Hill of Tarvit


Fife KY15 5PB

Why Should We Visit

Robert Lorimer is Scotland’s greatest architect of the Edwardian era and Hill of Tarvit is one of his masterpieces. His genius lay not just in bricks and mortar but in his eye for the landscape and his ability to connect buildings to the gardens that surrounded them so that they all formed part of the one design.

At Hill of Tarvit that commitment to place-making included shaping 113 hectares of the estate in order to care a harmonious setting for the house. The house that Lorimer created was ahead of its time, with electricity, central heating and telephones connecting every room and it was a fitting setting for its owner’s fine collection of ceramics and furniture. Hill of Tarvit is also home to a unique piece of golfing history, which sees it attracts players from around the world.

Story of the Garden

In 1904 Lorimer was commissioned by wealthy Dundee jute merchant, Frederick Sharp, to transform an existing 17th century mansion into a home for his family and from the outset the architect’s vision was to enfold the house in a green setting, but while the back and sides are flanked by woodland, the south-facing facade looks out over a sloping garden to the wider landscape. An avenue of clipped yew hedges lines the route down the terraces to the lower lawn where a curving 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 to set the house firmly in its era. The hedges planted by Lorimer create extensive micro-climates where less-hardy plants can flourish. Away from the house the garden is less formal and trails lead through the woods, one taking visitors to the top of Tarvit hill from where there are spectacular views across Fife.

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

Don’t Miss

Hill of Tarvit’s outstanding feature is its hickory golf course - the only one of its kind remaining in the UK. Hickory clubs were state-of-the-art in the Edwardian era. Wooden clubs had been used for years, but hickory wood was first imported from America during 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 at Hill of Tarvit was turned over to raising vegetables and then lay vacant until the 1990s when Trust staff discovered a 1924 map of the course, along with Frederick Sharp’s golfing bag and set about restoring it to its former glory, with some improvements to make it suitable for modern players. After a 70-year hiatus, the course finally reopened in June 2008.

Best Time To Visit

The golf course is open to players from 1 March until 31 October and the sunken rose garden is at its best in June, but year-round there are views and trees to be enjoyed along with extensive wildlife, which includes pipistrelle and long-eared bats, red squirrels, roe deer, badgers and many different varieties of birds.

Any Recommendations in the Area?

Loch Leven at Kinross is one of Scotland’s most important sites for overwintering birds from Siberia and Iceland, including greylag geese and whooper swans. The loch was also a stopping-off point for pilgrims en-route to St Andrews in the early medieval era and Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on one of the islands on the loch. Today the circular Heritage Trail offers visitors a chance to walk the entire circumference of the loch.


Hill of Tarvit is two miles south of Cupar off A916


Grounds open daily, dawn to dusk. Free access. Mansion reopens 2 April

Tel: 01334 653127

Email: hilloftarvit@nts.org


In January low light levels and lower temperatures can make the garden feel uninviting, but in fact there are a surprising number of plants in flower now and having even a few of them in the garden can be enough to tempt us out of doors.

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

The lake and arboretum which were established in the 1830s have been carefully conserved and the trees around the lake form part of the National Tree Collection of Scotland.

In late winter the ground beneath them is carpeted with snowdrops.

There is also an extensive collection of rhododendrons and the estate is home to wildlife as well as a herd of Highland cattle.

At the moment the nursery has a wide range of scented shrubs include hamamelis, sarcococca and daphne; an assortment of Cornus with stems in shades of 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 range of hellebores which are just now coming into flower.

Smeaton Nursery Garden

East Linton

East Lothian EH40 3DT