Dunbar's Close, Edinburgh
Quiet spaces near Edinburgh’s Royal Mile are few and far between, but if you look hard enough they are there. On the Canongate, just passed the Kirk, the entrance to Dunbar’s Close looks like any other Edinburgh wynd. Its well-kept secret is a beautiful 17th century secret garden. Walking through its gates is like stepping into another world from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile.
Neatly laid out like a traditional Burghal garden over three quarters of an acre, it packs a lot into a small space. Trees and manicured bushes create a shady area at the entrance, opening out into a suntrap full of lovely flowers and unusual plants. Two small squares with classical stone benches provide quiet places to sit beside a shady wall that could fool you into thinking it was in Tuscany. It’s worth stopping a while to enjoy the wonderful symmetry of the design and the spectacular views of Calton Hill beyond.
The garden was created by Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) who lived on the Royal Mile at the time. He was an eminent Scots biologist who stressed the connection between health and the environment. Geddes had the vision for a network of gardens around the city of which Dunbar’s Close is one. By the 1970s the garden had fallen into disrepair. It was saved by a bequest from The Mushroom Trust which gifted the land to the City of Edinburgh Parks Department. In 1978 it was rebuilt by landscape architect Seamus Filor and has remained a delightful public space ever since.
Few places in Edinburgh are really secret, and even this quiet spot fills up at regular intervals with small groups of people on walking tours. However, the groups leave as quickly as they arrive, and after that peace reigns again. It’s fun to watch the tourists mingle with Auld Reekie aficionados who obviously know that this is the place to go for a quiet moment.