On the rocky outcrop known as Balcarres Craig (or Crag) stands an elegant eye-catcher in the form of a circular tower with ruined curtain walls attached. It was built in 1813 for Robert Lindsay of Balcarres House as a ‘grand object in the landscape’.
The rock was a natural feature of the Balcarres estate, and was described in 1849 as ‘worth all that twenty Browns could do for any place in conferring romantic beauty’ – a withering put-down of the artificial earth-moving of the 18th century landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
The sham ruin gave magnificent views as well as announcing the importance of the Balcarres demesne to those who saw the tower from a distance. It was also a dramatic eye-catcher to be seen from the mansion.
The tower was originally surmounted with a flagstaff and on high days and holidays the flag was flown and cannon fired from the tower.
19th century accounts boast of the views from the top of the tower – as well as Stirling and Edinburgh castles the panorama included the Firth of Forth with the mighty Bass Rock, the mountain Ben Ledi, and the Pentland, Ochil, Lammermuir and Campsie ranges of hills. Although mature trees block some of the vistas there are still magnificent views today.
In 1932 the ‘popular minister of Colinsburgh’, Rev. John Adams (d.1941) published a ‘charming volume’ of nature rambles in the neighbourhood of Balcarres Crag. He prefaced his book with a poem on the tower which begins:
Dear to me this high-flung tower,
Rich in song and story;
Fair the day, and calm the hour,
When in all its glory:
Echoing footsteps linger still
Round Balcarres’ flag-crowned hill.
The book was illustrated by Walter Buchanan, who seems to have been the Assistant Factor on the Balcarres Estate.
Not too far from Balcarres Craig is East Newhall Mains on the Cambo estate (mains being the Scottish term for a farm complex). In Follies, Grottoes and Garden Buildings, published in 1999, Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp sensed that the buildings had an interesting future and wrote that the site would ‘repay a visit in a couple of years’. The Folly Flâneuse waited a little longer than that, but it turns out that it was excellent advice.
Behind a sham castle folly façade is the Kingsbarns Distillery, meaning that for perhaps the first time ever the passions of the Flâneuse and her Uncouth Companion have been united in one building. Sláinte.
As the Rev Adams wrote in 1932 the ‘physical exertion’ of the climb to the tower will be ‘amply repaid’. There’s more on the Balcarres estate here https://www.eastneukestates.co.uk/about-the-estates-of-the-east-neuk/balcarres/
As well as furnishing the Uncouth Companion with whisky, Kingsbarns Distillery also provides a welcoming cafe after a good folly walk https://www.kingsbarnsdistillery.com
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