The Age of Sail in Everything: Cammo


One place I’ve been visiting quite regularly lately is the estate at Cammo, now a park belonging to the council, but still with the remnants of the estate laid out by Sir John Clark of Penicuik in 1710, described on the sign at the entrance as ‘the first person in Scotland to design a landscape which included wild areas as well as formal lawns, gardens and drives’.

The house was derelict and in very bad condition when the council took it over, and only part of an outer wall now remains, although with a very impressive doorway.

Cammo House door

Oddly, this is the second storey of the original house, with the grassy mound covering the storey below and the site of the original stairs – there are some pictures on this site showing the door in context.

This is clearer at the side, with bricked up windows partly above ground.

Underground windows

An area beside the house seems to have been a garden, and still has decorations on its surrounding walls – one of my favourite things there.

Garden decorations

The view from the door still stretches along an open ride, and to the hills.

View from the door

The canal nearby is slightly later in date – not really a canal as it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s just a short stretch for decoration.


More recently I went hunting for the walled garden towards the other side of the estate, whose front gate I had walked past once or twice without recognising it – this is a bit later again, probably the second half of the 18th century.

The rear gate made me think of Mary Lennox’s secret garden, although it’s not quite as hidden as that.

Secret garden

Inside the walls is just a wilderness now, but an open wilderness – there are some sunstantial trees, but it’s not same as the woodland all around.

Open space

The walls interested me – brick along the back, but what seemed to be two different layers of stone on the inside of the side wall.

Stone wall

The wall by the front gate was stone on the outside and brick on the inside – the gateposts here are impressive, and hinges are still hanging on although the gates are gone.

Walled garden gatepost

Two of the more impressive buildings are at this side of the park, one just inside the main boundary and one just outside. The stables are dated 1811, and although they’re in ruins there’s enough there to see what they must have been, including the octogonal tower.

Stable block

They were beautifully made – quite a bit of this stone edging survives.

Stable decoration

The best known landmark, however, is this water tower, from roughly the same date.

Water tower

The true Age of Sail link is tenuous, but to a very interesting character – John Clerk of Eldin, son of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (who had inherited the estate at Penicuik and sold Cammo and gone to live there before his son was born.

I first came across the name as the author of one of the books Stephen sends to Sophie in HMS Surprise – he was the author of the first original book of naval tactics in English – but he has also turned up as friend and colleague of James Hutton, providing sketches to illustrate Hutton’s discoveries – definitely someone I should know more about.

Throwback: Inveraray


To the best of my knowledge, Inveraray has never been the site of any particular event, but it’s still interesting as a Georgian planned town, laid out at one time and in one style. Its story is very much the same as that of Scone – the town was originally on the ground between Inveraray Castle and the shore, but after the castle was rebuilt in the 1740s the Dukes of Argyll no longer wanted other people on their doorstep, moving the town half a mile along the bay in the 1770s.

Southey on his tour of Scotland with Telford in 1819 was obviously struck by the town, say that it exceeded anything he had seen in Britain – he generally liked things to be neat and well arranged!

His description of the main street sounds a bit more like damning with faint praise, however, although he presumably didn’t mean it that way.

The main street, terminated by a Kirk, reminded me of those little German towns, which in like manner have been created by small Potentates, in the plenitude of their power.

The church still stands in the middle of the road, acting as a kind of roundabout – it was built between 1795 and 1802 by Robert Mylne, and was originally double, containing separate churches for English and Gaelic speaking congregations in the same building, although the Gaelic church is now used as a hall. The English entrance looks north and has a clock, and the Gaelic entrance looks south and has a bell.

English church
Gaelic church

The bulk of the building seems to have been done in the mid 1770s, and the George Hotel in the main street claims to have been established in 1776. The name also stresses┬áthat this is the heart of Campbell country – other parts of the highlands might not have been so ready to commemorate a Hanoverian king.

George Hotel

Beyond and behind the main street the houses are mainly laid out in blocks, still painted white – Factory Land, Relief Land, Fisher Row, Cross Houses – some tenements, and some more like cottages.

Relief Land
Fisher Row

Front street, at a right angle to the main street and facing the castle, is possibly the most impressive part, and one of the earliest, dating back to the 1750s. The central building here is the original townhouse – courtroom and council chamber, prison, and grammar school – which replaced the tolbooth in the original village.

Old Townhouse

Arches not only link the townhouse to the inn, covering the entrance to the Avenue which runs parallel to the main street, but also link the inn to the old smithy on its far side, giving the Oban road which runs between them an odd look of a private drive. It’s still a local landmark – you don’t tell someone to go to Inveraray and take the Oban turning, you tell them to go to Inveraray and through the arch.

Arch over the Avenue

The main historic attraction, however, is the replacement courthouse and jail, built in 1820, which stands halfway up the main street facing the church. The prison closed in 1889 and the court in the 1950s, and the building now holds a recreation of a trial and the cells, and information about some of the more exciting happenings there.

Courthouse building

Although the main building proclaims itself to be Inveraray Jail, it’s really the court building – the original county jail of Argyll was a much smaller building in the yard behind, although a second building was added later.

The old jail