Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh




Holyrood Abbey

1670 to 1675

Edinburgh's first Physic Garden was established in 1670 by two doctors, Andrew Balfour and Robert Sibbald, on a small plot of land leased near Holyrood Abbey, for the cultivation of medical and other plants.

The garden was 180 sq yards, about the size of a tennis court.



Trinity Hospital

1675 to 1763

The garden was successful and after five years a larger site was needed.

A new site was found on land adjoining Trinity Hospital near the head of the Nor' Loch in Waverley Valley.  This is close to where Waverley Station was built.

The garden was about 300ft from east to west and 190ft from north to south, and was divided into six plots, three on either side of the canal that drained the Nor Loch                                                                    Ref: Scotia Illustata (Sibbald, 1684)

   Physic Garden beside Trinity Hospital - 1675-1763

The garden was used for experiment and for supply of specimens to students of medicine.



Leith Walk

1763 to 1820

In 1763, the garden was transferred to to a 'green field' site out of the centre of the city, at Haddington Place, Leith Walk.

Botanic Garden, Haddington Place, Leith Walk - 1763-1823




1820 to date

Early History of Garden at Inverleith

The latest move began in 1820 and took three years to complete.  It was to grounds at Inverleith, to the west of Inverleith Row and south of Inverleith Place.

This site subsequently grew, with the acquisition of adjoining land:

-  to the south, from the Caledonian Horticultural Society, to form a rock garden

-  to the west, the grounds of Inverleith House, to form an arboretum.

A Palm House was constructed in 1834.

Photo taken in 1854 of the 1834 Palm House at Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith

Another was constructed in 1858.

A rock garden was constructed around 1870.

  Rock Garden, Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith, Edinburgh  -  Rock Garden constructed around 1870

Maps of Garden at Inverleith

Here are some maps of the the Royal Botanic Garden at Inverleith:


    Map of Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith - 1870


    Map of Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith - 1909


    Map of Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith - 1970


Recent History of Garden at Inverleith

The site is now 75 acres.

The 1858 Palm House is still in use.  It stands beside Exhibition Plant Houses opened in 1967.

.Roy\l Botanic Garden  -  Palm house and glass houses, 2011 

The 1870 rock garden in the SE corner of the site has now been replaced by a large landscaped rock garden with waterfall and stream, built around 1970.

Recent additions to the garden include:

-  Queen Mother Memorial Garden and maze, to the west of the Palm House.

-  Chinese Hillside and Chinese Pavilion, to the south of Inverleith House.

-  John Hope Gateway at the western entrance, beside Inverleith Park.



The information above has been taken from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh web site and from the book 'The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970' (HMSO  SBN 11 490425 1).


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