The Secret Garden Party: Reviewed

I was initially apprehensive about the Lumsden Club’s Secret Garden Party on Saturday afternoon. Garden parties Any outdoor function in Scotland can be risky, and as we’ve seen from past events, bussing guests out to a location can be dicey territory as well. Plus, large-scale social gatherings in the two weeks following Freshers’ Week can be a real gamble.

I’m delighted to report that the Lumsden ladies didn’t fall into a single one of those logistical traps, and that the first annual Secret Garden Party was a huge success. The farewell-to-summer fete had all the markers of a St Andrews classic, and I suspect it won’t be long before it becomes a perennial favorite.

The weather was gorgeous as guests climbed onto the buses in front of Madras around 3:00 to 4:00pm and, mercifully, it stayed that way all evening. The party was a quick but really beautiful ride away to Cupar at the Craigsanquhar Hotel and Country Estate, a little-known venue that’s slightly more off the beaten track. I was impressed by all the lovely scenery we saw en route, not to mention our driver’s navigational skills on the thin, winding roads. (Clearly not his first rodeo).

Craigsanquhar itself was absolutely stunning, with a grand-looking stone mansion, a gravel courtyard with an outdoor bar, and plenty of garden space. A little side door took us through to an even bigger garden which housed the tent for the musical acts, a table for beer pong, a little badminton court, and everyone’s favorite food vendors: Janetta’s, Blackhorn wraps, and the legendary Buffalo Truck. After sampling the food and enjoying a complimentary Bulmer’s cider, you could listen to some fantastic live music by Surround, have your face painted, and explore all the hidden corners of Craigsanquhar’s beautiful gardens. Added bonus: because this was a smaller event, the lines at the bar were next to nonexistent.

The temperature for the first couple hours was perfect, so everyone was happy to wander around the gardens and chat for quite a while, sipping cider and watching the sunset. The intimate, laid-back atmosphere definitely set the Secret Garden Party apart from the Bubble’s other festival-esque functions. It managed to hit exactly the right note somewhere between music festival and garden party; it paired a beautiful new venue with all the things you might expect from a big festival (the flower crowns, the face paint, and of course an incredible lineup), added some casual crowd-pleasers (games and amazing food), and made the whole affair slightly smaller. The result was a truly unique event, which is quite an accomplishment in a town as social as St Andrews. Lumsden definitely delivered on its promise to keep all our favorite things about PIMMS with a new twist!

One thing that didn’t change however, was the fact that it was first and foremost a charity event. All the funds raised last night will go to Lumsden’s two chosen charities: Parkinson’s UK Fife Branch and Malawi Underprivileged Mothers (MUMS).

Just as the temperature began to drop, the Carnaby’s began their set, luring guests in from the cold with their energetic sound that demands dancing and singing along. As the sun went down, the London-based band made sure that spirits stayed high. St Andrews’ own Sunta und Die Klauses went on next, and by this point most people had piled into the tent, which is where we stayed for the better part of the evening. With acts like Joe Jones and DJStaley, how could we not?

When the buses began taking guests back to town we reluctantly climbed on, leaving the secret gardens, the berry cider, and sounds of summer behind. Thank you Lumsden for an evening of pure, unadulterated, old-fashioned fun, and for helping us give summer a proper farewell.

My one piece of criticism is that I wish this event had been started three years ago since, as a 4th year, I won’t be able to go again!

Photos courtesy of Luce Photography