Garden of the Week: Play Britain’s only hickory golf course

Fife KY15 5PB

Why should we visit?

Robert Lorimer is Scotland’s greatest Edwardian-era architect and Hill of Tarvit is one of his masterpieces. His brilliance lay not only in bricks and mortar, but in his eye for the landscape and his ability to connect buildings with the gardens around them so that they were all part of one design.

At Hill of Tarvit, that dedication to place-making included shaping 113 acres of the estate to create a harmonious environment for the home. The house Lorimer created was ahead of its time, with electricity, central heating and telephones connecting each room and it was a fitting backdrop for the owner’s fine collection of ceramics and furniture. Hill of Tarvit is also home to a unique piece of golfing history, attracting players from all over the world.

Story of the garden

In 1904, Lorimer was commissioned by wealthy Dundee jute merchant Frederick Sharp to convert an existing 17th century mansion into a home for his family. are flanked by woodland, the south-facing facade overlooks a sloping garden to the expansive landscape. An avenue of clipped yew hedges forms the route along the terraces to the lower lawn where an arched hedge is supported by yew buttresses.


The sunken rose garden was added at the request of the Sharp family and along with the croquet lawn it helps set the house firmly in its time. The hedges planted by Lorimer create extensive microclimates where less hardy plants can thrive. Outside the house, the garden is less formal and paths lead through the forest, one that takes visitors to the top of Tarvit Hill, from where there are spectacular views over Fife.

The doo-cot predates the existing house and would have been used as a stockpile of eggs and pigeon meat before refrigeration was available.

not missing

The standout feature of Hill of Tarvit is its hickory golf course – the only one of its kind left in the UK. Hickory clubs were state-of-the-art in the Edwardian era. Wooden clubs had been used for years, but hickory was first imported from America in the 1860s and clubs made from it remained popular until the late 1930s, when steel gradually began to replace them.

During the war years, the nine-hole course on Hill of Tarvit was turned over to vegetable farming and then lay empty until the 1990s, when Trust employees discovered a 1924 map of the course, along with Frederick Sharp and Frederick Sharp’s golf bag. started restoring it to its original state. past glory, with some improvements to make it suitable for modern players. After a 70-year hiatus, the course was finally reopened in June 2008.

Best time to visit

The golf course is open to players from March 1 to October 31 and the sunken rose garden is at its best in June, but there are views and trees to enjoy all year round along with the extensive wildlife including pipistrelle and long-tailed bats. ears, red squirrels, roe deer, badgers and many different types of birds.

Recommendations in the area?

Loch Leven at Kinross is one of Scotland’s prime locations for wintering birds from Siberia and Iceland, including greylag geese and whooper swans. The lake was also a stopover for pilgrims on their way to St Andrews in the early Middle Ages, and Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on one of the islands on the lake. Today, the circular Heritage Trail offers visitors the chance to hike the entire perimeter of the lake.


Hill of Tarvit is two miles south of Cupar off the A916


Site open daily, from sunrise to sunset. Free entrance. Mansion reopens April 2

Phone: 01334 653127


In January, low light levels and cooler temperatures can make the garden unattractive, but in fact there are a surprising number of plants in bloom right now and having even a few in the garden can be enough to lure us outside.

You can find many of them at Smeaton Nursey Garden in East Linton. The nursery is located in the walled garden of Smeaton mansion, which was demolished in the 1950s, but the park is open to the public all year round and there are holiday homes where visitors can enjoy longer stays.

The lake and arboretum, which were built in the 1830s, have been carefully preserved and the trees around the lake are part of the National Tree Collection of Scotland.

In late winter, the ground beneath is covered in snowdrops.

There is also an extensive collection of rhododendrons and the estate is home to wildlife and a herd of Scottish Highlanders.

At the moment the nursery has a wide range of scented shrubs of, among others, hamamelis, sarcococca and daphne; an assortment of Cornus with stems in red, green and orange; the winter-flowering cherry tree Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ and skimmias in bud and berry.

Visitors can also discover a wide variety of hellebores just now coming into bloom.

Smeaton Nursery

East Linton

East Lothian EH40 3DT

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *