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.

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