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Issue 22 - Fife – a Kingdom to explore

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 22
August 2005

 

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Fife – a Kingdom to explore

A journey from Edinburgh to Dundee is an ideal way to discover the Kingdom of Fife. Dominic Roskrow reports

Mention the Kingdom of Fife and almost certainly the words ‘St Andrews’ spring to mind. But if you don’t know all about St Andrews and the golfing heritage of the region, then you’ve either not been reading carefully enough or you’re from the planet Zog, and we do not intend to repeat it all here.

If you are in this region then of course St Andrews is a must-visit place.

And if you play golf, then of course the Old Course is the place to be.

But broaden your mind a bit. Go up to St Andrews Golf Resort and Spa, where there are two wonderful courses to be discovered. And ask the locals for some advice about some of the Kingdom’s other challenging and reasonably priced courses.

And then set about exploring the rest of the region. It’s very easy to reach from Glasgow and particularly Edinburgh, and it’s a rewarding use of time.

Beyond the obvious attractions of the area, what do most of us really know about the eastern region across the Firth of Forth and below the Highlands?

In terms of diversity the Kingdom of Fife has much to offer. It is littered with good eating and drinking establishments, it has more than its fair share of places to visit, it is littered with golf courses, and along the coast from Kirkcaldy to St Andrews it has any number of quaint and semi-hidden ports, villages and beaches.

It’s worth crossing the bridge from Edinburgh and pottering about for a day or so across Fife and up to Dundee. Time it right and you can eat a fish and chip lunch in Anstruther, for instance, enjoy afternoon tea in St Andrews and end up watching the world go by in Dundee while enjoying a wee dram or a trendy cocktail.

And you can do the whole lot at your own untroubled pace.

Dunfermline and West Fife.

The region around Dunfermline is steeped in history and religion, and you can savour about 900 years of both in one day. Dunfermline itself was once home to Benedictine monks who lived in the 11th century Abbey. The old Abbey site is where Robert the Bruce was buried and it is also the resting place of 11 or 12 other Scottish kings and queens. Charles I, the last monarch to be born in Scotland, was born here.

Dunfermline is also the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie. He was born in a humble weaver’s cottage in 1835 and today it serves as a museum celebrating his life. The first of many Carnegie libraries was built in Dunfermline in 1881.

Another famous son of the region is St Mungo, who was born in the Royal Borough of Culross and is the patron saint of Glasgow.

Travel along the coast and you reach Limekilns, which once served as the port for the Benedictine monks. From there you can travel on to Aberdour where the fortified castle is well worth a visit.

Kirkcaldy Leven and East Neuk.

You can never rely on the weather in Scotland of course, but if you do happen to get a good day it’s worth a gentle car trip along the coast from Kirkcaldy to Crail and then up to St Andrews, ending up there in time for afternoon tea.

The coastline is littered with pretty villages, highlights of which include Anstruther, with its wonderful fish and chip shops, and the fishing port Crail, which is a total delight; Kinghorn, which nestles below imposing cliffs; and Wemyss, with its prehistoric caves.

If you don’t get the weather, Kirkcaldy has its attractions, too. Once an industrial centre for the region, it has turned in to the area’s principal shopping centre.

Economist Adam Smith was born here, and the theatre, a centre of excellence for music, theatre and ballet, is named after him.

Further up the coast is the holiday centre of Leven. For those wanting some activity there is a bustling promenade. But nearby there are peaceful nature trails.

Ancient castles pretty walks and the opportunity to indulge in some of the most exciting water sports anywhere are all on the menu in this region.

Dundee.

Just across the Firth of Tay is the highly under-rated and intriguing city of Dundee. It is sited in something of a suntrap and can boast to be Scotland’s sunniest city. It is a student town so its night life and bars are extremely good. And while it isn’t quite as cutting edge as Glasgow, it is all the better for that – combining the best of style bar culture with a gentler and more laid back feel.

Dundee is special because it is compact and much of its tarractions can be accessed easily on foot.

Attractions include Captain Scott’s Antartic expedition ship the RSS Discovery and next to it a visitor centre which recreates some of the experiences of the ship. An interactive centre called Sensation:Dundee brings the city right up to date, with more than 60 interactive attractions.

Relax in the evening by the Tay and try one of the outstanding cocktails that the trendy young barmen have created. And end the day with a meal in City Square.

From the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Tay you can sample a side of Scotland that many don’t see.

And it’s every bit as varied, stimulating, exciting and impressive as the lochs and bens most often associated with the country.