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Amazing £2.2m Fife country house has one of Scotland’s finest walled gardens

Craigfoodie House near Dairsie comes with almost 40 acres including its own hill.

Craigfoodie House has one of Scotland's finest walled gardens. Image: Savills.
Craigfoodie House has one of Scotland's finest walled gardens. Image: Savills.

Less than a mile from the village of Dairsie is a stunning, private country house with 40 acres of grounds and one of Scotland’s finest walled gardens.

Craigfoodie House also has a separate cottage, stone steadings and a grass tennis court. It even comes with its own hill.

The oldest parts of Craigfoodie House date from 1680 and it’s thought the stone used to build it came from a quarry on the hillside above.

The house was originally owned by John Bethune, a notable Jacobite, and was later taken on by the Meldrum family, who added a Georgian-style extension.

In the late 1800s the Meldrum family gifted the house to the Free Church of Scotland, who rented it out. It was then bought by the Lindsay family in the 1950s and they sold it to James and Lindsay Murray in 2002.

Craigfoodie House sits in 40 acres of land near Dairsie. Image: Savills.
The oldest parts of the house date from 1680. Image: Savills.

The late Dundee University professor of architectural history Charles McKean visited Craigfoodie House as part of research for his books.

Craigfoodie House is reached by a quiet country lane that runs past Dairsie Primary School. It passes a row of cottages before heading uphill where it dead ends at the house.

Lindsay Murray greets me at the door. She and James bought the house 22 years ago, fulfilling a decades-long dream to live there.

“We first saw the house in 1972 but we couldn’t afford it then,” she says. “It came on the market in 2002 and by that point we were fortunate enough to be in a position to buy it.”

Exploring inside

A pillared entrance leads into a hallway with parquet floor and a window seat. The dining room has a curving wall and cupboards with curved doors.

A library/study has fitted bookcases, a brick fireplace with Adam-style mantel, and working shutters.

James and Lindsay have carried out a major overhaul of the house over the years. The kitchen was their biggest project.

The drawing room is an elegant space. Image: Savills.
The library/home office. Image: Savills.

“The old kitchen was very small and we wanted something more spacious,” Lindsay explains. “We knocked down five walls and removed a stair to create a bigger kitchen with a dining and sitting area.

“We camped out in the basement for several months while the work was carried out.”

Upper floor and basement

A sweeping stair takes you to a U-shaped landing with roof lights above. The main bedroom has an en suite bathroom and a dressing room with a connecting door into another room that can be used as a private living space or a bedroom.

Five walls were knocked down to create the spacious kitchen. Image: Savills.
The dining room has hosted upwards of 30 guests. Image: Savills.

There are three more bedrooms, one with a curved wall, two family bathrooms and a laundry room. Two undeveloped attic rooms accessed by a staircase are currently used for storage.

The basement level is set up as an annex and has its own external door.

It has a living room with a 15kW wood burning stove set into a beautiful arched stone fireplace. “The fireplace was covered up with plasterboard and we only discovered it when we came to renovate this room,” Lindsay says.

The basement living room. Image: Savills.

There is a kitchenette on this level, along with a bathroom and two bedrooms. A modernised boot room is the ideal place to shed muddy gear after a walk. There is also a boiler room, wine cellar, and several store rooms in the basement.

Stunning gardens

If anything the gardens at Craigfoodie are even more impressive than the house itself. James and Lindsay open them to the public each year as part of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme.

“The first year we had 450 visitors,” Lindsay remembers. “Catering for that number was quite a challenge. I was baking for days ahead of it.

The walled gardens are outstanding. Image: Savills.

“Fortunately after that initial flurry it calmed down a bit and we now get around 200 visitors each time.”

The gardens have also featured on the Beechgrove Garden and in several national magazines.

It isn’t hard to see why. The wonderful walled garden is divided into quarters with a clock lawn, malus lawn, parterre and extensive vegetable garden.

The walled gardens are divided into four distinctive quarters. Image: Savills.
A full time gardener looks after the grounds. Image: Savills.

A full rundown of its flora and fauna would be beyond the scope of this article but a large herbaceous border, dry rill, mixed borders, and beautiful hedges and fruit trees are among its numerous exceptional features.

The garden also slopes gently uphill and its upper levels offer stunning views over the Fife countryside from two terraces.

The upper terraces enjoy lovely views. Image: Savills.

“This is one of the more unusual walled gardens in that it’s built on a slope,” Lindsay says. “Most walled gardens you can’t see out of but with ours you get really good views from the upper levels.”

Tennis court and woodland

A gate at the far end of the walled garden leads into a grass tennis court that’s sheltered by a high hedge and has a stone lodge house to one side. It’s been beautifully tended by the gardener and is the equal of any Wimbledon court.

A woodland garden lies to the side of the walled garden. Paths wind around a wooded knoll and lead to a magnificent viewpoint.

The tennis court is sheltered by hedges. Image: Savills.
A viewpoint provides a pleasant spot to contemplate. Image: Savills.

On the other side of the driveway is an informal woodland garden that was created by Lindsay. “This was all bare earth when we moved here,” she says. “I wanted a bit of woodland that had lots of variety and paths you could wander around.”

The house even comes with its own hill. Craiglug is a 550ft high peak that has woodland, gorse, and a cliff.

Craigfoodie House comes with Craiglug Hill. Image: Savills.

“Not many people go up there,” Lindsay explains. “We used to occasionally get a knock at the door from walkers asking if they could go up there. The cliff is a climbing route so now and then we get climbers looking to scale it.”

Cottage and steading

Craigfoodie House includes Hill Cottage, a three-bedroom home nestled in its own good-sized garden at the foot of Craiglug Hill. It’s currently occupied by Craigfoodie’s full-time gardener.

There is also a huge stone steading built of stone with a tiled roof. Part of this was once a byre and there are raised feed troughs, stables, a grain store, and kennels. To one side is an octagonal horse mill.

Hill Cottage has three bedrooms. Image: Savills.
The steadings have plenty of potential. Image: Savills.

The steading previously had planning permission to be converted into three houses.

Tucked away in woodland to the back of the knoll is Colonel Meldrum’s Bathhouse. This small ruined bothy still contains the tub where the old soldier liked to unwind.

James, 77, was a solicitor and Lindsay, 75, worked as a teacher at St Leonards. With their children having grown up the couple are moving to a house in St Andrews.

“It will be nice to have everything on our doorstep in St Andrews but I will really miss this place,” Lindsay says. “We’ve had 22 lovely years here though. Our daughter had her wedding here and we have lots of good memories.”


Craigfoodie House, Dairsie is on sale with Savills for offers over £2.2 million.