Exploring Edinburgh: Duddingston & Dr Neil’s Garden

It feels like spring has truly arrived. The streets are buzzing with cosmopolitans sporting denim jackets (myself included). Cliques sit outside hipster cafés and bars in the mild heat. The brave souls among us even have their pale legs out in the sunshine (myself not included). This is the kind of weather I’d forgotten I loved, back in the wilds of winter when I was hoping for snow. Screw that. I’m now in the freckles game.

Forever taking photos of this manse on the Royal Mile!

Last sunny Sunday, we went on another of our epic wanders around the city (scroll down for a route map). We do this pretty often in Edinburgh (and will be even more, since B’s Fiat has finally breathed its last). It’s an intriguing city to stroll around. Behind every building, around every street corner and down every alley is another story to be told… Layers and layers of history, families, romance, death, all bound up in this bitesize northern town.

The Sheep’s Heid Inn, Scotland’s oldest pub

We started on Leith Walk and wound up through Waverley train station (a sneaky shortcut to the Old Town although — predictably — there was a bit of crowd carnage as we crossed paths with the London train travellers). Down the Royal Mile‘s final stretch with all the tourists, we discovered a tranquil corner at Dunbar’s Close Gardens before stopping — as per — outside Canongate Manse. It’s funny: when my Nikon is around my neck, it automatically installs an ultra-observant attribute in my brain (which doesn’t exist pre-noon). I like to notice how the seasons subtly change the green shade of the grass; how buds peer fearfully from the barren twigs; how blossom is starting to appear around every corner.

Spring colour at Dr Neil’s Garden, Duddingston

Once we’d navigated the curving roads by Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, we were into Holyrood Park. This 650-acre playground always amazes me. A dormant volcano, imposing crags and this quasi-wilderness right in the heart of the city… How lucky are we to live in this green place? We spanned the whole south side of the park before, finally in the midday heat, reaching Duddingston.

A former village suburb that’s now been swallowed by the city, Duddingston is a little oasis not far from Edinburgh’s heart. For such a wee place, it boasts several attractions that make this an ideal weekend excursion (especially on foot). Featuring The Sheep’s Heid (said to be Scotland’s oldest pub, so make sure you book), the loch wildlife reserve and Dr Neil’s Garden, Duddingston is one of the city’s quieter spots… where it really feels like you’re not in Edinburgh at all.

The old curling house

It was in Dr Neil’s Garden that we spent the height of the afternoon, static on a bench underneath the spring sunshine. Founded in 1963 by a husband-and-wife team, the garden was initially a place for the GPs’ patients to enjoy the outdoors. Now — thanks to the Garden Trust — it’s open to the general public free of charge (but if you can give a donation, even better). Families, students and professionals alike sit surrounded by the greenery whilst, in the background, birds chase each other in the reeds. The octagonal sides of the nineteenth-century curling house are alternately lit as the sun’s angle changes. A light wind moves through the dying daffodils and the greening buds. This could be my new favourite Edinburgh escape, especially as summer comes ever closer.

Where is your favourite green spot in Edinburgh?

4 thoughts on “Exploring Edinburgh: Duddingston & Dr Neil’s Garden

  1. Ah, I was thinking of going to The Sheeps Heid after an outing to Craigmillar Castle. I didn’t know there was a garden to add to the list. Will have to check it out. 🙂

    1. Yes! I haven’t been to Craigmillar but have heard it’s one of Edinburgh’s best castles (controversial eh?!) Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend x

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