One of the huge pleasures of city life is the Walking Tour. Today I went on my second garden tour with the entertaining and knowledgeable Jean of Greenyonder Tours.
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This garden lies behind Register House and is known as the Archivists’ Garden. I was oblivious to its existence before this afternoon but have walked past the entrance to the court on countless occasions while cutting through from the Wellington Statue to St Andrews Square.
The court is formed of Register House, The Court of the Lord Lyon and The National Archives of Scotland. They’ve been there a long time. Register House being a grand building erected around the time the first New Town was under construction.and finished, after a few hiccups, in late eighteenth century.
The garden, however, dates from 2010 and contains 57 plant species chosen to mark Scottish people, myth, heraldry, overseas links and folklore.
Next along was the garden in front of Dundas House, or the Royal Bank of Scotland. James Craig had reserved the prime site of his prize-winning scheme for St George’s Church and was out-manoeuvred by Lawrence Dundas. The building is a working branch and anyone can walk in to look at the magnificent banking hall. Outside, Jean drew our attention to these marvellous ‘honeysuckle’ railings.
Then through the now open to the public St Andrews Square, along to Thistle Court where James Young built the first houses of the New Town. They aren’t grand six story affairs, but good middle-class buildings.
Finally, we arrived in Heriot Row, the second New Town. It wasn’t built by the council, but they had formed stronger planning guidelines by this time and that shows in the greater uniformity. The three Queen Street Gardens were created from farms and, Jean told us, that explains the crescent shape of Abercromby as it followed the boundary of one of them. A question she left with us – Is this the island Robert Louis Stevenson had in his consciousness when writing Treasure Island?
There are many more New Town gardens, some private and shut away, some, like Charlotte Square and Princes Street Gardens readily accessible. Sanctuaries for wildlife and human inhabitants, too, they are our own treasure.