After my Celtic Literature and Gaedhlig courses today, I had a good six hours before my evening shift of work and it was a gorgeous day: chilly, but sunny and clear.  With winter on the way, I feel like I need to take advantage of any reasonably good day that comes along.

So I scurried back to my room and prepared for an expedition out to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh.  It’s a bit of a walk from the Royal Mile, about a mile and a half down into the city, but I’m getting rather used to walking and it was such a nice day, it couldn’t be bad, right?

By the time I’d had some lunch, put on my coat, packed my camera, and walked out my door, my blue sky had completely disappeared, replaced with slate gray.  By the time I got down to Princes Street, it was raining.  I almost turned back.  The blue was gone and it was raining steadily.  But it had been sunny just an hour before!  I decided that if it could go from blue to gray, it could go from gray to blue.  Plus, I was already on my way.  I was committed!

It turned out that I was right.  By the time I arrived, the clouds were breaking up and almost as soon as I entered the gardens, the sun came out.

They turned out to be a lot more extensive than I had imagined, spreading out over a wide area with a variety of different themed gardens.

The first one I came upon was the Rock Garden.  There was a beautiful waterfall and pond and lots of paths through the gardens and trees.

I love when I can make choices rather than feeling like I am being led along one set path.  I am sure that I missed some parts of the garden.  I will have to go back someday!

Pretty waterfall!  There was a cute little wooden bridge going over it.

The gardens were full of really nice, lush green patches of grass.  I discovered the fun way that they tended to be very wet and squishy, though.  I wasn’t terribly surprised.

I bet this place is incredible in the spring and summer, but there were still quite a few bright colors.

It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in the city – you can always spot that castle.

More pretty flowers.  Clearly a botanist, I am not, because I have no idea what any of these are.  I’m sure my mother could identify them.

Lovely old chestnut tree.  I figured that one out myself after kicking aside a few little green chestnut burrs.  I have such fond memories of stepping on those as a child… and pulling the little bristles out of my feet… okay, maybe not such fond memories.  The tree was pretty though.

There were lots of birch trees as well.

Lamb’s ears?  I don’t know what the technical name is.  They are fuzzy and soft (like lamb’s ears, I imagine) and pale green (not so much like lamb’s ears, I would hope).

This definitely fit my criteria for an excellent garden: it has lots of paths leading to beautiful places and it is easy to feel lost in it.

I was feeling quite proud of myself for braving the rain to get here and being duly rewarded with sunshine, but of course, this is Scotland, so it couldn’t last.  It started to rain while I was walking through the park, even though I could still clearly see blue and sunshine.  I ducked under a tree.  I took a few pictures and managed to get one where you can actually see the raindrops.

That’s a bird coming down to land.  Kudos to my bird-loving friends if they know what it is.  I just thought it was pretty.

And more flowers.

Among the many gardens that you can walk through, there is one Chinese-themed garden.  It apparently has the most native Chinese plants in one place outside of China itself.

I liked the entrance.

The sky above shows exactly what sort of day it was: half sunny and half cloudy.  I tried to stand under the sunny half but it kept moving!

Pretty little pagoda in the Chinese garden.  It overlooked a nice little pond.

I admit, it was a little weird for me to be wandering through a Chinese garden in Scotland.  As a tourist, that sort of hurts my mind a little bit.

Mmm, yummy berries!

Calm down, I didn’t eat any.

I appreciated the heron posing for the photo.  As soon as I turned the camera away, of course, it flew across to the other side of the pond and I missed some really neat shots of the heron in flight.  But this one isn’t so bad.

Super-meaningful Chinese symbol on the ceiling of the pagoda.  I promise I read what it was, but I simply did not retain the information.

This place made me want to have a picnic, but one step onto the grass changed my mind.  It was like walking on a sponge.

The picture below is of a big, mysterious looking well.  Walking up to it, I anticipated some deep, impressive darkness when I looked into it, what with all the trees carefully planted around it as if it is some sort of magic well.

It turned out to be about as deep as the walls were high and filled with old debris and slate rocks.  I was not pleased.

I saw the plaque marked “Fire Dragon” but saw neither fire nor dragon.  The plant is not remotely draconic.  Not impressed.

Hello, castle!

Here’s a fun thing to do with your camera at a waterfall.  Turn up the shutter speed as high as you can (while still producing a clear image) and take a picture of the water.  You can see the individual droplets and splashes of water.  Way cool, right?

Then, turn the shutter speed way, way, way down and the water blurs, which is also pretty.

Yellow flower!

Interesting deep brown/red bark on this tree.  It is probably some sort of native Chinese tree.  I have no idea what it is, though.

So much bamboo!  I waited hopefully for a panda to come ambling out of the brush, but alas, no such luck.

This was the greenhouse.  It costs money to enter and I didn’t really have enough interest in going in to pay for it.  I’m all about the free trips.  The building is really neat from the outside, anyway, and this picture didn’t cost me a cent.

Pink flowers!

Purple flowers!

On the one hand, possibly the best entry to a garden ever.  On the other, the OCD in me is crying out “Why, oh why is it not centered over the path?”

The outer hedge of this portion of the garden was incredibly high.  The picture doesn’t really show it.  The bit to my right is taller than my head and the outer hedge at the far end is twice that height.  Hopefully that gives you some idea of how tall these walls were.  I love hedges!

Below is the Queen Mother’s garden, dedicated about five years ago by her.  The plants are laid out in the pattern of another Chinese symbol I don’t remember.

Yes, I know I seem to have a tendency to take close ups of every brightly colored flower that I happen to pass by.  It’s fun and the pictures are pretty and I like flowers!  I shall not apologize for it.  But just to demonstrate that I can take pictures of things other than flowers…

Scottish squirrel!

And lots of ducks!

I think the ones in the picture below are playing tag… or maybe Duck, Duck, Goose?

I shall call this one: “Two Birds in Flight over the Pond.”

It was idyllic, to say the least.  A dad with his two little daughters was feeding bread crumbs to the ducks.  The littlest girl didn’t seem to understand that the bread was for the ducks and kept cramming it into her mouth or, when she felt more generous, would offer it to her sister, father, or to me!

Here’s a gull zeroing in on the little girls with the bread crumbs.  I left soon after, but I do hope the dad kept the birds from getting too demanding for those crumbs.

I shall call this one: “Gluttonous Gull”

These two weren’t getting along…

After leaving the park, I had another mile and a half walk to get back to my room.  This time it was all uphill, but luckily the sky stayed bright and clear until I got back.  Now I am exhausted, I haven’t done any homework, I have five hours of tutoring ahead of me… but it was just the sort of afternoon that demands an expedition and my camera has been sitting around for far too long.

Now to work!