Exploring Edinburgh: Botanic Lights

Edinburgh is full of quiet, leafy spots you’d never believe are right in the heart of the city. Dean Village, the Water of Leith walkway, Stockbridge… and to add to these favourites, the Royal Botanic Garden. With 70 acres of alpines, woodland and shrubs, not to mention Britain’s tallest Victorian glasshouse, visiting the Botanics are a must if you’re a nature fan who’s somehow ended up living in the centre of town (I speak from experience).

Recently, we were lucky enough to attend one of Edinburgh’s main autumn events: the Botanic Lights. Along with a group of fellow Instagrammers, we joined the lines of people waiting to experience this light and sound show in the middle of the week. A pretty nice way to break up the long days at work, don’t you think?

I’m far from being a night-time photographer (those manual settings are a pest, haha…) but I’ve edited a few of my photos from that mild October evening in the gardens. The Botanic Lights event continues until the 6 November, so if you’ve got a free few hours and fancy some fresh air, there’s nothing better than a dark wander through the woods. Check out the availability here.

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Shapes and shadows. As you’ll quickly discover when you enter the Botanics, the combination of light and leaves is completely mesmerising. Strobes swivel in several shades, beams catch on leaves and branches, and from the dark comes deep bass and exotic melodies. It makes you want to dance in and out of the inky trees (but you hold yourself back so the people behind don’t think you’ve gone mad).

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A journey through time and trees. Each section of the light show — like the Botanics itself — has a clear character. From the incredible projection at the Chinese Hillside (do NOT miss this, even if there’s a queue!) to the African-themed display at the Pond, your wander through the gardens will feel like a journey across continents.

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The iconic Botanics building. Even if you’ve never visited the gardens before, you’ll recognise this glasshouse. Officially dubbed the ‘Victorian Temperate Palm House‘, on an average day it’s the entrance to the ten climate zones which make up this maze of greenhouses. During the Botanic Lights though, it becomes the cinema screen for a rainbow of colours and phosphorescence. The whole solar system could be held within its raised glass roof, or perhaps it’s the light of a million fireflies stuck inside…

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Leaving a memento. Along with the obvious theme of travel, the designers of Botanic Lights have incorporated an interactive element into many of the exhibits. There’s a strongman game which illuminates the pines; buttons you can press to make blue lights rainbow-coloured and — like a bright maypole in the dark grounds — flags onto which visitors are invited to attach a handwritten ribbon. We grab a few colours of fabric and scribble a Sharpie message before tying it onto the tree.

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Into the night. There are so many amazing photo spots throughout Botanic Lights but this lane of lit globes was my favourite. With the litter of leaves lining the walkway and the odd orange frond falling from the adjacent trees, nothing says the Botanic Gardens in autumn more than this scene.

Have you been to Botanic Lights? What did you think?

6 thoughts on “Exploring Edinburgh: Botanic Lights

  1. Yes, we went last evening and it was glorious in that the weather was kind with no wind or rain, just mild and calm and the Botanics looked superb in all the illuminations and music. It was really worthwhile but then we love the Botanics in ordinary circumstances and go whenever considering we don’t live in Edinburgh. We live rather nearer to their outreach at Dawyck Botanic Gardens which are beautiful too. I recommend the event, We chose 7.30 entry which was perfect, last about an hour in normal walking round the whole place.

    1. Ah! Sounds like you got the same weather we did 🙂 How perfect is it just walking around in the dark? It’s such a unique event, we would absolutely go again. You’re also lucky to live near Dawyck! We went not too long ago and thought it was beautiful. Actually, that’s an idea… We might go back this weekend to see the autumn colours!

    1. Hi Anabel! How are you? Funny you say that about Glasgow, I’ve never been myself but friends have told me it’s not that great. I haven’t been to the Enchanted Forest either (that’s on the list for next year!) but I really did rate the Botanic Lights event, well worth the price (and you can sit outside and have a drink & cake too, that’s always a winner for me!)

      1. Maybe some year we’ll come across to Edinburgh. This year, there is a torchlight procession advertised in Glasgow’s west end which I think must be instead of the lights in the Botanics as I’ve not seen anything about that. I’ve heard good things about the Enchanted Forest too but never been organised enough to get up there.

  2. I’ve only been to the Botanics in Edinburgh once and it was lovely! I’ve been to a similar event at the Botanics in Montreal, but it sounds like a fun activity to do in Scotland too! Your night photos have come out really well I think 🙂

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