, trees and squirrels aren’t your thing, check out the Gateway Restaurant and the Terrace Café. These venues are fantastic places to grab a hot chocolate on a chilly day and use it to keep warm while walking around the wintery gardens.
Join in with the activities
One of the best things about spending time at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is the sheer amount of extra activities and exhibitions provided year-round.
Everything from the Scottish Tree Festival and Scottish Snowdrop Festival to tea tours, edible garden tours and the world of plant tours, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has a lot more to offer than just chilling next to flower beds.
Go wildlife watching at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is home to many different types of wildlife — everything from tiny hedgehogs and squirrels to various species of birds and elusive badgers. I guarantee you’ll see squirrels on your journey through the Botanics, but keep an eye on the waterways for grey herons and the stunningly beautiful kingfisher, too.
Visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: Website
Admission to the Royal Botanic Garden: Free
Admission to the Glasshouses: Adult £7.00
More Things to do in Edinburgh
- Excellent Things to do in Edinburgh
- The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh
- Things to do in Dean Village in Edinburgh
- Climbing the Scott Monument in Edinburgh