Elie Estate incorporates the land surrounding the Royal Burgh of Elie and Earlsferry with the village forming its southern boundary and Kilconquhar Loch forming its boundary to the north.
At the centre of the estate is Elie House, built by Sir William Anstruther in 1697 on the site of a late 16th century mansion that had been built by Sir William Scott.
In 1853, Elie House was acquired by William Baird who subsequently sold it to Sir Michael Nairn (2nd Bt) in 1928. Sir Michael lived at Elie House from 1928 until he died in 1953. On Sir Michael’s death, his son, Sir George Nairn (3rd Bt) decided that Elie House was too large to be occupied as a private residence in post-war Britain. The house and gardens were sold to the Marie Reparatrice Order of Nuns to be used as a Retreat. Sir George also gifted Elie Harbour, formerly part of Elie Estate, to the village of Elie – and a plaque remains on the harbour wall commemorating this gift. In 2000, Elie House was sold to a property developer who converted the mansion into apartments.
Elie Estate, with the exception of Elie House, is owned and managed by the Trustees of the Elie Estate Trust under the stewardship of Sir Michael Nairn (4th Bt) and his son, Alex Nairn, who now lives on the Estate with his wife and children. Today, the estate includes a range of activities:
Farming: the estate has some 600 hectares of prime agricultural lowland as well as mixed conifer and broadleaf woodland.
The majority of the agricultural land is leased to three long-standing farm tenants who manage the farms of Ardross, Broomlees and St Ford. The farms use traditional crop rotation techniques and are encouraged to adopt wildlife conservation and preservation practices wherever possible.
House rentals: Elie Estate has a number of properties that are let to local people on a long term basis.
Woodland: forestry is the Estate’s primary enterprise with a full-time forester employed to manage 160 hectares of woodland. Labour intensive techniques such as early formation and high pruning are adopted to encourage a high quality timber end-product. Where possible, clear felling of the trees is avoided with the preferred method being continuous cover forestry where young trees are planted beneath older ones, avoiding the ugly sight of clear fell. Recent initiatives have included the introduction of black walnut and tests in planting disease resistant varieties of elm. During the 1950s and 1960s, a major program of felling and re-planting of mature hardwoods was undertaken. Also in the 1960s – on the western side of the estate at Shell Bay – a large area of sandy soil formerly used as an army rifle range, was planted with Scots Pine. Today, those re-established trees are becoming fine woodlands and visitors can enjoy quiet walks around the many paths that were developed with the support and funding from Forestry Commission Scotland. In conjunction with Fife Council and Forestry Commission Scotland, a Forest Plan has been prepared to provide a long-term strategy for the management of the woodlands within the Estate. As well as providing an attractive landscape setting, the objective of the forestry operation is to produce high quality hardwoods for the local market as well as a wonderful natural wildlife habitat. A by-product of the forestry operation is firewood, which is made available for sale locally.
The Kilconquhar Loch on the estate’s northern border is jointly owned and managed with the neighbouring Kilconquhar Estate. The loch is an important site for both breeding and wintering water foul including the rare little grebe that rears its chicks in the reed beds around the loch. Given the importance of the loch for bird life, Scottish Natural Heritage designated the loch and surrounding area a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
In 2009 Elie Estate and its neighbour, Kilconquhar entered into a Management Agreement with Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure the loch continues to be managed for the benefit of the environment. The water level is regulated by a complex drainage system known as the ‘loch run’ that runs south, largely in a deep underground culvert and finally out to sea through the Elie Harbour wall. Greatest care is taken to preserve the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings of the loch and the use of watercraft is strictly controlled by Fife Council and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Ardross Farm Shop opened in 2005 and is run by the Pollock family who farm Ardross Farm. Their aim to sell all of the beef produced on the farm has been very successful. They also produce over 40 varieties of vegetables that are all marketed through the shop.