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WALK – Cammo Estate, Edinburgh

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Walk length: 1.5 miles
Gradient: Very low
Parking: Yes
Dogs allowed: Yes
Disabled access: Yes, most of the estate is on the flat with several wide paths covering the main areas

Download a map of the Cammo Estate walk (PDF, 2.8MB)
View an online map of the walk

Cammo Estate is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems, with a fascinating history and some beautiful flora and fauna waiting to be discovered.

Cammo Estate

Cammo Estate

Now a council-owned nature reserve, Cammo was once one of Edinburgh’s grandest and most private residences. This short walk uncovers some of its secrets, including the ruins of Cammo House itself, the overgrown walled garden and the striking Cammo Tower.

The walk starts at the main gate of the estate, where a 19th century lodge house now serves as a ranger and visitor centre. A grand tree-lined avenue proceeds along a shallow incline until you reach a clearing dominated by the ruins of Cammo House.

Cammo House

Cammo House

This was built in the 1690s for landowner John Menzies and passed through the generations into several different families, eventually falling into disrepair (and some may say disrepute) before being vacated by the last owner, a reclusive spinster who lived in the house until the 1950s. Some say she still haunts the estate grounds…

It is worth making a short detour at this point to see the mighty ash tree in the woods of the estate, probably the oldest in Edinburgh. Its trunk is twisted and gnarled, and its canopy covers a substantial area. A small clearing underneath the branches can serve as an impromptu picnic area.

Retrace your steps to the house and view the ornamental canal. 140 feet long, it is part of the estate’s 18th century landscaping by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, and although overgrown with aquatic plants and foliage, it still impresses.

Woodland at Cammo Estate

Woodland at Cammo Estate

Wooded paths lead off towards the walled garden, another feature of Clerk’s and used in the estate’s heyday as a kitchen garden. Although the wall remains, the garden has returned completely to nature, with many wild plants and flowers having taken root there.

As the wood falls away, you’ll find yourself at another ruin: the stable buildings, dating from 1811. The masonry here is unstable and signs warn against venturing within, but the building is better preserved than the main house and is a fine example of early 19th century architecture.

At the edge of the woods

At the edge of the woods

From here, you cannot fail to notice Cammo Tower, a disused structure once serving as the water tower for the estate. Now home to the many birds which roost there, it dominates the field in which it stands and is viewable from nearby Craigs Road. Behind the tower, an artificial hillock sits, topped with trees. This is worth the gentle ascent for open views from its low summit.

Cammo Tower

Cammo Tower

Turning back towards the woods, another path leads back to the main house, from where you return along the tree-lined drive. On the right as you make your way back towards the gate sits the Cammo Stane, an ancient solitary standing stone, predating the rest of the estate by hundreds of years.

As you ponder its history and the faded grandeur of the estate itself, make your way back to the entrance to complete this short yet fascinating walk.

View a full-size version of the map of the Cammo Estate walk.

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20 Responses to “WALK – Cammo Estate, Edinburgh”

  1. Excellent description and photographs. I hope the developers are kept at bay – it was worrying at the Polo Field and Covenanters Wood near Dreghorn and Bonaly.

    I found my own Cammo pictures lurking on my hard disk. Yours are much better.

  2. Keith D says:

    Thanks very much, Dave.

    This is the first in an ongoing series of Edinburgh walks. I hope you enjoy the others too!

  3. [...] most of the snow-covered landscapes and winter light. Hopefully you saw some of these on our recent Cammo Estate walk article and map, or on some of the shots I uploaded to Twitpic. [...]

  4. maggie s says:

    Love this place, I used to stay 15 mins away and everytime the sun came out we would go for a walk through cammo and follow the almond river all the way to cramond, need to go again!

  5. Peter McAlpine says:

    Thank you for posting these pictures. I haven’t seen the tower and hill for over 40 years until just now.

    Until 1969 I used to live at 20 Cammo Road, very close to where the walk starts. There were big rusty gates at the estate entrance back then, and you couldn’t go inside. There was a farmhouse to the right and some nasty dogs, I think. The lady produced milk.

    As a boy under 10 I used to climb the tower, which looking back was a silly thing to do as the wooden staircase had been burned badly and was very wobbly. I sat often on the hill and enjoyed the breeze and view. In the winter it was a wonderful place for sledging, as long as you aimed for the gate and not the fence.

    I haven’t been back, unfortunately. I’ve lived in Thailand since 1984. The walk along the River Almond to Cramond was another favourite of mine. There was a small sweet shop next to Cramond Brig where a lady sold me sherbet lemon sweets for 3 pennies a bag. I suppose sherbet lemons sweets have disappeared.

  6. Keith D says:

    Thanks for your comment, Peter – fascinating reading.

    Sherbet lemons are still available in many of Edinburgh’s independent sweet shops – but sadly no-one sells them at Cramond Brig any more!

  7. jon yates says:

    I too lived nearby as a boy. I was friends with Colin Deans son of the farmer of Braehead Mains and spent a lot of time outdoors there. Incidentally Colin’s granny ran the shop to which Peter refers – he and I used to buy black jacks and fruit salads in bulk from her.

    I also new the Little family who (barely)ran Cammo farm. I understand Addie Little died some years ago and the old farm house is derelict. He was a great guy, used to lend spanners for fixing my old pushbike.

    I also new Percy Maitland who we used to call ‘the miser’ and he scared the hell out of me one day when i was poking around by his house – I’d found the remnants of two v.early 20th C cars and was intently studying them as he crept up behind me. All of a sudden I heard ‘blackguard, scoundrel, get off my land’. I turned round and saw him bent like a penknife as usual and with two potato sacks, on to the fore one to the back tied with baler twine over his old clothes. I didn’t half jump but luckily he recognised me and went on his way.

  8. jon yates says:

    This website may be of interest.www.lawrencephotographic.com/…/Cammo%20House/cammo.htm. The author’s account is quite accurate and accords with my own memories. He may even have been one of the bobbies who occasionally gave me chase when i was out shooting round the estate with my air rifle – fun days!

  9. just a kid says:

    thanks for the memories jon
    very sad to hear addie is no longer with us i did think older brother john was doing something with all the farming machines,even seen it on tv years ago
    i lived in cammo from 57 till mid 70s and knew you well,also remember you peter,i was good friends with the deans brothers till they moved due to strathalmond!just a pig field but cammo estate as its now called was so fasinating back then,i was a lucky kid and yes i remember you coming to borrow spanners!
    how you got to the cars i just dont know? maybe i took you? as the dogs would have you!and i know this as i sometimes had to feed them when percy was ill,i would bung the food in the back of the green hand painted commer 2 seater van,unchain and open bottom gates drive to house unchain house gates dogs ahowling percy would come out house i would go in and feed dogs,percy would go and sit in van as i fed the big ones then i would come back to van for food for pups so i had to go to the cars as the dogs lived in them now,think a rolls and a bently! and feed pups then take percy back down to farm where he would eat and sleep and then returned to house after breakfast,
    the cars belonged to the black widow of cammo and had black curtains on the windows so no one could see who was inside as these cars were top quality divided between driver and passenger but thats another story! she lies near the house as addie showed me but its unmarked
    addie was great guy,taught me so much,i was driving by 8 or 9 years old,tractors,cars,lorrys
    but there is so much to discover there?
    find the secret wells,find the widow grave or the bottle bank,the sundial stone,the oldest tree carving,the secret farm bonfire area’worth a dig’!!!!!!!nearby pillboxes,dove couts,towers but you must go to grotto but theres so much more
    you maybe lucky to find a golf ball of nearly 100 year old,addie found many i was not so lucky.

    will continue to watch this site out of pure intrest of this amazing historical area

  10. just a kid says:

    have looked at lawurence site
    very intresting true rare factual artical but
    the ‘house of shaws’ inspired house is not cammo house the one addie told me was is about 1 mile away he pointed it out one day when we were delivering dung to one of the other houses nearby and yes the widow is in the grounds,the grave would flower each year and maybe still

  11. Jon Yates says:

    Intriguing, so what’s your real name ‘Just a kid’ – I’ve been wracking my brains to identify you?

  12. Jon Yates says:

    Oh, and yes the grave still flowers when last i was there – 2 years ago, but probably best not say more. The bottle bank I don’t know about but of course i know the history of the farm and its prior function as a golf course – the farmhouse being the former clubhouse. Yes there is a small Royal Observers’ bunker in one field. The tree carving you mention also interests me – i don’t know about that. And I thought i knew most there was to know about the estate – every day a school day!

  13. ArchiTom87 says:

    I’m really interested to hear these stories. I too gew up around Cammo though am much to young to have known it as a full house, instead have memories of running around the stablehouse and collecting tadpoles from the canal.

    Fastfoward 20 years and I’m now studying for a masters in Architecture and using Cammo for the basis of my thesis. I am tryign to piece together a social history of the site – not just facts and figures – but anacdotal stories too and these have been of great help. Thanks!

  14. NIck Gould says:

    I remember well going on expeditions to Cammo House in the 70`s. At that time Mr Maitland Tennant drove a Ford Anglia estate and was very reclusive. We never managed to get past the fence and could hear the dogs – I think there may have been about a dozen of them. In latter years Mr Percy lived in a caravan and made some money by renting the front garden out for caravan storage. His mother died in 1954 and the house deterioated from the end of the war( I was told it had been used by the army).

    When Percy died in 1977 I was able to have a look around the interior of the house which was pretty amazing having been left undisturbed for many years.

    I remeber a very formal room with dried flowers in a huge glass bowl and another room with a snooker table and a harmonium in the corner.

    It was a grand house but very derelict and dangerous with holes in the floor and lots of rotten wood.

    At the time as a 16 year old it was a great playground and I think a lot of the locals took “souveniers” from the house.

    I always thought it a shame that the house had been left and been demolished but I love the park and still walk round the house most days with my dog.

    Addie was a nice man, he always let us park our cars in front of the farm house (originally golf clubhouse) to fix them. He did get fed up with chidren putting up ropeswings and used to spray the trees with slurry.

  15. NIck Gould says:

    I had heard that the widow had been reburied some time ago.

    • just a kid says:

      if it was the grass green van it was a commer
      i painted it with gloss paint mid 60s

      • Jon Yates says:

        Hmmmmm, bang goes a theory ‘just a kid’, if that date is correct. I had you down as being Willie Taylor. Care to disclose? Two other possibles I thought of were Alan Deans or Billy Coyle. Warm?

  16. Rosie says:

    message for Jon Yates. OMG! Was reading about Cammo walk and realised (I think) that you are the same Jon that shot a rabbit for me when I was at Queen Margaret’s ca 1976ish and remember fondly trad jazz sundays at The Barnton. Now live way south of the border………….so you prob wont speak to me. (nee Markham)

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