Urban Oases Edinburgh

Little’s Guide to Relaxation in the City.

Botanic Gardens

Nestled in the leafy outskirts of the city centre, Edinburgh Botanic Gardens have been located in their current site surrounding Inverleith House, purchased from the Fettes Trust, since 1881. The Royal Botanic Gardens actually consist of four separate gardens in various locations around Scotland –  the mountainous Benmore in Argyll; Dawyck in the wooded hills of the Scottish Borders and Logan on the Gulf Stream-warmed southern peninsula of Dumfries & Galloway. Together they represent the world’s second richest living collection of plants, providing visitors with hours of entertainment as they gaze in wonder at some of the rarer plants as well as the sheer scale of the Edinburgh Botanics. If you are looking to get lost in the city, make sure you come here.

At Edinburgh, the grounds feature the world-famous Rock Garden, peat and woodland gardens, colourful herbaceous borders, large and well-stocked Glasshouses and several specialist collections such as the Chinese Hillside.

Interesting fact – one of the world’s rarest flowers is currently on display in the gardens. The Corpse Plant, or Amorphophallus titanium if you are being polite, will flower for a few days every 10 or so years during which time the rather unique smell permeates the surrounding air. Visiting the plant will provide a novelty story to tell, if anything.

The Botanic Gardens have a recently renovated restaurant housed in the contemporary John Hope Gateway complete with an outdoor decking area with views stretching over Edinburgh. For those interested in art, the historic Inverleith House perhaps contradicts itself in providing a home for contemporary visual art as well as new exhibitions from artists being shown in the UK for the first time.

Kyoto Friendship Garden

Here’s one you won’t find in many guidebooks.

Located in the grounds of Lauriston Castle in the suburb of Cramond, this Japanese garden is a closely guarded secret amongst the Edinburgh locale. The garden was created to celebrate the twinning of the towns of Edinburgh and the prefecture of Kyoto in Japan and was opened in 2002. Its official name is the rather lovely ‘Castle Garden to Water and Beyond’.

Rated one of three top Japanese Gardens in Britain, here you will find bamboo shelters, blossoms and views of Cramond Island in the Firth of Forth to rival that of Mt Fuji. The final design of the garden combined elements of a number of traditional Japanese garden styles, including the ‘stroll garden’ and the ‘Zen garden.’ It also included a dramatic and striking water feature.

Cramond itself is well worth a visit, so much so that our tour designers regularly try and build in a visit when crafting a Little’s sightseeing tour. Amble along the River Almond and marvel at the area’s rich history with evidence of Mesolithic, Bronze Age and Roman activity. There is also a beach thrown in for good measure!

The Royal Observatory

The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh is an astronomical institution located on Blackford Hill, often overlooked with most opting to scale the iconic Arthur’s Seat yet providing an equally impressive and somewhat more tranquil vantage point.

Home to the University of Edinburgh Physics and Astronomy School, The Royal Observatory often host talks and, alongside the visitor centre which allows the general public to use the Victorian telescope dome facilities, the site accommodates a university astronomy research group and an establishment of the UK Research Council.

See the stars through the research centre’s magnificent copper domes at weekly astronomy evenings, as well as special one off events throughout the year. Out of this world.

One Spa at The Sheraton

After a day of discovering Edinburgh’s outdoor urban oases, continue your quest for ultimate relaxation at One Spa at The Sheraton. Think infinity edge swimming pools, rooftop hydropools and a list of soothing treatments and you will be treated with something very similar at One Spa. There is something oddly comforting about soaking in an outdoor pool whilst surrounded by the cold, crisp air that descends on Edinburgh for around 9 months of the year, it really is not to be missed.

As a fellow member of Luxury Scotland, The Sheraton offer 5* luxury in modern surroundings, all overlooking Edinburgh Castle. The Sheraton recently released One Square Gin in partnership with the local Pickering’s Gin Distillery to create a signature blend of the high quality, small-batch spirit served in the Sheraton’s bar of the same name. Finish the day with a crisp and refreshing gin and tonic on their terrace to complete your journey in reaching nirvana.

For more recommendations or for a tour tailored to your own specific interests, contact bespoke@littles.co.uk where you can speak with our tour designers on our private city sightseeing tours of Glasgow, Edinburgh and other areas of interest as well as our extended private guided tours of Scotland. Alternatively, you can reach Little’s 24/7 via our Head Office number on +44 (0) 141 883 2111.

We look forward to welcoming you to Scotland.