With the long summer days and the August festival almost upon us, the vibe in Edinburgh is ramping up. And with that comes the official opening of Festival Village, the outdoor venue above Waverley Mall.
Wander in off Prince’s Street after a day out and you’ll come across the newly decorated space. While the bones remain the same – wooden floors, tables dotted about, pop-up bars, a microphone stand set up for live music – this year’s decor is entirely different. Think bare lightbulbs hanging low from the makeshift ceiling, pale pink, orange and white flowers strung about and the bar brightly painted with florals.
This year’s headline acts are The Secret Herb Garden, a boutique gin distillery, cafe and garden just south of the city, and Smugglers Spirits, makers of small-batch spirits and named after the smugglers who used to ply their trade during the 18th-century prohibition.
Founding director of The Secret Herb Garden Hamish Martin, sporting a kilt, takes to the mic to chat about his craft. Being a herbalist means he grows his own herbs and botanicals on his family’s 7.5-acre plot: “I refuse to grow anything that needs artificial peat or isn’t happy in our own climate”, he says. Among the 600 plant types available is, for instance, the apothecary rose. Originally, he explains he created his rose gin “just for a laugh at home but after discussing how to make a living with my wife, she suggested we make a business out of it.” In 1997 (“2017” his daughter corrects him from the crowd to a wry laugh), the distillery was born. Other botanicals include lemon verbena, which he explains “really packs a punch” and juniper, a gin staple, which is “grown like a vineyard” on the property.
That said, if you’re out enjoying those summer evenings, we suggest heading round to Festival Village for one of these perfect serves:
Apothecary Rose Gin: pair with light tonic water and garnish with raspberry and mint. By The Secret Herb Garden
Lemon Verbena Gin: serve with light tonic water and lemon as a garnish. By The Secret Herb Garden
Old Sins Navy Strength Gin: drink with ginger beer and an orange wedge. By Smugglers Spirits
Smugglers Gin: add classic tonic water and a lemon wedge. By Smugglers Spirits
Top tip: walk-ins only – so get there a little early to grab yourself a good spot. If you head to the space around the back of the market, there’s a fantastic view over the Old Town.
Monday to Sunday: 11 am to 10 pm