Just beyond the northern perimeter of Edinburgh’s New Town, the Royal Botanic Garden is a 70-acre site, famous for its rhododendrons, which burst into a blaze of colours every spring. Visitors at this time of year should seek out the snowdrop (Halesia carolina) tree, which has twigs hung with white bells resembling snowdrops. Aromatic new leaves from the balsam poplars add to the season by filling the air with a delightful scent. But with 25 glasshouses, the garden has something to offer all year round.
In summer, visitors flock to see the herbaceous border which provides colour throughout the season. With ample feeding and the protection of one of Britain’s most splendid beech hedges, the perennials such as lupins, campanulas, delphiniums and phlox thrive. As autumn arrives, the change in foliage of most deciduous trees is simply beautiful – a walk through the arboretum is a must at this time as rowans and whitebeams combine brightly coloured fruits with attractive leaves that turn various shades of red, yellow and gold. In winter, the glasshouses come into their own, providing colour and warmth while the winter-flowering trees and shrubs outside are a joy to behold. Near to the Alpine House is a bank of winter-flowering viburnums and a lawn surrounded by witch hazels. The Chinese and Japanese witch hazels flower from about December to March.
The Royal Botanic Garden knows how to look after visitors too, with a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea daily as well as Sunday lunch and a special kids menu. There’s also the Terrace Cafe where, on sunny days, visitors can enjoy an alfresco lunch with an unrivalled view of the city skyline.