Fife Visitor Attraction Appeals for Scots’ Holiday Memories
A Fife visitor attraction is hoping to rekindle memories from 1950/60s day-trippers as part of its 75th anniversary.
Craigtoun Country Park, just two miles from St Andrews, welcomed its first visitors in 1948. Today, the park welcomes around 250,000 visitors each year, attracted by the Rio Grande miniature railway, Puffin’ Billy tractor ride, boating, putting, crazy golf, bouncy castles and go-karts.
The 47-acre park, set within Mount Melville Estate, dates back to the late 1860s. It was purchased by Fife Council in 1947 and, since 2013, has been run by Friends of Craigtoun who signed a 25-year lease with the local authority in 2022. However, Fife Council retains responsibility for the listed structures within the park including the once picturesque but now ‘at risk’, white-walled island village known as the ‘Dutch Village’ with its conical tiled roofs and continental-style architecture.
Having already made great strides in reinvigorating the previously ailing park, Friends of Craigtoun now hopes to return the once-thriving Dutch Village to its former glory and re-open the beautiful island attraction to visitors.
As part of the 75th anniversary celebrations, Friends of Craigtoun also plans to turn memories, photos and cine film from visitors into a 3d virtual tour which generations can ‘walk through’ for years to come.
To spark memories, the park has also released a small selection of images featuring people they hope to identify.
Funding Director Henry Paul commented, “In the 50s and ‘60s, visitors used to flock to the Dutch Village for dances and family occasions. We know that the Dutch Village will hold special memories for many people across Scotland and perhaps further afield, and we’d love to gather any cine film of people enjoying themselves here.
“It wasn’t just day trippers who visited the Dutch Village. These were the days before people went abroad for their holidays. Lots of visitors from the west coast of Scotland flocked to Fife during the summer months, often staying in caravans in St Andrews and the East Neuk, so we’d love to hear from them too. It would be absolutely magical to bring these happy memories to life and now is the time before they’re gone forever, to show how important the Dutch Village and park have historically been to today’s visitors. We’d also love to save the Dutch Village before the building deteriorates further and costs escalate.
“As you can see in these images, others enjoyed Sunday school outings, bowling, concerts on the stage, putting or rowing. Various miners’ galas were also held here, with families descending on the park to celebrate or just enjoy a fun day out. We’d love to track down some of these people, rekindle and preserve their memories of the park for generations to come.”
Echoing Henry’s thoughts is Margo Sproson (67) from St Andrews, who visited the Dutch Village with her parents as a young girl.
Reminiscing, Margo said, “I have very fond memories of Craigtoun and the Dutch Village in particular. I was no more than 10 years old and was one of the hoards of people who either cycled or bussed it up to Craigtoun. Very few people had cars at that time.
“I remember my dad rowing the boat to take my mum and I around the Dutch Village, hearing the lapping of the oars and paddles, and the sun shining. I remember sitting at one of the wee tables while my mum and dad got up to waltz at the afternoon tea dances. As an only child, I remember enjoying the company of other children and just loving the atmosphere there. There was something magical about this beautiful building standing in the water and rowing around it. There were ice-creams and coffees there too, it was just a lovely atmosphere. I remember Craigtoun as such a fun day out. We took our tartan rug, found a good spot and went around and about, in and out of the greenhouses looking at these amazing plants, the little waterfalls and goldfish. Everything was just magical!”
Now as a mother of three and grandmother of eight, Margo still goes to Craigtoun County Park almost weekly.
“Some of my grandchildren live locally and have annual passes to the park. When I ask where they want to go, the answer is always the same – Craigtoun! It just makes it so easy, the whole family revels in that place. Craigtoun always had a special feel to it and it still does all those years later. The park has a sense of calm and peace – it’s a perfect size and, even in the height of summer when it is very busy, it’s a happy noise of families enjoying themselves, not loud music or noisy machines. The flowers and pine trees smell like they always did. To me, more than ever, families and children need that experience of belonging, the sense of peace and freedom – the Dutch Village played a huge part in these memories.
“Yes, life has moved on and perhaps tea dances are a thing of the past but it would be lovely if the Dutch Village could be restored. It’s such a shame to see it looking so dilapidated and neglected. It would be a beautiful place to sit and have a cuppa or an ice-cream, perhaps with a quartet or piano playing on a summer’s day. I am sure it could be a wonderful space for small events. There’s nothing quite like it in Scotland.”
The Dutch Village and two connecting lakes were commissioned by the Younger family in 1920 and designed by Manchester-born Paul W Whitehouse. Closed due to disrepair in 2020, Friends of Craigtoun then commissioned a condition survey and viability study for the Dutch Village, grant-aided by the Architectural Heritage Fund. The report by RKA Architects outlined damage across the site including a damaged roof, damage to internal fixtures from dampness, vegetation growing inside the structure and birds roosting within the buildings. Remaining closed to visitors, the Dutch Village will shortly be entered into Historic Environment Scotland’s Buildings At Risk Register which provides information on properties of architectural or historic merit throughout the country that are considered to be at risk.
If you have any memories, stories or cine film of visits to Craigtoun Country Park and the Dutch Village, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, please email email@example.com or telephone 01334 472013.
For more information, visit https://friendsofcraigtoun.org.uk/