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Issue 76 - Redhall

Scotland Magazine Issue 76
August 2014

 

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Redhall

A hidden herb garden sheltered from a busy world

It has to be one of Edinburgh's most enchanting hidden secrets, a haven of tranquility and beautiful planting concealed in a dip between the Lanark Road and the Pentland Hills.

In effect, the pathway that leads to it is so unexpected and unasuming that hitherto only those who live locally, or those who have been told about it, have known what lies at the end of it.

Now, of course, the word is out. But given the story behind the Herb Garden at Redhall, it was inevitable.

Long ago, the Parish of Slateford Longstone was part of the ancient parish of Hailes, a gift from King Duncan II to the monks of Dunfermline in 1095. In the 13th century, a road forded the Water of Leith and climbed up to Redhall Tower.

In 1533, Redhall Tower, which sat on the rise above today's walled garden, became the home of Sir Adam Otterburn of Auld-hame, a King's Advocate, and in both 1522 and 1547, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. The estate later passed through marriage to the Hamiltons of Hoprigl, and then in August 1650, Redhall Castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell during his incursion into Scotland.

Sir James Hamilton, with 60 men, held Redhall Castle for two days until they ran out of ammunition and Cromwell’s troops got close enough to blow it up. It was never rebuilt.

Then in 1756, George Inglis of Auchendinny bought the estate, and commissioned the architect James Robertson to build Redhall House, using stone from the ruined castle.

During the 20th century, Redhall House was acquired by Edinburgh Corporation and from 1944 became a children’s home. Two schools were built in the grounds in 1978, but by 2007 both had closed, and Redhall House and the surrounding land were sold.

Then along came Jo Malone, the London-based supplier of bespoke fragrances, scented candles and gifts. Together with SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health), they have taken over Redhall's 18th century Walled Garden, maintaining it with trainee gardeners with a mental ill health history.

On the premis that gardening is good for the soul, therapeutic, and life enhancing, the six acres have been expertly re-planted , the Round House restored, and a herb garden created.

Those who have been instrumental in bringing it about have found it hugely beneficial, enabling an escape from the worries of their everyday lives. Every time a Jo Malone Silk Blossom candle is sold, the proceeds go towards the garden.

Opened to the public in June, the project has been judged an unqualified success, so much so that Jo Malone is now embarking upon similar schemes in Liverpool and Bristol, and collaborating with the actress Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project to create the Gil Hodges Community Garden in Brooklyn.

In the enveloping quiet of The Herb Garden at Redhall it is hard to believe that you are only minutes from the roar and relentless bustle of a great city. When the sun shines, the surroundings become a rainbow blaze of purples and reds, violets and yellows.

Only the occasional distant sound of gunfire reminds you that you are literally a mile or so from the army firing range at Castle Law on the Pentlands.

Or might it be the echo of the muskets of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers three centuries ago?