Craigtoun Gardens cover 47 acres of the original gardens of Mount Melville House. These gardens were created for the leisure and recreation of the two private owners of the estate, their families and guests.

General George Melville of Strathkinness built the first Mount Melville House in the late 18th century and commissioned landscaping of the surrounding estate land, including the planting of 230 trees, many of which still stand today. For example, the giant Turkey Oak near the cafe whose girth of 4.87m qualifies its entry in the Woodland Trust’s Inventory of Ancient Trees.

In 1901, the second owner of the Mount Melville Estate, Dr James Younger, commissioned architect Paul W. Waterhouse to design a new mansion house and to further landscape the park. Waterhouse introduced formal built structures to the park, including formal gardens, the Walled Garden, Cypress Avenue, Rose Garden, Italian Garden and a Temple (demolished in 1966). The style of these structures are familiar to St Andrews local people and visitors because Waterhouse also designed the University Union, St Regulus Club and the Younger Hall.

In 1920, Waterhouse was commissioned to carry out further work on the gardens, including the addition of the two connected lakes and the Dutch Village. The lakes were probably a picturesque way to meet a new insurance requirement for a ready supply of water in case of fire at the mansion house. The Japanese Garden sits in the shaded area between the two lakes.

In 1947, the gardens and house were sold by the Younger Family to Fife County Council for £25,000. The Council designated the gardens Craigtoun Country Park and the mansion house became the local maternity hospital, separate from the park. The park was opened to the public and quickly became a significant tourist destination. Regular visitors to the park often refer to the spectacular displays of bedding plants created by Fife Council’s gardeners in the glasshouses - a favourite spot to shelter on rainy days. The gardeners also provided educational opportunities for children and would happily offer expert advice to amateur gardeners.

Successive Head Gardeners have developed areas of the garden and the plantings we see today include:
Exotic and specialist plants sourced from plant collector Michael Wickenden of Cally Gardens by Gatehouse of Fleet . You will see these plants in the Walled Garden and Rose Garden.

Two National Collections of beautiful Siberian Iris. The best time to visit these spectacular plants is late May to early June.