CuparNow KnowHow – Craigsanquhar
Over recent weeks, much has been shared on the increasing influence of Cupar as a 21st century market town at the heart of a large, rural catchment – not least of all, its drive for a new Community Action Plan. In that catchment are many businesses anchored to the town … and some have been for centuries! The latest in our business profiles is one such business – Craigsanquhar.
The property has records dating back to the 14th century. Today’s custodians? A family who have run Craigsanquhar for more than 20 years.
Throughout its history, it has provided different services and offerings – until recently, many locally will have known it as a venue for weddings. But that has now changed.
Fiona Gormley, General Manager, explains: “Craigsanquhar has become a passion. The owners’ hard work, investment and dedication have brought the history and grandeur of the Mansion House back to life, preserving its beauty through an ongoing programme of respectful renovation and preservation.”
Since the end of lockdowns, the emphasis has shifted. Fiona adds: “We were well known as a wedding venue in this corner of Fife, but we wanted to rethink the Craigsanquhar approach.” In doing so, they have created a unique offering – bringing sustainability to the forefront of their story through the design and implementation of the restored walled garden, the produce from which is spearheading a new dining experience.
The Craigsanquhar experience …
Head Chef, Stuart Archibald, has been at the hotel for almost 20 years and loves the changes being made at Craigsanquhar. He is inspired by the focus on provenance, saying: “Scotland is an inspiration – especially this stunning corner of Fife.” He adds: “The rolling hills around Craigsanquhar are home to a wealth of farmers rearing, growing and producing some of Scotland’s finest ingredients and I am fortunate to be able to work with many of them as our key suppliers.”
That extends beyond the farmland to the rivers and shores – ensuring Stuart has access to a wealth of the finest produce – year round. But he is especially passionate about their own walled garden, saying: “We all have a responsibility to reduce food miles, but our work is not simply about environmental sustainability. It is about taste! Our restoration project is now bearing fruit – literally! We are growing and producing fabulous fruits, vegetables and herbs … a stone’s throw from our kitchen.”
Restaurant manager, Carols Ferreira, echoes Stuart’s passion, adding: “This corner of Scotland has a wonderful sense of community – people coming together to support each other. We are proud to be part of Cupar’s rural community and are working hard to preserve the finest traditions of Scottish hospitality.” He adds: “We want every guest to feel that hospitable Scottish culture and to experience Scotland’s larder … from our walled garden, hens, or honeybees to the produce that is farmed or fished within a few miles of Craigsanquhar.”
Craigsanquhar House is the former home of the Spens family of Lathallan whose ancestry can be traced back to King Robert III of Scotland and King Edward III of England.
The lands of Craigsanquhar belonged to the Spens family from 1385 until 1524; they were bought back into the family ownership by Dr Nathaniel Spens in 1792. However, the small corner of cut stone to left of the front lawn is all that remains of the original tower house to which he returned.
Dr Spens carried out his first medical studies in the University of St Andrews. A keen member of the King’s Body Guard for Scotland Royal Company of Archers, he was the subject of a portrait painted in full dress uniform, by the artist Sir William Raeburn. Commissioned in 1791 by the Royal Company of Archers and completed in 1793, the original remains in the Company’s Edinburgh HQ. In 1796, 150 copies were made and one hangs in the hotel lobby today.
Nathaniel’s initials surmount the entrance doorway and occur again in the carved figurine and flag-like windvane over the roof. The estate remained in the Spens family until 1925.
The architect of the house as we know it now was William Burn who designed many distinguished buildings in Edinburgh.
Over recent years there has been a move to recognise the importance of ‘slow food’ – food that is produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients. Founded by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in Italy during the 1980s, the aim of the movement was to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life.
Add to the equation the need for land owners to diversify – to invest in sustainable tourism – and you have a model to which Craigsanquhar aspires.
Depending on the season, the hotel employs up to 10 full and part time staff members. Fiona says: “Most have lived locally their entire lives and others got here as soon as they could! We also use many local contractors to assist in the upkeep of the estate, all helping to support the local economy.”
Over the years, the hotel and restaurant have won many awards in recognition of their work and standards. Fiona adds: “In the last few years, we have changed the focus of our business and are honoured to be endorsed by Orvis as a Wingshooting Lodge.” That change in approach has led to a more sustainable business model – and is delivering economic benefits far beyond the hotel and its grounds: “Our guests travel to find us from all over Scotland. Some come from much further afield and return year after year to enjoy the Craigsanquhar experience. They arrive as guests and leave as lifelong friends. I think that means we are hitting the mark and providing the experience our guests expect and deserve. That is our most cherished achievement.”
Stuart is leading the culinary charge at the hotel. He explains: “The change in our business model has been planned with love and care to deliver the very best for our guests. This is not your average kitchen garden, it is a full working walled garden that was originally used to provide the estate’s kitchen with everything it needed. To bring that history, that sustainability and freshness back to the estate, has been a very special project and one that is now embedded. It will continue for years to come.” He adds: “We produce as much as we can from our walled garden to use in our restaurant. We also create our own jams, chutneys, pestos, and dressings with ingredients from our estate for guests to take home.”
The gardens …
The garden restoration began in June 2019 but naturally came to an abrupt halt as a result of the lockdowns in 2020. Resumed as lockdowns eased, the formal portion of the garden is complete and maturing with over 60 different plant and flower species. A green house was also installed along the back South facing wall and an espalier apple orchard runs the entire length of the East wall.
The Kitchen garden is now producing a myriad of herbs, fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers – making the garden as beautiful as it is productive.
Visitors are invited to “come meet our gardeners and let them share their passion with you as you explore the peaceful surroundings“. The garden is open to the public 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm with free entry and free parking.
The restaurant …
The Spens family name loosely translates to keeper of the larder and this is honoured by the creations delivered in the hotel’s restaurant – named after the Spens family member who bought the estate back into their ownership – using the seasonal offerings Scotland provides.
The restaurant and bar face south with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside. There is a large wood-burning stove and open fireplaces providing a warm atmosphere when the season changes.
Stuart says: “We use our own produce as well as ingredients we source from neighboring farms and estates. Our meat and protein are carefully selected from artisan suppliers, allowing our menus to feature the finest Scottish ingredients.” Carlos adds: “We feature wines from around the globe to complement our seasonal fare, while the bar offers local beer on tap and an excellent range of Scottish whisky and gin.”
For their menus, click on the image below and scroll to download their latest seasonal offering …
As with all our business profiles, we ask what is recommended for those visiting Cupar for the first time – or for the first time in a long time: “There is lots to do in Cupar and the surrounding areas – from family friendly places such as Cairnie Fruit Farm and the Scottish Deer Centre to the Cupar Heritage Centre and Hill of Tarvit Mansion and Garden. You are spoiled for choice! Although a personal favorite is a stop at Fisher & Donaldson for a fudge donut!”
Visit their website via this link. You can follow them on Facebook via this link. Call them on 01334 653426 or email for more information.
Better still, pop to see them! Click on the map below for their contact information …
Opting in …
When we launched CuparNow, the project was to serve businesses and organisations in the town itself. Over the years – as our audience has grown – greater levels of engagement have led to those outside the town but in Cupar’s catchment to opt-in to become part of our delivery. The latest is Craigsanquhar and we are delighted to have them on board.
If you run a business in Cupar’s catchment and would like to opt-in and benefit from being part of the CuparNow project, simply drop us an email via this link with your name, business and contact information and we’ll be back in touch.
Thanks for reading!