Six beautiful public gardens in Scotland

From historic estates to botanic 19th century havens, Scotland has plenty of peaceful and beautiful gardens to explore

The parterre of Drummond Castle Gardens was redesigned in 1830
The parterre of Drummond Castle Gardens was redesigned in 1830

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens has been photographed more times than anyone can count, with the foreboding Edinburgh Castle looming over it.

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The gardens as we know it emerged in the 1820s after the loch that occupied the site was drained.

The redwood avenure of Benmore Botanic Gardens

Originally a private garden, it was only open to the public at Christmas, New Year and one other day at the residents’ choosing. When the land was passed to the council in 1876, the gardens were open as a public park - much to the horror of Princes Street residents.

In 1846, after a long court battle, a railway line was placed through the park, under the condition that it not mar the area’s beauty.

Princes Street Gardens is notable for several monuments, including the Scott Monument, a prominent Gothic spire built in 1844 to honour Sir Walter Scott.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

The floral archway at Kailzie Gardens

Though Glasgow isn’t short of green space – it’s not called the Dear Green Place for nothing – Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens remain one of the city’s most treasured spaces.

Originally open to the public at weekends, the gardens were opened in 1842 at their current site by the River Kelvin. (Sandyford was its initial home.) The park was originally intended to supply the nearby University of Glasgow.

Now, they’re a peaceful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, with wonderful riverside walks and a colourful array of exotic plants to admire. With its impressive greenhouses recently restored, it’s never looked better.

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Following snowdrop trails in Fife's historic gardens
Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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Benmore Botanic Garden, Benmore

Tucked between Dunoon and Lock Eck in Argyll, the gardens were originally a part of James Duncan’s in the late 19th century.

Some of the trees in the park are over 150 years old; the parks themselves feature a waterfall, ponds, and walks which take you up the hillsides, offering stunning views of the Holy Loch.

The high rainfall and mild winters mean that more of the more unusual species of rhododendrons, magnolias and nothofagus are able to grow.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Picture: Robert Perry

Many of the garden’s original plants were grown from seed collected by famous plantsmen such as Ernest Wilson and David Douglas from their travels to Asia and Pacific North America.

Kailzie Gardens, Peebles

The Walled Garden is part of the Kailzie Estate and dates back to the early 19th century. Surrounded by 18ft walls, the original gardens were grassed over during WWII, leaving way for a new design.

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The semi-formal layout includes herbaceous borders, a rose garden and a wonderful display of plants in the Victorian greenhouses situated on the estate. A large sundial, designed by A. Adie in 1811, acts as the garden’s centrepiece.

The larch planted in the gardens is one of the oldest trees on the estate, dating back to 1725.

There are also several pairs of Ospreys nesting in the area, offering a good birdwatching opportunity.

The redwood avenure of Benmore Botanic Gardens

Drummond Castle Gardens

The original castle gardens were laid out in 1630 by John Drummond, second Earl of Perth. In 1830, the parterre - a formal surface levelled garden - was created in an Italian style.
There is a multi-faceted sundial, designed by John Mylne, who was the Master Mason to Charles I.

While much of the garden was replanted in the 1950s, the remaining beech tree planted by Queen Victoria, commemorating her visit in 1842, still remains on the estate.

The garden’s have also been featured in the film “Rob Roy,” starring Liam Neeson, John Hurt and Tim Roth.

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Attadale Gardens, Wester Ross

Attadale Gardens was built by Baron Schroder in the late 19th century, with hilly paths which wander through 20 acres of land.

In 1980, after bad storms damaged Attadale Gardens, owner Nicky Macpherson transformed it to frame the views of Skye and the surrounding hills. 
The garden now features waterfalls, Monet bridges, and sculptures lurking in unexpected locations.

A kitchen garden, a sunken fern garden and a Japanese garden can also be found in this tranquil setting, whose nooks and crannies young visitors often play hide-and-seek in.

The floral archway at Kailzie Gardens
Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Picture: Robert Perry