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Issue 46 - Dundee & the Kingdom of Fife – ancient and Royal land

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 46
August 2009


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Dundee & the Kingdom of Fife – ancient and Royal land

Charles Douglas explores Dundee and the Kingdom of Fife.

Before the celebrated Forth Road Bridge was open to traffic in 1964, intrepid travelers ventured north from Edinburgh to the Kingdom of Fife by either taking the ferries from South Queensferry to North Queensferry, or via the Port of Leith to Aberdour, or, from the Victorian era onward, they crossed the Firth of Forth by train over the magnificent Forth Rail Bridge, one of the wonders of its age.

However, such has since been the enormous increase in vehicle traffic north and south that plans are now afoot to create a second road bridge to run parallel with the older one.

Centuries ago, of course, everybody traveled by boat, and there were constant sailings between the coastal towns of Fife and continental Europe, with merchants selling flax and linen from Culross in the inner reaches of the estuary, so much so that a Scotch House was set up for Fife traders at Vere in the Netherlands.

The centrepiece of Culross today is known as The Palace, although it never truly had a Royal connection. Instead, it housed George Bruce, a prosperous merchant who built it between 1579 and 1611. Dutch tiles decorate the floor and tempera paintings on the ceilings illustrate Biblical scenes, a reflection on the style of a bygone age when the Firth of Forth was that major artery for trade with the Low Countries.

Strategically, therefore, it is unsurprising to learn that nearby Rosyth, which was originally created as a port for Dunfermline, was transformed into a Royal Naval Dockyard in 1909. Over the century that followed this was to make an enormous contribution to the defense of the United Kingdom, ultimately becoming a key nuclear submarine maintenance base.

However, the Dockyard closed in 1994, and Royal Navy ships, although still regular visitors, are no longer based in the Firth of Forth.

The dignified town of Dunfermline was once the Capital of Scotland, its magnificent Abbey the burial spot for early Scottish kings, notably Robert I and his five times great grandmother, Saint Margaret, wife of Malcolm III. The surrounding ruins here indicate the impressive infrastructure of the old Royal Palace which in 1602 was the birthplace of Charles I, second son of James VI & I. The adjacent Abbot House, an award winning heritage centre, houses a replica of the jeweled Head Shrine of St Margaret and murals by the contemporary Scottish writer Alasdair Gray.

In 1835, Dunfermline was also the birthplace of the steel and railway tycoon Andrew Carnegie. In 1848, when he was 13 years old, his family migrated to America where, through sheer hard work, he rose to become one of the richest men in the world, and also one of its greatest benefactors. Four charities in his name still have their headquarters here – the Dunfermline Carnegie Trust; the Carnegie Hero Fund; the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust.

The M90 Motorway, which slopes north from the Forth Road Bridge, bisects the landscape east of Dunfermline and slices onwards and northwards towards the City of Perth, dividing Clackmananshire and Kinross from Fife and its coastal bulge.

At the foot of the Lomond Hills sits the Royal hunting lodge of Falkland Palace, which dates from the reign of James IV and is the finest example of French-influenced Renaissance architecture in the United Kingdom. It was here that James’s granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots spent the happier days of her childhood before being shipped off to marry the Dauphin in France.

Today, the Palace is opened to the public by the National Trust for Scotland.

Nearby is the ‘New Town’ of Glenrothes, planned and developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Designed as a garden city, with an emphasis on well-landscaped, low-rise housing surrounded by parkland and open spaces, it succeeded the neighbouring market town of Cupar as the administrative Capital of Fife in 1975. Today its industries encompass several large scale electronic companies, forming the hub of Scotland’s ‘Silicon glen.’ It also features Scotland’s largest indoor shopping centre.

From the A921 Inverkeithing junction of the Forth Road Bridge, curling east towards Burntisland and Kinghorn, the journey along the northern shore of the Firth of Forth commands spectacular views across the water and the islands of Inchcolm and Inchkeith towards a distant Edinburgh, with its backdrop of the Pentland Hills.

The Lang Toun of Kirkcaldy (which the writer Daniel Defoe described as “one street, one mile long”) lies directly opposite the East Lothian port of Aberlady, which perhaps explains the many long ago nautical comings and goings of pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. Early industries such as salt panning and textiles flourished here, but by the late 19th century Kirkcaldy had become a leading centre for the manufacture of linoleum. In the years that followed, this was supplemented by coal, flour, maltings, electrical engineering and furniture manufacture. One of Kirkcaldy’s most celebrated sons was Adam Smith (1723- 1790), author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

During the summer months, the population of the East Neuk of Fife, which consists of that picturesque chain of villages which string themselves along the coastline northwards – St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Elie, St Monans, Lundin Links, Crail and Kingsbarnes – is said to treble.

These quaint and neat little hamlets and fishing villages with their ready access to sandy beaches and golf courses provide the perfect retirement and holiday retreats.

Straddling the sea and dominated by the ruins of its castle and equally imposing 12th century cathedral, at one time Scotland’s largest building, is the dignified town of St Andrews. Having been founded in 1411, its university is the oldest in Scotland, and the town itself is renowned worldwide for being the spiritual home of game of golf. Founded in 1745, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide, but not in the USA and Mexico.

St Andrews is also the most popular venue for the Open Championship, with seven golf additional courses in total – Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum, Balgove and Kinkell Braes.

Officially named for the patron saint of Scotland, whose remains – a tooth, an arm bone, a knee cap and some fingers – were brought here in the fifth century by a Greek monk called St Rule, St Andrews, with its Augustinian Priory, rapidly emerged in medieval Scotland as the beacon of Scotland’s Christian faith. All of that came to an end, however, when the Protestant Reformer John Knox preached a fiery sermon in the town’s parish church Holy Trinity in 1559 and the mob ran riot. Then in 1641, an English invasion force under Oliver Cromwell brought about its final indignity with its systematic destruction and use as a stone quarry.

Today, St Andrews, being extremely self contained, resonates as a university town specialising in the Arts, Divinity and the Biological Physical sciences.

Just north of St Andrews Bay is the village of Leuchars, probably best known for the adjoining RAF Airforce base, RAF Leuchars, which was established in 1920 and is home to the Tornado F3s. In September, the annual Leuchars Airshow, with air forces from several NATO countries taking part, is a popular visitor attraction.

To the west is the small tons of Auchtermuchty. The first record of its existence is 350AD when the area was occupied by the Romans. The name is an amalgamation of the Gaelic words, Achad na Muic, which means ‘upland slope of the wild pig.’ Auchtermuchty’s favourite son to date is Jimmy Shand, the legendary accordion dance band player who died in 2000 at the age of 92. Those other internationally recognised performers, The Proclaimers, were also brought up in the town where their mother still resides.

Coupar, despite being sidelined as Fife’s administrative centre, is a busy town with many historic buildings in its portfolio.

Notably there are Preston Lodge and the Chancellor’s House, both dating from the 17th century, and the Corn Exchange and the Duncan Institute, built in 1870. On the western approaches is the Scottish Deer Centre which holds more than 140 examples of nine species of deer in its park. Bird of prey demonstrations are a regular feature in its outdoor theatre.

On the mouth of the Firth of Tay, sits Tayport,which was originally called Ferry- Port-on-Craig. In 1846, a harbour was created to accommodate a paddle steamer service to Dundee which continued until 1920.

However, while the City of Dundee sits mightily across on the northern shore of the Firth of Tay, it is now connected to Wormit on the southern shore by road and rail bridges, both 2.5 miles long, the latter made famous by the locally-born poet William McGonagall and the terrible disaster of 1879 when the current bridge’s predecessor collapsed in a storm while a train was crossing it.

Twenty first century Dundee, Scotland’s fourth largest city, is a thriving community of diverse activity which began its prosperity when it started to export first wool, then linen, to the continent. It was therefore the weaving trade which gave Dundee its greatest impetus, which coupled with the manufacture of marmalade and the publishing company D. C. Thomson earned the town its epithet as the city of ‘Jute, Jam, and Journalism.’ Since then biomedical, and techological industries have arrived, and it boasts two universities – the University of Dundee, and the Univerity of Abertay Dundee. Dundee now accounts for ten per cent of the UK’s digital entertainment industry.

In recognition of this and coupled with the building of the Arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s ship, the RRS Discovery, Dundee was designated Scotland’s City of Discovery. The RRS Discovery itself has been fully restored and today sits in the harbour.

Twenty first century Dundee has been twinned with Orleans in France; Zadar in Croatia; Wurxburg in Germany; Alexandria in Virginia, USA; Nablus on the West Bank, and Dubai in the United Arab Emerites. You could hardly be more international than that.

Kellie Castle
Near Pittenweem
(see pages 14-17 this issue)
Tel: +44 (0)844 493 2184
St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews
Ruins of what was the largest Scottish church.
Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8800
Dundee Contemporary Arts
Nethergate, Dundee
Stylish and contemporary art gallery with
café, cinema facilities and some
great exhibitions.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 909 900
Camperdown Park
A country and leisure park with a range of
activities including a golf course and
wildlife complex.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 431 811
Sensation Science Centre
Greenmarket, Dundee
An interactive and innovative indoor children’s
play and education centre.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 228 800
Culross Palace
The most complete example in Scotland
today of a Burgh of the 17th and 18th
centuries. The Palace Garden is a
beautiful reconstruction of an early 17th
century garden.
Tel: +44 (0)844 493 2189
Deep Sea World
North Queensferry
Situated close to the Forth Bridge at North
Queensferry, this is a tried and trusted
aquarium experience aimed fairly and squarely
at the family.
Tel: +44 (0)1383 411 880
St Andrews Old Course
St Andrews
The world-famous course at the original home
of golf. Don’t assume you won’t get on the
course, particularly out of the main season.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 466 666
Discovery Point
Museum telling the story of Captain Scott’s
famous ship, RRS Discovery, built here
in 1900.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 309 060
St Margaret’s Cave
A tunnel with 87 steps leading deep
underground, to a place where Queen
Margaret used to pray 900 years ago.
Tel: +44 (0)1383 722 935
The Secret Bunker
near Crail/Anstruther
Built to house up to 300 people from
regional government in the event of a
nuclear war, this is an eerie and
fascinating insight into the Cold War. It’s
a complete and cramped museum with
many great artefacts.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 310 301
Verdant Works
Heritage museum recreating a jute mill
in an entertaining way.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 225 282
The Abbot House Heritage Centre
A detailed journey through the history of
Dunfermline incorporating its role as a
religious and trading centre and covering
the period from the town’s inception to the
current day.
Tel: +44 (0)1383 733 266

Fisherman’s Tavern
Broughty Ferry
Fisherman’s cottage converted
into a pub with rooms added
more recently.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 775 941
Best Western Queens Hotel
Central and functional hotel near
the Arts Centre.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 322 515
The Spindrift Hotel
Offering eight bedrooms with
en-suite facilities and a
warm welcome.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 310 573
Balbirnie House
Country house hotel noted for its
emphasis on style and service.
Good restaurant and wine list.
Tel: +44 (0)1592 610 066
The Inn at Lathones
St Andrews
Charming 400 year old coaching
inn near St Andrews.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 840 494
St Andrews
Luxury country house close to
the town with lovely gardens and
pleasant restaurant.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 472 594
Fairmont St Andrews
St Andrews
Modern and accessible
American-style hotel with fine
dining and a relaxed open-plan
atmosphere. Excellent business
facilities and pool.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 837 000
Old Station
St Andrews
Bed and breakfast with
boutique rooms and comfy
facilities, housed in a
converted train station.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 880 505
Kilconquhar Castle Estate
Near Elie
Timeshare and holiday resort. A
few rooms are let within the
castle itself with access to the
castle’s facilities including pool,
tennis, golf and riding.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 340 501
Hotel Broughty Ferry
Broughty Ferry
Peaceful hotel with pool and spa
in the basement and a stylish bar
and bistro.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 480 027
Old Course Hotel
St Andrews
World famous hotel surrounded
by golf, nestling in the town,
open and accessible but stylish
and grandiose, too.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 474 371

The Agacan
Bohemian style venue with
Turkish food.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 644 227
Café Buongiorno
Good quality Italian food close to
the shopping centre.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 221 179
The Seafood Restaurant
St Andrews
Lovely surroundings, very good
seafood, nice atmosphere.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 479 475
The Vine Leaf
St Andrews
A very popular restaurant with a
varied menu to suit all tastes.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 477 497
The Ship Inn
Broughty Ferry
Atmospheric historic pub serving
simple Scottish food.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 779 176
Bar/café and restaurant
from a group that has
outlets in Edinburgh and
Aberdeen too.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 200 399
The Doll’s House
St Andrews
A relaxed and informal restaurant
in the heart of St Andrews...
Tel: +44 (0)1334 477 422
The Grange Inn
St Andrews
Popular country pub with
quality menu.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 472 670
Café Montmartre
Gray Street, Dundee
Bistro with French and African
cuisine on the varied menu.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 739 313
The Old Rectory Inn
Popular and cosy restaurant
serving traditional Scottish dishes.
Tel: +44 (0)1592 651 211
Ostler’s Close
Bistro/restaurant that features
quality local food including
organic and vegetarian produce.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 655 574
The Peat Inn
Something of a Scottish
institution, with a superb
reputation for great food and a
simple no nonsense atmosphere.
Also has rooms.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 840 206
Michelin starred restaurant where
booking is essential.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 331 001
The Cellar
Specialises in top quality seafood
locally sourced and widely
regarded as one of the best
eating experiences in Scotland.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 310 378