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Edinburgh’s Secret Garden

How to escape the Royal Mile hordes

(Last Updated On: January 7, 2018) 

Being a tourist can be exhausting, and if there’s one place in Edinburgh where your stamina is going to be challenged it’s the tourist-tastic Royal Mile; a whole mile (1.6 kilometres) of souvenir shops, bagpipes, whisky shops, fudge shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, a castle, a palace, museums, tour buses, tour guides and enough camera waving tourists that you’re sure to end up in the background of at least a dozen random family albums.

Sometimes you just need a bit of a sit down to gather some more energy to get back out there, and that’s why you need to know about the secret garden in Dunbar’s Close.

Dunbar's Close

That alleyway is the inconspicuous entrance to Dunbar’s Close. And no, I’m not holding the camera wonky, the road’s on a hill.

Dunbar's Close garden

If you’re on the left hand side of The Royal Mile, heading down toward Holyrood Palace, it’s easy to miss the entrance, so maybe look for this sign above too.


For such a small garden that’s smack in the middle of the busiest part of the city, it’s surprisingly peaceful.

The Dunbar’s Close garden was designed by Sir Patrick Geddes, a biologist, sociologist, urban planner and as I’ve just discovered, super interesting guy. Geddes was ahead of his time, a sort of Victorian greenie who believed the good health and well-being of people who lived in crowded cities could be strengthened from time spent outdoors and in nature. These ideas and many more he implemented were instrumental in the vast improvement of living conditions in the slums of Old Town in the late 19th century. Many small, hidden gardens like this one were subsequently created around The Royal Mile.

Dunbar's Close Garden

The garden is laid out in a 17th Century style with manicured bushes and hedges lining the paths.

Dunbar's Close Garden

There’s a definite air of serenity here. Even these mini stone pillars that someone had left on a bench added to the tranquility. Or maybe the sudden peace and quiet just made me go all airy fairy for a moment.

Dunbar's Close garden

Bit of a sunshine spotlight.

Dunbar's Close Garden

As you can see here, Dunbar’s Close Garden is set right in amongst the houses of Old Town.

Dunbar's Close Garden

And of course, no self respecting Scottish garden would be complete without one of these – Scotland’s national flower, the Thistle.

Stuff to Know:

For more about Patrick Geddes, have a read of this from the History Stuff section.

Address: Dunbar’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8BW

For more information on the garden, contact Edinburgh City Council by email sfc.centralneighbourhood@edinburgh.gov.uk or phone on 0131 529 7061.

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2 Comments on Edinburgh’s Secret Garden

  1. love the little bits of green we don’t always know about. I like this from wiki: “Geddes advocated the civic survey as indispensable to urban planning: his motto was “diagnosis before treatment”. Such a survey should include, at a minimum, the geology, the geography, the climate, the economic life, and the social institutions of the city and region”

    • Natalie DeWinter // October 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm //

      In the little bit of research I did on him, I think he’s my new fave enlightened one. Very cool guy!

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