First impressions can mirror the way you look at certain things for the rest of your life.
So it was with some trepidation that the Hay family embarked on a camping trip to the impressively named Kingdom of Fife.
Last time we ventured outdoors for a few nights under the stars, the heavens opened and we were soaked to the skin in the first half hour and nothing could pacify the dampness we endured for the rest of the trip.
Husband Kenny and children Ruaridh (7) and Flora (4) vowed never to camp again. But this time we were going glamping. Even the name cheers you up, it sounds warm and exotic.
And this time our luck was in, because it was everything we could have hoped for and more! And most of that was down to some excellent September weather and the wonderful hospitality of the Erskine family who own the beautiful Cambo Estate just outside St Andrew’s.
Sir Peter Erskine and his wife Catherine are the current stewards of Cambo and their laid back style is a winner with visitors. The estate is well known for its historic house, lovely gardens and more importantly the thousands of snowdrops which adorn the grounds in the 70 acres of woodland in early Spring. Since 1986, Lady Catherine has been selling unusual types of snowdrops via mail order and every year there is a snowdrop festival by day and night when visitors from all over the world drop into the estate to marvel at the sight of these delightful flowers.
It may not have been the season for snowdrops when we visited, but there was no getting away from them! Home for a two night stay was a large tent shaped like, you guessed it, a snowdrop!
But first things first, having small children always means packing lots of stuff they really need, like games and teddies and when your car boot is not that big, it can be tough going. Luckily for all the long suffering parents amongst us, experts at outdoor specialists Thule have just launched a brand new touring roof box, which not only looks trendy, but it does the job too.
Roof boxes seem to be the craze these days with most cars you pass on the motorway owning one. And that’s why Thule’s had to keep up with the trends. As well as looking good and having enough room to fit all Flora’s dolls in, it is dead easy to install, remove and handle.
It fits neatly on a Thule roof rack, which can also be used to transport bikes and its fastclick mounting system means easy installation on the rack. For the technical folk out there it has a special intergrated torque indicator which works like a vehicle’s gas cap.
There is a safety locking system too, which means the key will not lock unless all the catches are safely secured and the box has a capacity of 50 kg. Thule’s motto is “Bring your life’’ and its quality products help you do just that!
Once we had the roof box unpacked, it was time to take a peek in the snowdrop. There are two tents strategically placed just far enough away from each other to respect privacy and behind the impressive Cambo House which itself is divided up into self-catering apartments and bed and breakfast facilities.
Perched in woods with a path down to the nearby sea, the snowdrops ooze luxury. A double bed with a nice thick duvet for the parents and sofa beds and sleeping bags for the little campers. Tables and chairs are provided too so you can relax in style and there are tea and coffee making facilities, using Kelly Kettles, which only require a bit of wood and matches and some water to provide a good and quick cuppa.
Ruaridh and Flora were only too eager to test out the yummy home-made snowdrop biscuits as they lounged on the bed and enjoy the tent, lit up by fairy lights and old-fashioned lamps. Outside, each tent has its own fire pit and wood provided and just yards away there is an outdoor camping kitchen any wild west cowboy would be proud of, with a gas stove just incase!.
So it wasn’t long before we were toasting marshmallows, eating beans out of a warm tin and grilling sausages on the fire pit!
The great thing about the snowdrop is that just a few hundred yards away you have your own private shower room with warm towels and underfloor heating and a place to wash up your dishes.
And then to explore! Fife is crammed full of things to see and do, but the Cambo Estate has so many attractions of its own, that there is no need to move.
From a tennis court which was once home to a curling rink to a huge trampoline on the lawn, Ruaridh and Flora were in their element. And once they got bored, there was a games room too.
Kenny was fascinated by the robot lawn mower which gave the lawns a lovely manicure! And I had the chance to explore the wonderful gardens. It was lovely just to stroll through paradise enclosed by fine Victorian walls.
The traditional Victorian garden was burstin g with colour and was awash with all types of apple trees. Great care has been taken to ensure the gardens are allowed to grow naturally rather than in perfection and there are clumps of wildflowers boxed in by hedges and a creative winter garden to see too.
There are pigs to meet, a special walk for the children and of course the nearby beach, which is just yards away from a fanastic golf course which is set to be used for the Dunhill Cup, which takes place just after the Ryder Cup.
What is wonderful about Cambo is that the Erskine family are so obviously passionate about their home. And they don’t rest on their laurels. The Cambo Institute gives volunteers the chance to help out with such delights as gardening, wood preservation, book conservation and dry stone walling in return for a free holiday, meaning this lovey historic estate is kept alive and simply thrives. Music and beer festivals are run too as well as the snowdrop displays, meaning the estate is kept busy throughout all the seasons.
The Erskine’s want to share with everyone too, with visits to the garden costing just £10 per family, with enough to do for the whole day and a well stocked tea room and plant shop on offer too.
The snowdrop is such a delicate, elegant flower that first impressions of this gem will no doubt keep everyone flocking to Cambo for years to come and deservedly so!
Add a bit of glamour to camping at the picturesque Cambo Estate, St Andrew’s, Fife. For more information log onto www.camboestate.com
Camping involves plenty of packing and if space in your car is short, then look no further than the newly launched Thule Touring Roof Box. It sits neatly on specially design roof bars which can be used to hold bikes too. For up to date stockists and prices, log onto www.thule.com