The designed landscape and model farm policies extend along the Forth shore, on a coastal terrace. Views from the house extend southwestwards over open parkland with significant mature specimen trees; other views across the policies are now obscured by mature tree cover. Other features include a walled garden, woodland garden, drives, lodges, gates and a model farm.
Thomas Erskine (1745-1828) 9th Earl of Kellie regained the estate in the 1790s. He invested in his estate, establishing a series of model farms with picturesque farmhouses, steadings, and extensive land drainage and improvement. In 1795, he commissioned Robert Balfour the 'Edinburgh' architect, to remodel, repair and extend Cambo House. In 1878 Cambo House burnt down and Sir Thomas Erskine commissioned Wardrop and Reid to design the existing house on the same site. Since the 1980s the ornamental garden planting has been extended and planting in the walled garden has been enhanced and augmented. An outstanding collection of Galanthus spp. (snowdrops) and other spring-flowering bulbs has been collected.
Visitor FacilitiesThe gardens are open daily from 10am until 5pm.
Detailed DescriptionThe following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:
Type of Site
Notable ornamental gardens within formal designed policies and a model estate, in existence by the early 1800s.
Location and Setting
Cambo, situated in the East Neuk of Fife, lies some 3km (2 miles) north of Crail. The designed landscape and model farm policies extend along the Forth shore, on a coastal terrace, cut by a lowland den formed by the Cambo Burn. The A918 Crail ' St Andrews coast road, bounded on its east side by an estate wall, crosses through the policies, dividing Cambo House, its parkland and gardens from its southernmost enclosed farmlands. The east policy boundary lies along the march with Randerston. From the ornamental grounds the policies reach north-westwards to Kingsbarns and along the coast from Kingsbarns to Cambo Ness.
The designed landscape is visible from the surrounding roads, creating a distinctive local landscape character. Views from the house extend southwestwards over open parkland with significant mature specimen trees; other views across the policies are now obscured by mature tree cover. A view of the mausoleum can be gained from the perimeter pleasure grounds. A series of significant coastal views have been created across Kingsbarns Golf Course
The configuration of the parkland, woodlands along Cambo Den and model policies with their distinctive shelter belts had been laid out by 1828 (Sharp, Greenwood & Fowler, 1828). This survives with the new designed landscape of Kingsbarns Golf Course formed on the coast north of Cambo House.
Cambo House, by Wardrop and Reid 1879-81, is classical in style with a Doric columned porch and a Roman Ionic tripartite above which form the main, west, entrance front.
Within the inner-parkland shelter belt to the south-west of the house, lies a late 18th century octagonal, rubble-built Doocot with a crenellated parapet, finials and a slated roof. To its north lies a 2-storey, 3-bay building with an advanced and pedimented centre bay. It is built of red sandstone with a piended roof, and was used more recently as a Sawmill. Its original function is unknown but is referred to as the 'Dairy'. The Walled Garden with rubble-built, brick-lined walls, forms a complex alongside the 2-storey Stables, which is harled with dressed quoins and a loft doocot. Both date to the late 18th century.
Set immediately to the south of the enclosed pleasure grounds is the Mausoleum, built in 1821 and erected by Thomas Erskine, 9th Earl of Kellie. It is a stone-slabbed, valuted chamber with a pedimented bay. It is positioned so as to be viewed as an eyecatcher from the entrance to the pleasure grounds.
Cambo Farm, is one of the late 18th-early 19th century model farms. The 2-storey 'neat' farmhouse with single storey wings is attached to a picturesque steading of single storey buildings, some with lofts and semi-elliptical pend arches. There is a large underground water wheel 20' in diameter and a retting pond. East Newhall is another model farm, built to act as an eyecatcher from the public road to the south. It was converted to a visitor centre in the 1980s but is now disused. Its south-west front has a central doocot tower with crenellations. A threshing mill in part of the complex has an elaborately crenellated gable and a horsemill.
Lodges and Gates, built c 1800, lie on the A918, and comprise four large square gatepiers. The central pair are surmounted by cast-iron urns. Quadrant walls lead to small, square single-storey piend-roofed ashlar lodges with pedimented fronts and single centre chimneys. The gates are cast-iron and gothic in style. To the west of the A918, opposite the lodges, lies Cambo Lodge, the Gamekeeper's Lodge.
A series of five Bridges are set across the Cambo Burn. Two, both early 19th century, lie within the Walled Garden. The westernmost is a single span cast-iron bridge with masonry abutments and an elaborate cast-iron railed parapet enriched with floral detail. The other, situated by a range of glasshouses, has wooden abutments, deck and railed parapets on a cast-iron segmental arch. The remaining three span the Cambo Burn, one to the south and the others to the north of the Walled Garden. Each is a single-span cast-iron bridge with natural rock abutments and wooden deck and parapet. The northernmost bridge, at the mouth of the Cambo Burn leading down onto the shore is a modern rubble-built bridge built as part of the Kingsbarns Golf Course.
Drives and Approaches
The South Drive is the main approach, leading north-eastwards off the A918 through the Cambo gate lodges. It leads through a woodland belt, with both the drive and belt laid out on high ground above the Cambo Burn, to which they run parallel. An entrance gate terminates the drive and leads through the pleasure ground boundary wall, flanked by a pedestrian gate to the east. A walk from the pedestrian gate leads downslope to the stables and coach house. The drive curves through the parkland clockwise to the west front and an entrance forecourt, recently formed. Another spur leads east from the forecourt to rejoin this entrance drive.
Other field drives lead around the estate. A principal route links Cambo Farm with the Mausoleum and South Drive, another links Cambo Farm with the Dairy to the north.
The parkland lies to the south and west of the house, and is delimited from the farmland beyond by the pleasure ground boundary wall. This encloses a roughly semi-circular park, highlighted by the curving shelter belt set within the boundary wall. The parkland is ornamented with mature specimen trees, major species being sycamore, beech, oak and chestnut, with some particularly magnificent, spreading forms.
There are areas of long-established woodland (of plantation origin) in the policies. The major woodland components lie along the Cambo Burn, a mixed broadleaf planting with some conifers. A varied understorey exists including evergreens, principally box and holly. As elsewhere in the policies where woodland strips exist, the woodland planting affords shelter and coastal protection.
The woodland garden extends for 17 acres along the Cambo Burn from its outlet onto the beach at Cambo Ness, southwards to the Walled Garden. Previously it extended further southwards to Cambo Lodge (west of the A918) but this section is in less frequent use. The walks run parallel with the burn, which is interspersed with rocky cascades and footbridges (see above). Its planting was extended and encouraged by Madeleine Erskine in the early 1900s, who encouraged her family to spend their spare time planting woodland bulbs and dividing clumps of snowdrops. Catherine Erskine has fostered and continued this legacy since the 1980s, building up a specialist collection of Galanthus sp., which now includes 200 varieties.
The path layout and broad configuration of the two and half acre Walled Garden survives as shown on an estate map (Latto 1831). The canalised Cambo Burn, flows through roughly at mid-point, from south to north, with a lean-to greenhouse built over it on the north wall. A series of three footbridges cross the burn on the major east-west paths. The east sector of the garden is quartered and includes fruit trees, especially older varieties of apple. A series of single-span glasshouses lean against the north wall. Outside this wall are a range of gardener's bothies, stovehouses and apple store. There are some architectural fragments interspersed as features throughout the garden, which may have been salvaged from the destruction of the earlier mansion house, e.g. a datestone inscribed 1726 incorporated into a well.
- Access & Directions
Access Contact DetailsThe gardens are open daily from 10am until 5pm.
Detailed HistoryThe following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
Good example of late 18th and early 19th-century coastal policies embracing model farms, picturesque estate layout, mid 20th century golf course and gardens of botanical and horticultural interest.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
1790s to present day.
This coastal area has a long settlement history attested to by numerous cropmarks in the north of the Cambo policies; these include an unenclosed prehistoric settlement, ring ditches, field boundaries and cultivation remains (NO 601 118-N0 603 117).
William the Lion (1143-1214) gave a charter of lands in the south-east of Cambo parish to Robert de Newenham, a Northumberland baron. Thereafter, his family adopted the name 'de Cambhou', to be distinguished from the Northumberland branch of the family. Sir John de Cambhou, a Lieutenant of Fife in 1302, was probably the first to take up residence permanently at Cambo, an important source of his income being his lease on the harbour dues of vessels at Crail. However, Sir John was hanged at Newcastle in 1306, following the Battle of Methven. By 1374 the property had passed to the Lindsays and was then purchased in 1668 by Sir Charles Erskine, 1st Bt. of Cambo (d.1677), Lord Lyon King at Arms and brother of the 3rd Earl of Kellie (q.v. Inventory, Volume 4, p.394).
Anna Erskine, daughter of Alexander, 3rd Earl of Kellie, married her cousin, Alexander Erskine, 2nd Bt of Cambo (1663-1727). Land at Kingsbarns, added to the Cambo estate, was gifted in 1660 to her father by Charles II, in recognition 'of service done to our Royall Father of blessed memorie and to our selfe'. The mid-late 18th century was a period when the title passed through the family in rapid succession. The Erskine's three sons, all unmarried, inherited in turn - Charles 3rd Bt of Cambo in 1727, John 4th Bt in 1753 and William 5th Bt. in 1754. The fourth son, David (d.1769) had two sons who became Earls of Kellie. As a result of the 5th Earl's support of Charles Stuart, the Erskine lands were forfeited. Few records of this period survive. The rapid succession may explain the lack of landscaping activity until the major works of the late 18th/early 19th century period.
Thomas Erskine (1745-1828) 9th Earl of Kellie regained the estate in the 1790's. 'An able energetic and enterprising man', he had built a successful and wealthy business in Sweden, rose to prominence in Sweden and became Captain of the Baltic ports (www.camboestate.com ). On his return he was active in the local community and, for a time, was proprietor of the St Andrews Links. He invested in his estate, establishing a series of model farms with picturesque farmhouses, steadings, and extensive land drainage and improvement. In 1795, he commissioned Robert Balfour the 'Edinburgh' architect, to remodel, repair and extend Cambo House. Water was piped to the house and 'a vane or weathercock shall be put on the West front as per the drawing'' (Erskine of Cambo MSS, MS dep 97 Bdl.45). Illustrations of the house show it incorporated an earlier tower house, its main façade oriented south and situated on the site of the present house (Private collection). An octagonal gothic doocot and classical Dairy were built as eyecatchers to be seen westwards, across the lawns from the house.
Although married, the 9th Earl had no heirs. He and his wife adopted the children of his natural daughter, Anna Englehart. Thus in 1821, through her, David Englehart became the first baronet of Cambo. That same year David took the name Erskine, married an heiress and brought further capital into the property from his Swedish businesses. He carried on the 9th Earl's work in laying out Cambo as a model agricultural estate, with 'neat-sheds' for sheltering cattle in inclement weather, as described in Smith's 1834 account. It also details the 'natural garden, that is, the surface of the ground in its natural form, with a small brook running through the centre, over which are several neat cast-iron bridges' and the range of fruits grown in the kitchen-garden (Smith 1834, p.526-7). By the late 18th-early 19th century, there were ornamental estate buildings and farms (notably Cambo Farm and East Newhall), pleasure walks and gardens, the fertile farmlands regularly disposed and enclosed variously by drystone dykes and shelter belts (Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler 1828; Latto 1831). The principal, serpentine, drive to the house was constructed parallel to the Cambo Burn and enclosed within a shelter belt. The burn, its banks formed by drystone walling, was exploited as a woodland walk, with occasional cascades, natural rock outcrops, and a series of footbridges. Contemporary photographs and watercolours show the later 19th century house, with a first floor conservatory on its south front (as at Craigtoun House).
In 1878 Cambo House burnt down and Sir Thomas Erskine commissioned Wardrop and Reid to design the existing house on the same site (Gifford 1992, p.119).
Since the 1980s the ornamental garden planting has been extended and planting in the walled garden has been enhanced and augmented. An outstanding collection of Galanthus spp. (snowdrops) and other spring-flowering bulbs has been collected in the woodland garden and borders around the house. A significant contribution to the designed landscape has been the creation of Kingsbarns Golf Course, in the policies to the north of the house, in 2000. This links course, designed by Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen, has been sensitively detailed so as to reflect the coastal topography of sand-dunes, wet-flushes and coastal grasslands. In creating it, a pre-existing (18th century?) conduit and single-arched stone carriage bridge were uncovered and incorporated as features into the course.
- 18th Century
- Late 18th Century