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A Great Day Out
Craigtoun Park (St Andrews, Scotland)
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Craigtoun Park (St Andrews, Scotland)
Advantages: Lots to do, cheap, can spend the whole day there, suits all ages and has potential to be even better
Disadvantages: Could do with more toilets
Well the sun's shining at last and it's reached that time of year where us parents are racking our brains of cheap and cheerful ways of entertaining the kids while making the most of the good weather.
One place we love to visit and never get bored of is Craigtoun Park.
*** Location ***
Craigtoun Country Park is located in Fife in Scotland, between Cupar and St Andrews. The first time I visited the park with my own kids I didn't know how to get there as I hadn't been since I was a child myself and had always been driven there. I googled the post code and the directions seemed pretty straight forward. Once you get to the main road between Cupar and St Andrews, Craigtoun Park is well sign posted and I had no trouble finding it myself.
*** Arriving at Craigtoun Park ***
The access road to Craigtoun Park is a tarmac road and will bring you right up to the car park at the entrance of the park, passing the golf course along the way.
The car park is large however, I would warn you to be prepared if visiting at busy times of the year. We went once on Easter Monday and only just made it into the car park, despite arriving first thing in the morning. When we left the park mid-afternoon, we found our car had been blocked right in as the staff had been directing cars to park in rows with no space in between. As a result we had a bit of a wait before we could leave the park and when we did there were cars parked all down the road leading up to it. Other than this visit though, we've never had any problems parking and have been in the busy height of summer during school holidays a few times.
Once parked, you queue at the gate to get in. It is free to enter out of season as most of the attractions only run from April through to September, however if visiting during the spring/summer months there is a small charge. I can't find details of the current prices online, but when we were there last year it was around £4 for adults and £2 or £3 for kids.
The park is open from 10.30am until 6.30pm daily.
*** In the Park ***
Once you have paid the entrance fee, everything in the park is free, with the obvious exception of the café. I love the fact that you can go and know that you can spend the whole day there if it's nice without being hit with any hidden charges.
The park has lots to offer and has something for children of all ages. The two main attractions (which are the ones that are closed out of season), are the mini steam train and the boating lake.
The train doesn't usually have too long a wait and it doesn't take long to go around, so even if you do have to wait for a couple of circuits, it wont be too long before you find yourself in one of the wee carriages. The train is not fast at all, I'm sure a fast walker would be able to keep up, and like I said it is just a small circuit around the boating lake, so takes all of 3 minutes or so from start to finish, but all the kids - the young ones in particular - seem to love this and will ride it many a time throughout the day.
The boating lake always has a longer wait and you could quite easily queue for half an hour to forty five minutes waiting for a boat to become free. Each boat is allowed out for 15 minutes, although I don't think they are overly strict with this and as you can imagine, some people will take advantage of that. Getting in and out of the boat can of course be a little entertaining to say the least, especially if you have young toddlers, but you get there in the end and once in the debates start as to who is going to row. The boating lake is almost like a figure of eight and you can decide whether to go around the island of trees or to take the challenge and get your boat under the very small bridge, where there is often a bit of a traffic jam as people get stuck. There is no room for oars when you're under the bridge so if you get stuck you're have to use the bridge to pull your boat out. Again a source of entertainment and possible embarrassment if you happen to be one of the ones that get stuck.
There are also trampolines, crazy golf, bouncy castles and a play park to help keep the kids amused for the rest of the day. The play park is quite new and is a brilliant area with diggers, high climbing frames, pipe slides and much more. There are also glasshouses, gardens and a bowling green however, I can't comment on these personally as we're usually too busy with the rest of the park.
There are huge grassy areas throughout the park which make choosing a picnic spot a chore in itself, with picnic benches, wide open spaces and shaded areas under trees.
If I remember correctly they used to have a small animal farm where they had chicks and rabbits and things which you could handle, but this was when I was younger and since having my own children they no longer have this. It's a bit of a shame, but it doesn't make the park any less appealing.
If you still have time after doing everything else the park has to offer, there is a vast amount of space perfect for football, Frisbee and other outdoor games.
The grounds are very well kept and even in winter the place is clean and tidy and well looked after.
*** Services ***
There is a small porta-cabin café, which isn't open out of season. We've eaten here once and weren't overly impressed with the experience. There is a serious lack of options on the menu, none of which are hugely appealing and we all went for a hot dog, which didn't do a very good job of filling us up, but did double the cost of our day out. If you plan on visiting I hugely recommend that you take your own food and just have a nice relaxing picnic.
There is only one toilet block in the park and the ladies only has three toilets, so during busy times, you will usually find that there is a queue. The toilets aren't immaculate, but are what you would expect from this sort of place and are always well stocked with toilet roll, soap and paper towels.
In my opinion the park could do with an additional ice cream van or something separate to the café, so that visitors can pick up ice cream and drinks on hot days, and perhaps hot drinks on the colder days.
*** Overall ***
I think Craigtoun Park is a great cheap family day out. Obviously it will depend on the weather, but generally younger children will have a blast and be very easily entertained here, whereas older children can be given a bit of freedom with parents safe in the knowledge that they are safe to explore the park.
If you're ever in the area and stuck for something to do I would highly recommend paying Craigtoun Park a visit, I'm sure it won't disappoint.
The only complaint I have really is that there is so much unmet potential within the park. There is an old bit that sits in the middle of the boating lake, which is all closed off to the public now, but it used to house a little ice cream shop and picnic tables where you could sit and watch the boats go by. It would be nice to see this bit up and running again. It would also be nice to see something done with the rest of the park. All the attractions seem to all be hunched together, with the rest being all grass and trees. Although I wouldn't like to see this area spoiled with play frames and the likes, it would be nice if there was a walkway through the trees and maybe something to encourage some wildlife into that particular area.
Overall though, I still give Craigtoun Park a five star rating. It's everything you could want from a family day out and will continue to be a regular day out for our family for many years to come.
Summary: Definitely recommended
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