New public garden at Holyroodhouse to honour Royal Botanics

A new public garden is to be created at the Queen's official residence in Scotland '“ to pay tribute to the roots of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

Artists impressions of the new physic garden and flowering meadow, which will reconnect the Palace of Holyroodhouse to its historic roots. Picture: Contributed

The physic garden, which will featuring a mix of indigenous and exotic medicinal plants, is expected become a major new feature in its own right once a forthcoming £10 million makeover of the palace and its grounds is completed within the next two years.

It will be built close to the site of the original 17th century physic garden, where students were first taught in the city about botany and the medicinal properties of plants.

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Designs from the earliest botanic gardens will be revisited to help create the new feature, which visitors will be able to stroll through just inside the palace’s main gates.

A new flowering “meadow” will also be created alongside as an echo of the historic garden run by the monks at Holyrood Abbey in the 15th century, the first to be built on the site of the existing palace, which did not start to take shape until 1503.

The Royal Collection Trust, which runs the palace as a visitor attraction on behalf of the Queen, has previously announced plans to make more of the palace grounds as part of the £10m project, which is aimed at making the attraction more welcoming and family-friendly.

New displays of Royal Collection treasures are also planned in the palace’s state apartments, which are used by the Queen and other royals for official ceremonies and entertaining. Outside the main palace, a series of little-used buildings dating back to the 15th century, known as the Abbey Strand, will be opened to the public for the first time when a new education centre is created.

Edinburgh’s first botanic garden was created in 1670 by two physicians, Andrew Balfour and Robert Sibbald, on a short strip of land around the size of a tennis court. Within five years Edinburgh University had provided funding to allow it to expand to the head of the Nor Loch, on a site which is now platform 11 of Waverley Station. It then moved to a green-field site in Leith in 1763, before relocating to its current home in Inverleith in 1820.

Jonathan Marsden, director of the Royal Collection Trust, said: “The return of scientific gardening to the place of its birth in Scotland will provide a new focus of interest for visitors to the palace, for the local community, and especially, we hope, for young people. It will be a further addition to the palace’s spectacular setting within the natural landscape of Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat beyond.

“It forms an important part of our plans to make more of the palace’s surroundings and will provide a family friendly space just moments from the Royal Mile.”

Simon Milne, regius keeper of the Botanic Garden, said, “The very being of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, one of the world’s leading botanic gardens, is linked to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Scotland’s first physic garden, created by the two adventurous doctors, Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour.

“As we prepare to celebrate our 350th anniversary in 2020, we are thrilled that the Royal Collection Trust is creating a new physic garden at the palace, and we look forward to even greater collaboration and the opportunity for more people to be inspired about the plants and their history.”