If you find yourself in Edinburgh, Scotland, you will be inclined to walk the Royal Mile from Holyrood House to Edinburgh Castle.
It is the iconic corridor. Travel guides highlight it. People flock to it; movies immortalize it. Along the way, there is history, shops, then more history, and more shops.
If you are strong enough to reject purchasing a tartan everything (which, since I live in the low desert of Phoenix, AZ, I do not need) and you aren’t into the whiskey tastings and the crowds surrounding you are a bit too close. Then slip into the Dunbar’s Close Garden. “Close” in Scots means an alley leading into a square or courtyard, and this courtyard garden is a haven of calm, quiet, and refreshing green.
This walled garden, based on a design of the 17th century, is divided into five areas. You are greeted by cooling shade; three whitebeam trees stand in the corners, with a large tulip tree centered in the first parterre knot garden.
Depending on when you visit, there are colorful flowers, snowdrops, & grape hyacinths in spring and marigolds, agapanthus, and honeywort in summer.
Walking into the next garden room you find two more knot gardens with espaliered apple and pear trees framing the entrance. The third-knot garden is punctuated with geometric squares, lines, cone-shaped yews, and box balls of green.
Walking to the back of the garden, you arrive in the wilderness area. Visiting here you are likely to find yourself alone. It is such a small garden, but to wander to the back is to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the thoroughfare outside. Shade and a choice of benches provide a much-needed place to sit and enjoy the quiet paradise of green.
It is clear to me that escaping the pull of the retail sirens is much desired when I travel. Gardens provide this escape, they quiet the frenzies that crowded travel creates.
Nowhere has this been clearer than this small garden tucked aside from a royal thoroughfare.
Edinburgh is full of stairs; steps are essential as you move between the old town and the new town. So it was a beautiful surprise to climb the Scotsman’s steps. Today’s steps are a work of art completed in 2011. The original steps were built of necessity in 1899 and named for the primary newspaper of the time, The Scotsman. The art project, Work No.1059, to repair and reestablish this element of the city’s history, is now a stone exhibition.
“Each step is now clad in a different color of marble. The major marble quarries of the world, from Italy to India, from Belgium to Brazil, are all represented here.* Martin Creed, the artist in charge of the project, said, “I like that each color of marble represents all the colors and peoples of the world, And I’ve always liked steps. When you go up them, you feel like you’ve got somewhere. I like steps for the same reason that people like mountains.”*
There are 104 steps, and I agree that when you reach the top, you feel like you’ve got somewhere!