(Last Updated On: 2nd June 2018)
There’s more than one secret garden in Edinburgh, but Dr Neil’s is arguably the prettiest. And since it’s hidden behind a church and small graveyard in a tiny village on the east side of Holyrood Park, it’s probably also the least known to Edinburgh visitors.
Development of the garden was begun by Dr’s Andrew and Nancy Neil in 1963 and completed with the help of some of their patients from the medical clinic where they both worked. Both of the Neils knew about the restorative qualities of gardening and saw this as the perfect opportunity for the patients to get outside, get some exercise and just enjoy the tranquillity of time spent in a garden.
Sitting behind Duddingston Kirk, a small 12th century church and graveyard, the garden is filled with conifers, heathers and alpines and slopes down to the banks of Duddingston Loch. It probably sounds a bit airy fairy, but there’s something so utterly calming about the smell of pine, the quiet, the cool of the shade and the sight of the water as you get to the bottom of the garden. It’s easy to forget that just a few minutes walk away is a horde of tourists huffing and puffing their way up an extinct volcano (that’d be Arthur’s Seat – itself a ‘must-do’ Edinburgh outdoor attraction).
So how do you get there? Good question. It’s not that straightforward, but then that’s what makes it a ‘secret’ garden. This shot above was taken from Queen’s Drive, the road that circles through Holyrood Park and around Arthur’s Seat. Not too far to the left of this shot (taken south of Dunsapie Loch) are some steps that lead almost all the way to the Kirk. That’s them below – from the bottom looking up though of course. Dr Neil’s Garden is just behind the smoke you can see above and if you look to the centre, you might be able to see the church in amongst the trees.
Clear as mud, right?
Once you’ve found the church, you can either walk through the small café there (which backs onto the entrance of the garden) or, if the cafe’s shut, follow the wall that leads to the left of the church down Old Church Lane and go through the first set of gates you come to. On your right, you’ll see the back of the café and if you follow the path here you’ll come to the garden entrance, above.
If you’re in a nature-y mood and going to climb up Arthur’s Seat anyway, I would definitely factor in an extra hour to check out Dr Neil’s Garden, because, apart from all of the above, as my Mum said when she looked at the shot below “Look at those Rhoddies!”
Stuff to Know:
Somewhat frustratingly for all the weekend out and about-ers, Dr Neil’s Garden is only opened on weekdays.
Since you’re in Duddingston Village, you could also factor in another hour or so and have a feed at one of Edinburgh’s oldest gastro pubs. The 14th century building that The Sheep Heid Inn occupies also has a wooden skittles/bowling alley attached to it. Random. It’s very popular though, so booking is a good idea.
Entrnace to the garden is free but you can leave a donation to the garden’s trust if you choose, to help with the upkeep and maintenance.