Garden of Cosmic Speculation - Atlas Obscura

Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Holywood, Scotland

A 30-acre garden inspired by the principles of modern physics. 


Snail-shaped grass mounds, twisting DNA helix sculptures, and undulating waves of rhododendrons make up the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, a 30-acre garden whose design is guided by the fundamentals of modern physics.

The garden was designed by architecture theorist Charles Jencks and his late wife, Maggie Keswick, an expert on Chinese gardens. Located at their private residence, Portrack House, near Dumfries, Scotland, the design, according to Jencks, brings out the basic elements that underlie the cosmos.

From 1989 until Keswick’s death in 1995, Jencks and his wife met with horticulturists and scientists in order to design a landscape that would bridge the worlds of art, nature, and science. Perhaps viewed as an unconventional approach to landscaping, the garden features a dizzying display of geometric fractals that all illuminate—or at least are inspired by—concepts of black holes, string theory, and the “Big Bang.”

The garden features five major areas connected by a number of artificial lakes, bridges, and other architectural works, including large white staircases and terraces that zigzag down a green hillside, representing the story of the creation of the universe.

Jencks continued work on the garden through 2007. Today, it is open to the public one day a year through the Scotland’s Gardens Scheme and helps to raise money for Maggie’s Centres, a cancer care foundation named after Jenck’s late wife.

Update as of December 2023: Closed until March 2024. Tickets are required via the website.

Know Before You Go

Holywood 1½ miles off A76, five miles north of Dumfries. Tickets are limited to 5,000 visitors and the site is only open one day per year, typically the first Sunday of May. Tickets are available through the Scotland Gardens website.

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