A visit to Dr Neils Garden in Duddingston

Crocus in the lawns

Visiting this garden has been on my endless list of things to do for years and we finally made it this March. Located in the village of Duddingston in the shadow of Arthurs Seat on the south side of Edinburgh, this hidden treasure runs down to the shore of Duddingston Loch.

A stunning red Euphorbia, perfect for a winter garden

In the early 1960's Dr Andrew and Dr Nancy Neil began work on a neglected piece of land next to the loch and church called the church glebe (church land). Previously grazed by cattle and geese the land was very rocky and of no use for crops. Gradually the couple turned the land into a garden full of conifers, heathers and alpines. In 1997 Dr Neils Garden Trust was created to take over the running of the garden and protect it for the future.

Gorgeous Hellebores
When we visited the snow drops were just going over and the Hellebores, Crocus and Iris were coming into full flower, giving lovely bursts of colour through the gardens under the conifers and shrubs. Hamamellis and early Rhododendrons were also flowering, underplanted with Ophiopogon nigrescens and Iris ungulicularis.

Crocus opening up

Rhus typhina

Iris ungulicularis, a winter flowering Iris

Walking through the garden under mature trees and along meandering paths you eventually come to Duddingston Loch. Edged with reeds, Cornus and willow, it makes a lovely outlook from the garden and a home to many birds.

Duddingston Loch from the gardens

Weeping willows on the loch side

A happy home for ducks

In a corner of the garden, down at the side of the loch sits Thomson's Tower. Designed by Henry Playfair and built in 1825 for the Duddingston curling team to store their stones. The upper floor was a meeting room and a studio for the Rev. John Thomson who was the minister of Duddingston from 1805 to 1840. Restored in 2008 the tower forms a lovely focal point in the lower gardens. 

Thomson's tower

This really is a garden for all seasons, from spring bulbs and hellebores, to Rhododendrons, shrubs and then into autumn with grasses and autumn colour. There is a cafe open on certain days and an excellent pub selling food and fine beers in the village.

Cyclamen, Crocus and Ophiopogon

Bridge over the pond

Garrya eliptica

One part of the garden I enjoyed was the physic garden, laid out in the shape of a flower and home to Dr Andrew's special interest in ear, nose and throat medicine on one side and on the other Dr Nancy's interest in gyno- urinary medicine. Thee is a very useful board explaining all the plants and their use. The physic garden was opened in 2013 in memory of the doctors, 50 years after they started work on the gardens.


Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Cherry blossom

Early Rhododendrons

After visiting the gardens we took Bracken for a walk along the loch side, you can't walk far and there are lots of hungry geese and swans. It was good to get another view of the loch and garden and get the doglet a walk before heading for a late lunch. We went to the Sheeps Heid Inn, tucked away behind the main road through the village. This old watering hole boasts a bowling alley and some excellent food. Website here.

The lane up to Duddingson Village

You can get information for visiting on the website for the gardens here Dr Neil's Garden

Looking over to the gardens from the Loch

Here's looking at you

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