The Castle

Since 2013 residents in North Edinburgh have been researching and gathering pieces of evidence making up the puzzling story of Granton’s ‘lost’ medieval garden. This led to its relisting and recognition by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016, with our research and findings incorporated into the statement of special interest for this regionally important walled garden. Listed Building record LB28139.

Our Friends Group 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 was a project that supported 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 include the National Map Library of Scotland and the National Records of Scotland.

Who built Granton Castle, what happened to it and where exactly was it?
What would have been grown at the walled garden in Mary Queen of Scots’ time?
Who was King William the Lion and what on earth did he have to do with Granton?

Just a few of the intriguing questions we have tried to answer over the last few years. Brilliant advice and help from the Scotland’s Urban Past team back in 2015 allowed us to map the historic footprint of the missing castle and develop some field archaeology and cartography skills.

Many archives have been accessed by group members as each thread of information was followed up and new finds made, even at the garden itself with the walls revealing their story of change. The foundation of the castle lookout tower was excavated and rare charter references discovered, dating the Granton Estate back to the 1160s and the era of King William the Lion and the first sheriff of Edinburgh.

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.

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.

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.


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 one other Medieval walled garden at Cawdor Castle in Nairn.
This makes Granton Castle Walled Garden very rare nationally, and unique in Edinburgh!