Royal opening for Saughton Park following £8m restoration

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has officially reopened Edinburgh’s historic Saughton Park.

Following a £8m seven-year renovation project to fully refurbish and reinstate many of the Park’s original Edwardian features – transforming the gardens into an inclusive space for the whole local community – the project has officially been declared complete today (Thursday 6 June).

As Patron of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, HRH was invited to tour the restored park with Edinburgh’s Lord Lieutenant, Frank Ross, and to unveil a plaque to commemorate the milestone.

Commenting on the Royal Opening, the Lord Lieutenant of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, said:

It is incredible to see Saughton Park’s restoration. The new walled gardens are blooming with thousands of flowers, the conservatories and community spaces are warm and inviting and the bandstand has been returned to its original beauty. It really is stunning.

Everyone involved in the project, including dozens of volunteers from the local community, have worked incredibly hard over the last seven years to revitalise this historic and much-loved park. It feels fitting that the gardens are formally opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, the Patron of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society. She follows in the footsteps of His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, the son of Queen Victoria, who toured the grounds and declared the Scottish National Exhibition as open, 111 years ago.

The Park, which will be powered by green energy, also boasts a new café and restored stables for use as a new community venue and base for the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society (The Caley).

HRH met with staff and volunteers who collaborated on the project, including local Councillors and members of the Caley and Friends of Saughton Park, gardeners from the Council and supporters from Capability Scotland and Health All Round, who have all been working together to make the gardens truly accessible, work for the local community and remain beautifully in bloom.

She also met with community members of the The Welcoming Association, which supports new citizens as they settle in Edinburgh, and received a stirring pipe band performance from school pupils at Tynecastle High School, who became the first musicians to perform at the park’s newly restored Bandstand. The Edinburgh Makar, Alan Spence, also recited a bespoke poem. 

Shona Nelson, Chairperson of the Friends of Saughton Park, said:

The Friends of Saughton Park were delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal to officially open the Park today.  We would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring the park back to its former glory, it is looking absolutely stunning.  As volunteers, all our hard work is a labour of love. We feel that Saughton Park is a very special place to meet old friends and make new ones, and we look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.

Pam Whittle is Honorary Vice President of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, ‘The Caley’, which is Scotland’s National Gardening Charity. She said:

I believe this project demonstrates the benefits of working in partnership and we are delighted to be involved in the restoration and rejuvenation of Saughton Park. We are looking forward to the opportunities The Caley’s new base at Saughton will provide.

The Walled Gardens are fully open, opening from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.  The Courtyard will open later in summer, where a new volunteer bothy and a new community space will be located. New cafe tenants Cost Effective Catering Ltd are in the process of fitting out the new cafe, which is called the Garden Bistro, and work is progressing well with the construction of the new micro-hydro scheme on the Water of Leith. It is anticipated that it will be generating all the electricity for the park by early 2020.

A public event will take place on Saturday 31 August to celebrate the restoration of Saughton Park, once the Garden Bistro is open, and a programme of events and activities will be announced soon.

The restoration of Saughton Park has been a partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council, the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and the Friends of Saughton Park with £3.8m funding from the Heritage Fund. 

First established in the 17th century on the grounds of Saughtonhall House, which later became an asylum, the gardens were purchased by the Council in the early 1900s for recreational use by the people of Gorgie and Saughton.

In 1908, Saughton Park was redesigned to accommodate the Scottish National Exhibition, when more than 3.5m visitors flocked to enjoy the attractions. It is hoped that the park’s restoration will recapture the spirit of the time, refreshing some of the key features installed for the Exhibition, including the bandstand, botanic garden and winter garden.

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