Cambo House and Estate lies on the east coast of Fife, 7 miles south of St Andrews. The present day estate, which has been in the Erskine family for over 300 years, dates from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The Estate is included in ‘An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland’ as an important example of a picturesque, model estate. The buildings within the landscape include the stables, carriage house, coach house, mausoleum, walled garden, dovecote, lodges and 2 model farms, listed by Historic Environment Scotland.
Cambo Heritage Trust (SC028131), managed by a board of trustees, holds the lease for the Walled Garden, Stables and its environs to develop educational and enterprise programmes and operate the gardens as a visitor attraction, managing the archive of Cambo Estate to engage the community with local heritage.
Struan and Frances Erskine are the current stewards of the wider Cambo Estate, operating a successful wedding business alongside holiday accommodation, agriculture and housing.
The stable building at Cambo is one of a number of buildings ancillary to Cambo House that contribute to the collective architectural and historic importance of the policies and estate. The stable is category B-listed and is within the Cambo designed landscape included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.
The original stable building was designed by George Paterson in the 1760s and the first floor added in 1870; the additional coach houses and the large walled garden which the stables adjoin is attributed to Robert Balfour, circa 1800; the north courtyard and the detached cartshed building known as the Coach House are likely to be early 19th century.
The site is also important because of its continuing association with the Erskine family after more than three centuries, and their current positive stewardship and discrete development of its horticultural interest. The family involvement, interest and presence is much commented on and appreciated by visitors. Moreover, most of the buildings remain in near original condition.
In recent years, since the gardens were opened to the public in 1985, the estate has become a much-loved community asset.
Horticultural students appreciate the rare opportunity provided by a heritage garden open to the public which offers extensive learning opportunities. Cambo Gardens has for many years afforded opportunities for volunteers, supported employees and student gardeners and trainees to join in the work in the gardens and woodlands.
The Stables redevelopment and creation of a heritage exhibition enabled a team of volunteers to explore and catalogue the Cambo Estate archive, learning a great deal of previously unknown information about the rich heritage of the area.
Since 2017 a programme of Modern Apprenticeships in horticulture is underway with support from the ‘Our Bright Future’ programme – a Big Lottery initiative. .
Why is our heritage important?
The cultural importance of Cambo is nationally recognised by inclusion in the Inventory of Designed Landscapes, and by the B-listed status (more than local importance) of the stables The integrity of the design remains intact and clearly identifiable.
The Inventory states that the site is included because it is a good example of late 18th/early 19th century coastal policies embracing model farms, picturesque estate layout, golf course and gardens of botanical and horticultural interest. Its horticultural significance is rated as Outstanding, and all other categories including Work of Art, Historical, Architectural, Scenic, Nature Conservation and Archaeological are rated as High.
Who is our heritage important to?
The heritage of Cambo is important to historians. It has recently been established from documentary evidence that the Fife born, Edinburgh trained architect Robert Balfour (in conjunction with the local architect/builder, John Corstorphine) was commissioned by the 9th Earl of Kellie to extend Cambo House in 1795. Balfour and Corstorphine may also have designed the stables, dovecote, mausoleum and dairy, and Cambo and East Newhall Farms.
The work at Cambo is Balfour’s earliest identifiable commission in Fife, where he later worked on a number of country houses, but most notably became the principal architect of late Georgian St Andrews, introducing the Edinburgh New Town style to the town and becoming a crucial figure in its early nineteenth century regeneration and development. His parallel career as a timber merchant in St Andrews from the late 18th century is undoubtedly linked to Kellie’s extensive experience as a merchant in Sweden.
Visitors to Cambo often comment that it is like ‘living history’. They relish the heritage, family involvement, and feeling of continuity created by the steady improvements and development over the last 35 years.