“ Address: Cairnie / Cupar / Fife / KY15 4QD Scotland „
Cairnie Fruit Farm's been a little local gem of a pick-your-own place in Fife for decades, but in recent years they've been branching out as a childrens' play-park as well and word has spread so that now people are coming from far and wide to visit it. People from as far afield as Arbroath in Angus and even in - shock! Glasgow! - have now heard of, and travel miles and miles to go there for a day out.
What it's gained in popularity is has perhaps lost in genuine charm. That publicity picture accompanying this review that you see of sunlit strawberry fields under a blue sky, with golden straw between the rows of fruit bushes - that's all gone now. Yes, the strawbs and straw are still there, as is the wide, Fife sky (and it's an oft-quoted pseudo-statistic that Fife gets less annual rainfall than Crete, did you know, but then of course presumably in compensation it must really piss down in Crete all through the winter) but now the sky and the straws have been separated from one another, so that's a shot-in-the-foot for the notion of pick-your-own being an opportunity to get out in the open air really. Unfortunately at Carinie they have set up ginormous sort of.....vast, white, high-roofed, covered (but partly open-sided, or else everyone would suffocate or run wild claustrophobic) poly-tunnels over the very, very extensive strawberry fields. Presumably these help to screen the fruit / fruit pickers from the hostile environment - but if the environment's so hostile, you begin to wonder why on earth they bother growing soft fruit in Fife / opening up a pick-your-own enterprise there in the first place?
The overall effect of the high polytunnels which I saw for the first time when I visited earlier this month (August 09) is pretty disconcerting. Cairnie specializes in pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and other soft fruit but the strawberry fields in particular seem to be their speciality, and these are so large and extensive that they have to run a minibus service to trundle visitors (as well as, presumably, teams of professional fruit-pickers) to and from the furthest of them. Imagine these enormous strawberry-growing areas all being under white plastic cover - the polytunnels rolling up and down with the Fife landscape, so large in the undulating topgraphy that you can't even see to the ends of them - and that the overall effect is that you're visitng some sort of set from the 'X-files' TV series; one of the 'sinister agricultural practice' episodes where they're testing GM-modified bees and / or alien crops. I suppose in commercial terms it's a success, but this part of the Cairnie enterprise is not much fun to visit.
And so to the childrens' play-park. It was absolutely, bleedin' mobbed the day we went (a Thursday at the end of the school holidays); Cairnie, for all the relatively huge, in soft-fruit terms, size of its crop area, is situated down a tiny B-road in darkest, rural Fife, so it was surprising to see the volume of vehicular traffic that had been attracted to the site. There must've been a total of 200+ cars in the main and overflow carparks the day we went, and all of these containing families with one or more kids, all of whom were running wild in the play-park. Though the play area was very busy it did seem justabout large enough to absorb this volume of visitors. There are trampolines, swings, a bouncy pillow, pedal tractors, pay-to-ride electric cars and tractors, straw-bales to climb on and under, a maize-maze, pay-to-go-on tractor-trailer rides, etc.
In 'high season' it costs £4.75 per child and £4.25 per adult to access the play area (and yes, I have got those costs round the right way; it is indeed more expensive for children). It's free play-park access for under-three-year-olds (and pensioners!) and costs slightly less for paying customers earlier in the year. Access to the pick-your-own fields, the farm shop (which sells ready-picked soft fruit, toys and souviners, and decorative tat for your house but that's about it), the picnic tables and the on-site cafe are free. The play-area is fenced off; entry to it is by hand-stamp and everyone's hand-stamp is checked by a warden / marshall at the entry booth as you go into the play area, so in some respects at Cairnie they seem to be quite security conscious.
I did however have some very grave and I think realistic concerns about child safety at Cairnie, which I've written about to the people who run the site and sent via email. (I asked for at least receipt of my message to be acknowledged, but have received no reply as yet and have largely given up expecting one.) These concerns relate not to the attractions on the site itself, but specifically to the way the children in and beyond the play area are monitored by Cairnie staff.
This is not by any means a safe site to 'let your children off the leash' to run wild in the play area - unlike what it might at first appear to be, and I strongly would advise parents visiting with children of ANY age to accompany them wherever possible. Cairnie is in an agricultural area for starters; from the bottom of the Cairnie fields there is free access to other arable areas in the surrounding countryside. Heavy farm machinery, such as are used in late summer on working farms during the harvest, and straying children certainly don't mix; there is also an unfenced unexpectedly busy road next to the car-park; kids can get in and out of the site round the side of the 'official' entry points; the list of minor problems goes on and on, and this is not even touching on what I would consider to be the most obvious problem with the site.
Keep a close eye on your kids while visiting, and it should be all right, would be my main bit of advice to any potential visitors. And this does, after all, seem to be the basic attitude of the Cairnie Fruit Farm's management in their approach to health and safety at their new attraction.
Incidentally the visitor loos - or at least the ones I saw - at this attraction seem to consist of portakabins, which isn't really sufficient. If you drive into Cupar, the nearest town to Cairnie, which is about 2 miles away, there is a big (at the time of writing free) public carpark on the left as you reach the first main junction in town. Park in there and use the beautifully-maintained loos in the information office in the car park, for which they'll charge you 30p but it's worth every penny, instead.
Cairnie Fruit Farm and Mega Maze is situated just outside Cupar in Fife in beautiful rolling hills and well kept farmland and is jam packed full of excitement and fun for a great family day out.
Situated just north of the town of Cupar, Cairnie Fruit Farm is very well signposted and can either be reached just off the A91 after travelling through Cupar or alternatively by turning off the A92 at Rathillet and again following the many signposts.
==What the Farm Has to Offer==
Set in 6 acres of beautiful farmland Cairnie Fruit Farm has so much to offer for a great day out, the main attraction between 17th July 2008 - 2 November 2008 being the Funyard and the Mega Maze, a huge themed maze grown from maize.
On arrival at the farm there are large car parking facilities at both sides of the road, as it does tend to get rather busy in the summer months. When you first enter the farm you go through the farm shop, a beautiful, quaint little shop, where you can buy your tickets for the Mega Maize Maze and Funyard or alternatively if that's not your thing, you can have a browse around the many beautiful rustic, country crafts. You can also buy from a great range of tasty ready picked strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, tayberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants or if you have time to spare just grab a container and you can pick your own berries. They also sell a good range of seasonal vegetables, local honey and other produce. Also situated in this building is the beautiful tearoom with plenty tables both inside and outside on the large paved patio area. Here you might have difficulty choosing from the huge range of very tempting home baking on offer - strawberry gateau, strawberry pavlova, strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped fruit scewers, bowls of freshly picked berries with ice cream, homemade soup, sandwiches and a good range of both hot and cold drinks. Toilet facilities, although well kept and clean I do feel are a bit small for the size of the place and the amount of people who pass through daily, having only 3 cubicles in the ladies. If the team room and home baking are not for you then there is also a large picnic area with plenty tables where you can enjoy your own food. This side of the farm is free to enter but if you wish to go on to the maze and Funyard then an entry if payable.
==The Mega Maize Maze and Funyard==
If you have paid for the tickets to the Mega Maze and Funyard you will not be disappointed. Before entering this part of the farm you will have your hand stamped so you can come and go as you please throughout the day. Each year a new maze is designed by Adrian Fisher, the world's leading maze designer. This year's theme is the Egyptian Trail and the maze is in the shape of King Tut's Pharoh Mask. The maze is grown from maize and by mid July the maize is approximately 4 - 5 feet in height and grows to approximately 8 feet in height. I think it's more fun when you go later in the season when the maize is really tall. This year when we went we were still able to see over the top of the maize so it's not quite as exciting. Arial photograph's of the maze show a brilliantly laid out design, although you are quite unaware of this whilst trying to puzzle your way through the maze. Before entering the maze you are given a leaflet explaining a bit about the maze and the puzzle you have to solve. There are 11 check points for you to find, you will find an ink stamp at each check point and on the leaflet are 11 spaces for you to stamp each of the 11 symbols. This year it took us about 1 hour to find them all. Once you have managed to find your way back out of the maze again you are then given the letters associated with each of the symbols and you have to try and work out what the answer is, we did this with the kids while we all sat and enjoyed some homemade cakes mmmmm.... Once you have figured out the puzzle you can post your answer in the box provided where you then have the chance to win prizes at the end of the season.
Once you have managed to escape from the clutches of the maze there are still many more way to have fun. There is a large go-kart track suitable for all ages, with small pedal karts for the little ones to large pedal karts for the very large kid (or even adult) there are even karts with 2 seats, which are great for those a bit too little to go on their own. You never have to wait very long for a kart to become available as there are so many of them.
There are 6 large 10 foot, trampolines again suitable for all ages. These trampolines are sunk into the ground therefore reducing the risk of falls.
For the younger children there is a large sand box with plenty buckets and spades for the little ones to have fun with. There is also a small track area where the under 6s can have fun with pedal tractors. A large cradle swing also provides entertainment.
There is a specially designed sandpit with 2 big mechanical coin operated diggers. Again these provide fun for all ages young and old. A one pound coin gives approximately 5 minutes of fun, which my 15 year old son thoroughly enjoyed.
There are 2 straw bale forts to climb on and climb through, again providing lots of outdoor fun.
The Barrel Bug Ride - this was great. It is basically a very large quad pulling 10 very cleverly designed trailers fashioned from blue barrels, each barrel seats one person, although if you have a little one you can sit him or her on your knee. The first time we watched this it was full of very young children and did look rather tame but nevertheless Erin, my 10 year old daughter, wanted to have a go, but she didn't want to go on her own so after much persuasion we managed to convince Kyle (15) to go on too. They had great fun. The ride lasted for about 5 minutes and goes much faster than it looks. The barrels have quite large wheels on them and all the passengers seemed to bounce up and down quite a lot. Erin just laughed the whole time! Each passenger is required to wear the safety goggles provided and this ride has charge of £1 per person. (Well worth it when you think of how much some fairground rides cost!)
My favourite part of the day had to be this year's new attraction. It's called the jumping pillow and is basically just that! Sited below ground level and made from material similar to that of a bouncy castle, the inflated part that shows above ground just looks exactly like a very large pillow. It is surrounded by a sanded area for a soft landing if needed. All ages are allowed to have fun on this and we CERTAINLY had fun! The kids managed to get me on, don't ask me how they managed, but they did! It was great fun, I was terrified! This kids kept bouncy really high beside me making me spring away, I haven't laughed so much for a very long time. Erin now informs me she would like on of these for the garden!!
A beautiful holiday cottage can also be hired. It is has been converted from an old farm building and looks very luxurious both inside and out.
I really cannot recommend the farm enough. Cairnie Fruit Farm is a definite must if you are in the area. I would however advise a nice day or a dry day at least, as so much more can be had. The staff are all very friendly and help towards making your day a great one
Between 31st October and 2nd November they also have a Halloween Pumpkin Festival with lots of spooky fun for all the family.
Between 24th November and 14th December a wonderful Christmas Fayre takes place when the Farm Shop is transformed into a winter wonderland selling lots of country style, rustic Christmas goodies.
A truly wonderful place with all year round family fun.
==Prices and Opening Times==
Cairnie Mega Maze opens July 17 - 2 November 2008
Closed Mondays from September
10:00am - 6:00pm 7 days July - October (last entry 4:45)
Children's Birthday Parties
Educational & School Visits
Special Interest Groups & Coach Parties
Private and Corporate Events on an exclusive basis
Family £15.00 (4 people, 1 of which must be an adult)
Group (20+ people) 15% discount
Family (4 people, 1 of which must be an adult) £70.00
The COUNTRY TEAROOM is open 7 days from 9:30am-5:00pm, May-August. Tearoom closes on Monday's September-October 31.
The FARM COTTAGE ACCOMODATION prices and availability on request.
For more information:
www.jumpingpillows.co.uk (I did check out this website, but I don't think we'll be getting on for the garden!!)
Many thanks for reading.
Also posted elsewhere.
Stay overnight at the Self Catering Holiday Cottage, enjoy picking fresh produce or have fun roaming through the maze of mais!