We are very lucky in Edinburgh to have a lot of parkland and open space in which the populous and visitors can enjoy the beautiful views and somewhat erratic weather.
One of these spaces is the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, 70 acres – or 28.5 hectares – of open planted garden and parkland which sits approximately one mile from the City Centre. The history of the Royal Garden dates from a physic garden which was founded in 1670 on land to the East of the Royal Palace, Holyrood House. It later moved to a site in what became Leith Walk (via ground now used as the city’s main rail hub Waverley Station) and it was here between 1764-1765 the Botanic Cottage was built.
A two-storey building built at 34 Haddington Place, Leith Walk and was constructed by the Keeper, Dr. John Hope for the first gardener John Williamson. It served as Williamson’s home, the entrance to the garden itself and as a classroom for students during the Enlightenment in the mid-late 18th Century.
Sadly, Williamson was not here for long. He also worked part time as an exciseman and was killed in Edinburgh city centre in the course of his duty in 1780. A memorial stone was placed on the cottage in his memory.
The Royal Botanic Garden moved to their present site in the early 1820’s and the cottage was left behind. It remained in place while all around it houses, shops and laterly, a petrol station was built on the land of the old Physic Garden. By 2007 the building was in a sad state of disrepair and was due for demolition. This was resisted by a small group of volunteers who successfully saved the building and had it moved stone by stone to the present Royal Botanic Gardens. In 2016 the cottage re-opened on this site after reconstruction and looks magnificent.
A piece of Scottish history was saved and it’s place in the story of Scottish Enlightenment preserved.
Please visit the Cottage on your next visit to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh either on your own or as part of a guided walk with Edinburgh Walks (www.edinburghwalks.com).