Coming from the North Woods of Wisconsin to the craggy coast of Scotland was a big environmental adjustment for me. I instantly fell in love with the beautiful seaside, exploring the shell-speckled rocks that stretch out into the harbour like the crusty black fingers of giants. Everything from the glittering waters of summer to the crashing waves of winter enchanted me. But there was one thing I missed: the trees. In Wisconsin, maples, oaks and pines line every street and fill every park. In fall the leaves light on fire with colour. Here on the Fife coast, the trees are smaller and the autumn is subtler. I find myself missing the comforting canopy of trees in any season. There are certainly trees in St Andrews and the East Neuk, but I was feeling pretty “treesick” until I ventured inland. If you too get a little homesick for your trees, here is a great place no more than twenty minutes away by bus where you can fulfill your woodland needs.
Cambo Estate is best known for its gardens, but when I went to explore I found it also includes an extensive system of woodland trails. Entering through the front gates, you will see that a road divides the woodlands into two distinct paths. A stream called the Cambo Burn winds through the forest, and on that side of the road you will pass small dark cliffs swamped in vegetation overseeing the gently flowing creek. The other side of the road provides an airer journey with glimpses of a golden field beyond the trees.
I was delighted to find whimsical sculptures scattered throughout the forest as part of a children’s storytelling walk. The wooden mushrooms seem as if they grew out of the ground that way, and the fairy folk are well attended to with miniature sofas, magic doors, and tiny windows high up in the trees. Any lover of fantasy, folklore or garden sculpture will find plenty to put a smile on their face.
After you have passed through the first section of woodlands, follow the path past the old barns (and roaming cattle!) until you come to Cambo House. At the back of the house it is £5 to explore the Victorian walled garden. There is also a beautiful tearoom in the courtyard; I recommend trying the soup of the day. Beyond the garden are more forested paths, and these ultimately lead to the sea. There are beautiful wicker sculptures here, and it seems as if every bench is different. Birds and other wildlife abound. I saw a heron, but there are also badgers, deer, and sometimes even an elusive otter.
The woodlands include beech, sycamore and ash trees, but the ones I was happiest to find were the oaks. When I felt the first crunch of acorns beneath my feet, the feeling of home rushed through me. In Wisconsin, acorns fill up the gutters and pile along the curbs to form an integral part of the autumnal texture. It wasn’t until I walked through Cambo that I realised how much I’d missed that. The rhythm of the leaves rustling in the breeze was also so familiar and added a new feeling of “home” to my life in Scotland.
Whether you crave a high concentration of trees or simply want to see a different side of Scotland, Cambo Estate is a great place to explore in autumn.
How to Get There:
The 95 leaves the St Andrews bus station once an hour and will drop you off right in front of the entrance. The woodland walks are free, but if you want to explore the gardens, you will have to buy a sticker at the back of the house. The estate is also accessible from the Fife Coastal Path via the Kingsbarns Links golf course.
Photo credit: Meg Hyland