Great gardens, shame about the restaurant


Just when you thought the subject of Edinburgh was done with – here’s another episode (the last, I promise). Some years ago I watched a short television series based on Kate Atkinson’s books featuring detective Jackson Brodie* (brilliantly played by Jason Isaacs below). Rated by author Stephen King  as “the best mystery of the decade,”  Case Histories is set in Edinburgh. There was a short cafe scene filmed at the Royal Botanic Garden. Quite what it was that so captured my imagination I’m unsure, but the moment I saw it I said that one day I wanted to sit there drinking coffee too.  I’ve thought about this many times so when we planned to visit the city, it was there on my list of things to do.

Case Histories

Big disappointment – I think that this picture was taken in the large foyer (plenty of room for camera crew etc.) as it doesn’t reflect either the Terrace cafe or the Gateway restaurant at all. I wanted coffee sitting amid that lush, over-sized foliage but neither venue offers such surroundings  and the service in the latter left a a great deal to be desired!  Debris-strewn tables, no interest in us as customers – we got up and left.

The gardens themselves however are fabulous, and were established in 1670 right where Waverley train station now sits, later moving to site a mile from the city centre. It now covers more than 70 acres.

A small building in the Queen Mother’s memorial garden is lined with shells and pebbles collected by schoolchildren all over Scotland.

Entry to the gardens is free, though a small charge is made on entry to the glasshouses (ten of them with the largest forming the entrance to them) which are home to all kinds of weird and wonderful plants.


We didn’t get to see everything – seventy acres is a large area to cover and 13,000 plant species too many to describe, but despite this took far too many photographs to show them all, or to even begin to portray the huge variety of plants but here are a few of my favourites including Himalayan blue poppies.

The tropical rain forest vegetation offered banana trees, rice, sugar and cocoa plants surrounding the lily pond, and very humid conditions.

We have Botanical gardens in Birmingham, a 40 minute train ride away and yet I have never been. What an omission and one that I need to rectify.

The sharp intake of breath from those who warned that the east coast of Scotland offered an unpredictable climate had been justified, though I suspect they weren’t referring to the unpredictable HOT temperatures and sunshine,  so hot so that, at times, we needed to find shade.





  1. I didn’t make it to the Botanical Gardens when we were in Edinburgh but I do love Botanical Gardens, in general. I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and I have read nearly all her books. I enjoyed the Jackson Brodie television series too. Shame about the café.


    • I think I fell a little in love with Jackson! Apparently Kate Atkinson said in 2010 of JB that she she felt she’d taken him as far as she could and that the next time we see him might be in seven years time. She’s overdue!

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  2. some years back there was in fact another cafe/restaurant which was located within the gardens, not at the newish one at the entrance. the photograph looks as if it was taken there perhaps. it was in the midst of greenery, with outside seating. lovely place, no idea if it is still there.


    • The Terrace Cafe is still there and we ended up having refreshment there but although the building is located in amongst the greenery, inside it is a bit soulless. I’m sure the photograph was taken in the east gate entrance and for TV purposes it was used as a cafe setting. Thanks for commenting. I hope you’ll carry on reading.


    • There is a hedge that is 100 years old! Imagine that and I couldn’t even keep my lovely Starlight Express Rose for a quarter of that time!


  3. I visited Edinburgh a few years ago and the gardens are wonderful. I didn’t try the restaurant but just near one of the gates outside was a little cafe mainly catering to local workmen but it had a few seats so I had freshly cooked stovies which were delicious then took black bun away with me.


    • We did see a catering van outside the East gate, but it wasn’t really about having the refreshment; it was that I wanted to sit in that very spot!


  4. What a shame that the café didn’t measure up … how annoying that the film indicated that it would be under those wonderful plants. How such places can mar a visit, too. We’ve often enjoyed a house or garden only to be disappointed by the café/restaurant.
    Margaret P


    • So easy to get it wrong, Margaret. My pet hate in such places is uncleared tables. Often it is because they employ too few staff but this didn’t appear to be the case this time.


  5. I now live in North East Scotland. Many years ago we visited Birmingham Botanical it was boiling and i got stung by three wasps, never before or since. So watch out for them. Well worth a visit otherwise.


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