The Lawn, historic garden and surrounding wooded areas at the heart of Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus were originally laid out as the formal gardens of a country house which dated back to the 15th century.
The formal gardens themselves were laid out in the 18th Century in the prevailing ‘picturesque’ style, while later owners continued improvements to the ground and added collections of exotic trees and plants. Thus the garden design is an overlay of several periods, and its maintenance takes account of historical features, conservation, biodiversity, maintaining the mix of indigenous and exotic plants, and the support of wildlife.
Since the University acquired the Riccarton estate in 1969, care has been taken to safeguard the tranquillity and quality of this area, and the Edinburgh Campus Conservation Committee are consulted on all aspects of landscape conservation, maintenance and management.
Key features include a lawn dating back at least 200 years and containing over 38 plant species as well as dome and drum yew trees; the grassed ‘Velvet Walk’ bordered with yews, holly and laurel; three mature woodland areas, with stone walls and containing Scottish and exotic plantings from the historic collection; and a walled private family cemetery area.
Visitors to the Campus, Lawn and the gardens are welcomed and the University has a Campus Guide booklet plus a series of leaflets outlining History, Sculpture, Bird, Landscape and Tree walks all freely available. We hope that gaining another Green Flag Award will encourage more visitors as well as recognising the achievements of the University and its partners in sustaining these historic gardens.