on August 18, 2006
The Botanic Gardens are to be found next to Inverleith Park, just north of the Canonmills area. It's well signposted, so it's not hard to find, and if you're driving there's much better parking near the west gate than the east. The east gate is a bit of an attraction in itself though and has been the subject of a great deal of artistic photography. Worth a look if you're feeling a bit creative with your camera.These gardens are beautifully kept and there is free admission, year round. They ask for donations, but unlike so many places they don't frown at you disapprovingly if you don't spare some change. Once inside, there is an impressive array of plant life on display. The winding web of pathways leads you past man made waterfalls, over small bridges, past duck ponds and stately buildings and a Victorian hothouse (and hideous modern one besides) full of tropical and other plant life. If you're going into the hothouses they do expect you to pay something as these require a great deal of maintenance. The best parts of the Gardens are the free parts though.There are regular exhibitions and educational showcases held in several venues throughout the Gardens and information about these is always available at either of the two entrance gates. At the west gate, you can find ice cream vendors and the Botanic shop which has a surprising amount of high quality, often unusual merchandise available for purchase. You can also buy food for the considerable array of pigeons and squirrels that roam around the place, and there are no restrictions on feeding or approaching these wild little residents.This is the perhaps the best thing about Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. It's not a look-but-don't-touch kind of place. Obviously they don't want you crashing through the flowerbeds and climbing the trees, but you're free to walk anywhere you like. You can get right up to the trees and plants and walk amongst them, or laze about on the grass to your heart's content. You feel very involved in the place, which is why I think it appeals to so many visitors and locals alike.It's good at any time of year too. Obviously it's at its prettiest in the Spring and Summer months, when the flowers are in bloom and the trees are lush with foliage, if you go when it's raining, not only will you get the place virtually to yourself, but the water features will be in full flow. The Japanese Gardens are particularly good to walk around on rainy days. Check the opening times though, because it closes before dark which means that it closes early in the winter months.Overall, this is my favourite place to go in Edinburgh to feel a little bit closer to nature. Although it's in the heart of the city, it's easy to forget that as you wander through its sun dappled walkways or lay out on the grass. A genuine highlight.
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