Our Friends Group recently sought the expertise and help of Historic Environment Scotland in helping us investigate this garden, and must credit the RCAHMS staff for their help and Canmore for a lot of the historic images on this website. Scotland’s Urban Past is an ongoing project helping support Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden with opportunities to train in field archaeology & help document and record the ‘lost’ garden. Other sources of images and reference material on this site have include the National Map Library of Scotland and the National Records of Scotland.
The Medieval Garden in Scotland
In common with English and European gardens of the period, medieval Scottish gardens were primarily practical; extensions of agriculture, with the aim of providing special additions to the table and curatives for the sick. However, the concept of the garden as a benefit to the spirit rose with the power of the Church, and the nobility began to add gardens of contemplation to existing kitchen and physic gardens wherever possible, as an aid to saving their souls.
Of course, in Scotland, most noble houses of the period were fortified, if not fortresses, so such gardens were often created simply from a small field away from the main dwelling, given over to wild flowers and bee hives, where it was possible to have some privacy from the bustle of everyday life.
The Scottish Walled Garden
Walled gardens were a feature of many houses and castles throughout Britain, but none so numerous as in Scotland. The harsher climate, the depredations of deer, rabbits and a largely poor population meant most Scottish lairds protected their kitchen crops with walls and locked gates.
These enclosures created an environment in which soil could be enriched and improved with confidence, safe in the knowledge that the effort involved would go to feed only the privileged of the house! Likewise, they provided a microclimate in which slightly more tender vegetables, fruit and herbs could be established and enjoyed
Unfortunately, as with most Medieval gardens, Scottish pleasure garden and wildflower meadow layouts of the period were swept away in the Renaissance. Walled kitchen and physic gardens survived longer due to their practical nature, primarily only in fragments now. However, outlines of how these fashions were adapted to the particular nature of Scottish architecture and estates can be gleaned from paintings, drawings and writings of the time, as well as surviving maps and plans for extensions and improvements to estates.
Traces remain of two Medieval walled gardens at Cawdor Castle in Nairn.
This makes Granton Castle Walled Garden very rare nationally, and unique in Edinburgh!