Following a hugely successful soft launch, during which it succeeded in picking up a Silver Gilt Medal at the hugely prestigious Gardening Scotland awards, glorious new retreat Secret Herb Garden will officially open its doors this June.
In a stunning 7.5 acre wonderland of raised beds and orchards – not to mention a gigantic greenhouse – visitors can, in the words of owner Hamish Martin, “experience a jungle of herbs where they can totally lose themselves.”
Located on the outskirts of Edinburgh and set against the dramatic backdrop of the Pentland Hills, the garden is home to over 500 different herbs, from hardy sages, ideal for local climes, through to rather more exotic species such as the Balm of Gilead and gingko. Even old-fashioned, and in some cases almost forgotten, varieties such as elecampane, feverfew and costmary are well represented.
At Secret Herb Garden roses are cultivated for their culinary value as well as their beauty; other edible flowers include cowslips, primroses, nasturtiums and marigolds.
Further enhancing the experience are a series of courses – some of which take place in a converted railway carriage – that include the use of herbs in cosmetics, medicine and cooking, along with wreath and candle-making.
Another railway carriage has been transformed into a bee observatory where visitors can sit and watch these fascinating creatures at work. Secret Herb Garden boasts some 12 hives and offers bee keeping courses run by resident expert Brian Pool, along with all the necessary equipment.
An oil drum meanwhile has been artfully converted into a herbalist treatment room. Following their consultation, clients are taken into the garden and shown how to collect the herbs that will heal their particular ailment.
Secret Herb Garden’s natural wonders can also be savoured in a different guise, by means of the herbal-infused teas, coffees and cakes that can be imbibed or purchased in the delightful on-site café and delicatessen. The latter also supplies picnic baskets to further enhance a visit.
For those who wish to take a little piece of this paradise back home with them, a shop sells a fine array of herbs complemented by teas, beeswax candles, seeds and vintage tools.
An enchanting new attraction for all the family, every Sunday sees Secret Herb Garden run herbal safaris for children aged eight to 11, and Magic, Fairies & Herb tours for three to eight year olds.
The seeds for Secret Herb Garden were first sown in 2011 when Hamish Martin decided to pursue a radical career change. Having successfully built up Inverarity Vaults to become Scotland’s leading independent wine merchants, he sold the business and embarked on a Diploma in Herbology at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. At the same time, Hamish’s wife Liberty, a successful recruitment consultant, was also looking for a change in lifestyle.
12 months later, the couple stumbled upon a large, derelict greenhouse in Lothianburn to the southwest of Edinburgh. They bought the entire plot and together with their four children and assorted animals, spent the next 24 months living in two static caravans, working tirelessly to achieve their dream of creating a Secret Herb Garden.