Happy, smiling faces – the ethos for Craigtoun Park

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Thousands of people of a certain age across Fife – and further afield – have fond memories of childhood trips to Craigtoun Park, whether it was tumbling off the bus on a school trip, or a family picnic.

It was a glorious place with acres to run around in, a boating pond, a place for fun. And, decades on, Craigtoun is that place again.

Kyffin Roberts (left) and Bill Sangster from the Friends of Craigtoun are looking forward to welcoming visitors to Craigtoun Park. Pic: Peter Adamson

Kyffin Roberts (left) and Bill Sangster from the Friends of Craigtoun are looking forward to welcoming visitors to Craigtoun Park. Pic: Peter Adamson

Thanks to the Friends of Craigtoun, and its partnership with Fife Council, the park is being restored to its former glory, and the visitors are crowding in.

Last summer, 160,000 visitors went into the park, bringing in an estimated £200,000 – and chairman of the Friends Kyffin Roberts hopes to top that this year.

However, while the numbers are important for Mr Roberts, even more important are “happy, smiling faces”.

“Obviously we need to make some money, we need to cover our expenses but the main objective is to see happy, smiling faces,” he said.

Obviously we need to make some money, we need to cover our expenses but the main objective is to see happy, smiling faces

Kyffin Roberts

Now they are almost ready for this summer – the park’s facilities open at Easter weekend, and the Friends have been busy over the winter to make sure there are lots of smiles at Craigtoun this summer.

The much-loved Puffin’ Billy will be operating and the Rio Grande Railway will be operating on new tracks, from new sheds and with improved stations around the park. There will be not one, but two, bouncy castles so that bigger children can enjoy the fun, along with trampolines, crazy golf, pedal cars and the usual fun and games.

Adults can join the kids on the water trying out the park’s rowing boats and pedalos, or follow the paths through the glorious formal gardens, venture into the glass houses, try the trim trail or just relax and enjoy the park.

It is a cheap day out too – entry to the park is free, but Mr Roberts explained even paying for the £1.50 a time attractions could be a bargain

“The family ticket which gives a family of four access to everything we have to offer and this year that will cost £22,” he said. “Even better value is the family season ticket – £70 for a family of four to visit Craigtoun throughout the season.”

From grand estate to country park

While Craigtoun Park has childhood memories for many people, its history as a public park is not that long.

It was in 1947 that the land was bought by the then Fife County Council and established as a country park.

Prior to that the land had formed part of Mount Melville Estate, originally laid out in 1698 for General George Melville of Strathkinness, along with a mansion house.

Over the year mansions came and went and the grounds of the estate were re-modelled, but in 1901, the Melville family sold the estate to Dr James Younger of the brewing dynasty, who undertook a major re-modelling exercise, including an opulent new house and, in the 1920s, the creation of a series of lakes, complete with picturesque island village.

It was that house, though, that was part of the package bought by Fife County Council. It became the maternity hospital and operated until 1992, when it was sold.

It now belongs to Kohler Co, the developer of the adjacent Duke’s Golf Course and owners of the Old Course Hotel. The company says it has “fantastic plans” for the building.

The island village became known as the Dutch Village as Craigtoun Park developed. A sad reflection of its former glory, it is on the Friends ‘to do’ list and work started earlier this year on assessing its future.