A Happy Diversion to Cambo Estate

by Keith Savage · 3 comments

Cambo Estate, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland

During my stint in the Kingdom of Fife last spring, I had the opportunity to explore much of eastern Fife from my base in Crail. I love the East Neuk’s cobbled fishing villages for their obvious visual charms but also their strong ties to the area’s past and old way of life. The subject of today’s post shares this in common with its East Neuk neighbors.

The Cambo Estate sits snugly between Crail and St. Andrews in countryside that couldn’t be more desirable. The estate is composed of a grand country home and many acres of wooded and open land. The history of Cambo Estate stretches back to the 12th century, but the estate is primarily on the mind these days for its ownership of the Kingsbarns Golf Links and the building of the new Kingsbarns distillery. Through some happy connections, I was invited to visit Cambo Estate by Sir Peter and Lady Catherine Erskine, which I accepted with gratitude.

Turning off the A917 toward the sea, I started my drive through Cambo Estate’s beautiful grounds. Natural sculptures and a seriously happy pig standing amongst the wood encircling the narrow drive provided a light-hearted welcome, and after I parked my car I noticed an expertly crafted model of a pig made from driftwood standing in the emerald grass. The estate bustled as I made my way toward Cambo House, past grazing ponies and around a classy wedding party.

Inside the house I was quickly escorted to a back room where a lunch table had been set. There I met Sir Peter and Lady Catherine, two of the most easy-going and cheerful people I’ve met. They were pleased with the work I’m doing independently promoting Scotland and offered some sage business advice that ultimately helped lead to my consultation service. A short while later their son Struan and his wife, Frankie, arrived and we sat down to a warming meal of soup and homemade wild garlic pesto and bread.

Struan and Frankie became my guides following the delicious lunch. I didn’t know much about Cambo Estate before my arrival, but I quickly got the sense that there is a lot going on here that would be interesting to a great many people. We passed through lavish Victorian rooms replete with tapestries, vintage books, and period furnishings in excellent condition. Ah, history. The estate was granted to a Norman, Robert de Newenham, by King William the Lion, and his descendants took the name “de Cambhou.” As with any estate of such venerable age, many owners have called it theirs over the centuries. The first Erskine to purchase the estate was Sir Charles in the late 17th century. Many of the buildings are of Georgian design, but Cambo House itself hails from the Victorian era when it was rebuilt following a devastating fire.

Maintaining grand country houses is no small financial feat. In the 20th century parts of the house were made available for letting, and today visitors to St. Andrews and the East Neuk can book bed and breakfast, self-catered apartments, and cottages at Cambo Estate. The house proper is massive and perfect for large groups who’ve come to golf or attend a wedding. Struan and Frankie, who are the estate’s newest generation of caretakers, have also begun offering even more interesting accommodation in the form of glamping tents (see below).

After traipsing through Cambo House’s many wings and floors, Struan brought around a car and together the three of us rode to another section of the estate. This wooded area was criss-crossed with walking paths and streams, and it was here that we came upon the bulbous glamping tents that were just going up. Wild garlic grew in abundance along the forest path until we reached the edge of the world-renown Kingsbarns Golf Links. Here, the North Sea slides onto sandy beaches and golfers soldier on despite the cold wind and spitting rain.

Cambo Estate’s walled garden was filled with vibrant flowers and flowering trees even in late April. It seems the estate is famous for its snowdrops which carpet the forested lands in late winter. Garden aficionados would love it here. The three of us chatted as we walked through the drifting flower petals. Struan and Frankie have a lot of ideas for raising the profile of Cambo Estate. Struan himself started Cambolicious, a family-oriented festival showcasing the best in Scottish beer and cider, in 2012. Popularity has been so high that they now hold two Cambolicious events each year at Cambo House.

We briefly stopped by the Kingsbarns distillery, which was still a work in progress at the time of my visit. However, Kingsbarns distillery is now open for visits though, new as it is, you probably shouldn’t be expecting to taste any of their product just yet. With Daftmill and Cameronbridge, Fife is turning into something of a whisky destination. Who knows what kind of tourists the region will attract in ten years’ time?

St. Andrews gets very congested whenever there’s a golf event, and prices for accommodation – if you can find any – skyrocket. Cambo Estate makes a great alternative. It’s extremely close to St. Andrews but in beautiful natural surroundings. With a golf course of its own, a distillery, tea room, walled garden, and plenty of alternative accommodations, Cambo Estate is an ideal destination in eastern Fife that appeals to a variety of interests.

Struan and Frankie bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the running of Cambo Estate, and I look forward to what they have in store for the future.

Many thanks to Sir Peter, Lady Catherine, Struan, and Frankie for taking the time to show me Cambo Estate’s charms.

Aidan BrameNo Gravatar July 15, 2015 at 2:40 PM

Cambo is a very special spot. We absolutely loved our stay. It was our favourite accommodations on our trip to Scotland. It’s rich in history and beauty.
The food was amazing. The grounds are well kept and stunning.
Cambo will always hold a place in our hearts.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 15, 2015 at 6:18 PM

Hi Aidan,

Great to hear a take from someone who spent some nights there. It is a beautiful place and you can see the owners care deeply for the estate at every turn.

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