The Secret Herb Garden
Well hello there! We've just returned from our first camping trip of the year in Scotland and it was utterly brilliant. Although it rained A LOT and I pretty much lived in my winter jumper. Seriously August, you'd better get your act in gear and give me some sunshine. Plus, I've returned to Yorkshire with a stinky, summer cold.
For the first couple of nights in Scotland, we stayed with my Mum and Dad. Spending time seeing family, a quick visit to Glasgow for a little vintage shopping, cake eating and a mooch around the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Unfortunately it rained so hard most of the time that we didn't get a chance to go to the seaside but we had a nice time all the same. Thankfully the sun came out a little in between light showers and we headed off on our camping adventure. I'll share more on that in a separate post. Today I wanted to show our visit to the most special of places, The Secret Herb Garden, nestled under the Pentland Hills just south of Edinburgh.
I discovered this place last year, one of those random pictures on Instagram's search page that caught my eye and made me go google it to find out more. One of my favourite Scottish blogs, Everything Looks Rosie had actually already featured it and it made me really eager to visit as soon as possible. But I had to wait nearly a whole year until I was able to get up there. From all the photographs I'd seen I just knew it was a place that I would absolutely love. A big glasshouse stuffed full of flowers, herbs, cake and vintage furniture - well that's my idea of paradise. Please do go check out Rosie's blog as it's not only about fantastic places to see in Edinburgh, she makes the most beautiful cakes and is a super stylish vintage wearing lady too!
One of the first things you see when you arrive is the old VW Beetle in the corner, boot and bonnet up, herbs and flowers tumbling out of both. It's planted inside too, the driver's door is unlocked and you can nestle in amongst the greenery. It's such a fun, unique focal point that enraptures kids and adults alike. The garden is super family friendly, lots of little places to explore from tipis, mini yurts and a bee observatory. The cafe is well catered for kids too, lots of healthy snacks and drinks. And on a Sunday they have their Magic Fairy walk round the herb garden.
I must admit that as soon as I entered the cafe and saw the cakes I was in baking heaven. Many have floral flavours, something that I adore, and there were several vegan options too. But I managed to resist the cakes as I was keen to try the vegetable quiche with the secret herby salad. You can also enjoy a glass of the Garden's own wine, but I didn't get a chance to do this as I was driving. Harry of course, plumped for the chocolate gateau which he declared delicious. The quiche was tasty and the salad was so, so good, but I have no idea what was in it. Even Harry liked the edible flowers, surprised by the flavour. I knew that some of them were calendula and borage but the pink ones? I didn't have a clue. Everything is served in vintage enamelware and you can choose to eat in the cafe, or go take a seat in the glasshouse and have lunch there. We ate in amongst the herbs and flowers, sitting at one of many rustic garden tables decorated with jars of wildflowers. We enjoyed listening to the bees happily working and spotting lots of little details, like those vintage enamel ladles, actually used as tealight holders, snuggled amongst the pear cordons.
After lunch we spent some time wandering around the glasshouse. There are fruit trees abundant with peaches, pears and apples. Little paths divide seating areas, each with a selection of vintage and rustic furniture, surrounded by perennials, herbs and climbers. I tried to get a photograph of the two overstuffed sofas set in amongst the giant sunflowers, but it was being used by a group of artists painting the beautiful flowers. I managed to grab a quick shot whilst they went to lunch, although they'd left all their jackets and equipment on the table and sofas, so it's not as good as I wanted it to be. Never mind, hopefully next time.
Outside there is plenty to see. Nooks and crannies filled with terracotta pots, junk planters spilling over with flowering herbs, fruit trees and rose bushes for sale. There is a room devoted to vintage finds for sale, with lots of beautiful baskets, larder cupboards and galvanised watering cans. And of course, so many pots of herbs and edible flower plants that it was impossible to decide what to take home. There is an area devoted to the bees, with a field teaming with wildflowers for them to forage on and a sweet little warning sign - 'Bee Careful!'. And in the Bee Observatory, you can lift a screen and see the honeybees busy at work in the hive. I also loved the part of the garden where they grew all the herbs and flowers for the cafe - it was a riot of colour and scents. A real assault on the senses.
The Garden also houses a school and a therapy room. They run beekeeping courses, herbal medicine and yoga. How nice would it be to learn these skills in this cozy space with that big old Aga warming the room? Actually, I think if I sat in one of those chairs, I'd probably never get up again.
The Secret Herb Garden is a very special place indeed and somewhere we will visit again and again when we are back in Scotland. We left with some herbs and plants and of course, the beer! I'm still wishing I was back there, sitting in the sunshine amongst the flowers, sipping a little glass of the wine. And why didn't I go back for a slice of cake? Bonkers...........
* Commonly named as 'sticky willy' in Scotland, this is the notorious velcro like weed, 'Galium aparine' also known as cleavers.