A wee corner of paradise, just south of Edinburgh.
When I was wee, I used to love the book The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. So when I heard whisperings that Edinburgh had a recently opened Secret Garden of its own (via the folks at the Century General Store who stock its delicious produce!) I was eager to seek it out – if it would be found! Last month my Mum and I set off in the car to explore and see if we could find the elusive Secret Herb Garden.*
It certainly lived up to my childlike dream of the Secret Garden – but an even better, grown-up version with all manner of spots to explore: from the verdant greenhouse with every herb imaginable, to a room full of vintage furniture and a café boasting delectable homemade treats. We were greeted by some of the Herb Garden’s residents, below. How sweet are those pastel-coloured hen coops?
After we had stopped being distracted by the chickens (easily done), we made our way into the fragrant glasshouse. It really is the most beautiful space – packed to the rafters with every herb imaginable. What hits you first is the intoxicating scent of the herbs and flowers within, including edible flowering plants and every herb variety – and combination – you can think of. Bronze fennel, pineapple sage and sweet cicely (one of my favourites), there are quite literally hundreds of herbs to choose from, from the everyday to the eclectic.
Edible flowers decorate the borders, with row upon row of herbs by the pot, neatly set out on tables – it’s like a sweet shop (but better if you ask me). Once you’ve done sniffing your way around all those herbs (and wowing over the names and flavour combinations) there are some lovely wee nooks to sit and just take in that heady fragrance and the accompanying hypnotic hum of the bees. The mismatched vintage furniture – armchairs, deckchairs, teepee – dotted around gives it a bit of a surreal, Alice in Wonderland feel (in the best way possible).
You could easily get lost in that glasshouse for hours and come away with more herbs than you have garden (or window sill in my case). We tore ourselves away to explore what else was on offer, and naturally I was drawn to the Herb Garden’s very own vintage furniture shop. It was beautifully set out – I was coveting the pastel chair (and vowing to take on that upcycling project) and the gorgeous straw baskets, and there was even a beautiful antique wash stand.
Next up is a must-visit if you venture out there – the gorgeous wee Herb Garden café and shop. Set up a bit like an old-fashioned green grocer/ sweet shop/ general store/ delicatessan, I loved the vintage styling and antique displays, from old weighing scales and baskets to enamelware and retro cabinets. You could even buy the antique chairs we were sitting on!
I adored the pastel coloured, upcycled antique dressers – when I’m a grown-up I really want one in my kitchen (well I’ll have to have a home for all that vintage china I’ve been collecting!). They sell all sorts – from garden bits and bobs, miniature terracotta pots, markers and tools, to fresh and dried produce from the Herb Garden itself. I was kicking myself for not buying that dried elderflower (the Herb Garden’s very own!) or some fresh, edible flowers. Those floral flavoured sweeties below look almost too good to eat as well!
Best of all were the homemade bakes, which were calling my name. Many of them incorporated the Herb Garden’s produce, naturally, and there were some cracking flavour combinations – I could have a slice of that strawberry and basil cake right now. I went for the aubergine, honey and chocolate cake, which was deliciously rich and chocolatey but really fresh and light tasting.
I had an elderflower tea too – yum. I absolutely fell in love with the Secret Herb Garden, it’s a wee oasis of calm with a real magic and old-fashioned charm about the place that’s so genuine and refreshing. I love how all the different elements came together – shop, garden, café, furniture – and it’s such a lovely, different way to spend an afternoon exploring. I enjoyed our visit so much so that I almost, almost didn’t want to share it. So just keep it to yourselves ok…
Have you been to the Secret Herb Garden? What’s your hidden gem, in Edinburgh or where you live?
* The Secret Herb Garden is actually really well sign-posted – you can find it on the Old Pentland Road, South of the city and just off the A702!