The Dr Neil's Garden PlaquePhotograph by Nigel Neil - Copyright © Dr Neil's Garden Trust
Dr Neil's Garden is one of the most remarkable gardens in Scotland today. Lying next to the twelfth-century Duddingston Kirk, where the lower slopes of Arthur's Seat meet Duddingston Loch, this secluded garden is the result of the imagination, dedication and sheer hard work of Drs. Andrew and Nancy Neil. It has sometimes been called Edinburgh's Secret Garden. Many people find it more than a mere garden, and - both before and since the garden was created - this spot has to many been a place of inspiration (artistic, literary, and spiritual), and for meditation and contemplation. We hope that you too may also take away lasting memories, and spread the word about this special place to others.
In 1965 the doctors, whose medical practice was nearby, had the idea of creating a garden on what was effectively a piece of waste ground. The site was exceptionally daunting, being very steep with rocky outcrops, with no vehicular access and no services. The Neils' enthusiasm, horticultural expertise and prodigious physical labour have transformed the site into the astonishing series of colourful terraces we see today. Hedges and changes of level keep each part distinct, and largely secluded, from the next.
The planting is mostly conifers, heathers and alpines, with primulas (including the rare Pubescens), magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and many other shrubs. Erica carnea gives a splash of colour during the dull days of winter, as do Sedums and Sempervivums and the bulb season is ushered in with Snowdrops, and other colourful low-growing species such as Iris reticulata, Crocus chrysanthus, Narcissus bulbocodium, Kaufmanniana Muscari azarium, and Chionodoxa luciliae. Polyanthus and Auriculae have been particularly successful, with many for the connoisseur! Apart from dwarf Rhododendrons in the rockeries and screes, there is a special eye-catching collection of Azaleas and Rhododendrons below the "nursery".
The garden has been televised on three occasions, and has won a number of awards. Most notably, in 1991, Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil were awarded the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Medal by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society.
In one corner of the garden is Thomson's Tower, designed by William Henry Playfair, and built in 1825 for the Duddingston Curling Society to store its stones. The upper floor was both a meeting place for the curlers and a studio for the respected artist the Rev. John Thomson, minister of Duddingston from 1805 till 1840. During 2008-09, Dr Neil's Garden Trust restored the Tower - with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, and it now contains fascinating exhibitions about Curling past and present, Playfair, Thomson, and the garden.
Dr Neil's Garden is open every day including weekends from 10 am till Dusk.
Entry is free of charge (except during advertised events) but a donation of at least £1 per person would be greatly appreciated
- Saturday May 23rd and Sunday May 24th 2 - 5 pm in aid of Scotland's Garden Scheme
- Saturday August 24th and Sunday August 25th 2 - 5 pm in aid of Dr Neil's Garden Trust
Plants will be on sale on all of these dates, plus teas and home baking will be served in the HallGroup visits and tours must be pre-booked. Please contact 07849 187 995 (available 10 am till 6pm, Monday to Friday)
Thomson's Tower will be open to the public every Sunday during July & August from 2 pm till 5 pm.
Entry: Admission free. Donations welcome.
For more information on events and special weekends see the News page.
Dr Neil's Garden, Old Church Lane
Duddingston Village, Edinburgh
07849 187 995
(available 10 am till 6pm, Monday to Friday)