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Issue 57 - Dundee & Fife

Scotland Magazine Issue 57
June 2011


This article is 7 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Dundee & Fife

Local history, where to go and what to do

The City of Dundee straddles the northern shore at the mouth of the Firth of Tay, and promotes itself as “One City, Many Discoveries,” taking its lead from its key visitor attraction, the RRS Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott’s Dundee-built Antarctic exploration vessel. With a booming digital entertainment industry and two universities – Dundee and Abertay – Scotland’s fourth largest city has come a long way from its origins as a 13th century sea port, importing and exporting from mainland Europe.
However, “Jute, Jam and Journalism” were thereafter said to be the foundations of the town, in reference to a burgeoning textile industry, the production of marmalade by James Keiller & Sons, and Dundee being the headquarters of D.C. Thomson, publishers of such iconic periodicals as The Sunday Post, The People’s Friend, The Beano and The Dandy. Nowadays, Dundee thrives on its educational facilities, biomedical and biotechnology industries, information technology, and software for computer games.
To the west lies the City of Perth; to the north, the Glens of Angus and the coastal road to Aberdeen and the Far North. To the south, across the Tay Road and Rail bridges, is the Kingdom of Fife.
From Dundee Airport, there are flights to London City Airport, Birmingham International Airport and Belfast City. Although no longer a bustling passenger location, the harbour still plays a major role in the North Sea Oil Industry.
Nobody should ever really underestimate the strength of Dundee’s vibrant cultural life. The city is home to Scotland’s only full-time repertory company, established in the 30s.
Its base, the Dundee Repertory Theatre, is also the home of the Scottish Dance Theatre. The Caird Hall, named after its benefactor, the jute baron James Key Caird, is the city’s principal concert auditorium, hosting annual jazz, guitar and
blues festivals. Another impressive venue is Dundee Contemporary Arts which houses an art gallery and art house cinema.
For those in search of history and inter-active science, The McManus Galleries, the city’s main museum and art gallery, exhibits fine and decorative art, items from Dundee’s history, and natural history artefacts. The innovatory Sensation Science Centre houses exhibits based on the five senses; the Verdant Works, based in a former jute mill, is dedicated to the jute industry in Dundee, and The “V&A” in Dundee, a £47 million pound centre for art and design south of Craig Harbour, is scheduled for completion in 2014.
It is the words of the much maligned Scottish poet William Maganegall which invariably come to mind when crossing over the River Tay. His poem The Tay Bridge Disaster has won him immortality and put a smile on what was in 1879 an appalling incident in which between 75 and 90 train passengers lost their lives during a freak storm. Only a master of the genre could surely write such words as:
“And the cry rang out all round the town, Good heavens! The Tay Bridge has blown down”.
Nowadays, the “silv’ry” Tay looks for the most part serene and tranquil as it flows between its two shores which are connected by a second Tay Rail Bridge from 1887, and a fine Tay Road Bridge, which opened for traffic in 1966.
Entered from the north, the Kingdom of Fife, a title derived from having long ago been a Pictish kingdom, offers visitors a choice of a series of picturesque coastal towns and fishing villages, or rich interior farmland. Take the A92 from Newport on Tay and the road runs south west, bypassing Cupar and Auchtermuchty, towards Falkland. If venturing in this direction, be sure to take in the Scottish Deer Centre where you can come face to face with nine species of wild deer, birds of prey, Soay sheep and foxes.
South East of Cupar is the Hill of Tarvit, created for the jute-millionaire Sharp Family in the first decade of the 20th century by the Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer who incorporated French and Chippendale-style furniture and porcelain in his design.
It is today managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
Falkland Palace, situated under Falkland Hill, is an impressive and historic hunting lodge, acquired in the fourteenth century. Now in the portfolio of the National Trust for Scotland, it was transformed into a palace during the 16th century by James IV and James V, and it was here that Mary Queen of Scots spent part of her early childhood.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Scotland’s second New Town was created at Glenrothes, which is now the headquarters of
Fife Council.
From here the A92 continues to
run south towards the Forth
Road Bridge.
Following the coastal road from Tayport, however, leads to the university town of St Andrews, recently celebrated for being where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met one another. Even so, St Andrews’ history reaches far back into the mists of time, being so named after the Patron Saint of Scotland whose relics, comprising a tooth, an arm bone and a kneecap, were brought here from Constantinople by an Irish monk, St Regulus or St Rule, in or around the 8th century.
The town thereafter grew up to become the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland, centred on its great and magnificent cathedral, which was abandoned at the time of the Reformation. Its enormous structure, incorporating the surviving St Rule’s Tower, still dominates the town, and is a short distance from the ruined but once formidable St Andrews Castle, bombarded by French canon in the 16th century and notorious for its bottle dungeon.
St Andrews today, of course, promotes itself in a far more peaceful and less controversial manner as the “Home of Golf”. This derives from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, founded here in 1754 and which exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide (except in the United States and Mexico). As a result, the famous links courses have become a regular venue for The Open Championship, the oldest of golf’s four major championships.
Another glorious feature of St Andrews is its close proximity to golden sandy beaches, the one at West Sands so dramatically featuring in the 1985 British film Chariots
of Fire.
Venturing south along the coastal route, you enter into the East Neuk of Fife, a necklace of idyllic fishing villages – Kingsbarnes, with its splendid beach; Crail, which once hosted a small aerodrome; Kilrenny (or Cellardyke) which once boasted 40 boat owners; Anstruther,home of the Scottish Fisheries Museum and departure for Isle of May Cruises; Carnbee and Arncroach, close to the National Trust for Scotland’s Kellie Castle; Pittenweem, with its annual arts festival; St Monans, a popular holiday resort; Colinsburgh, with its Charleton Golf Club, and Elie (or Earlsferry), another golfer’s paradise.
From Elie, the A917 passes bypasses Lower Largo, Leven, Buckhaven, Coaltown of Wemyss to Dysart and Kirkcaldy. Located at the entrance to the 15th century Wemyss Castle, the ancestral home of the Wemyss family, is the Wemyss School of Needlework, created
in 1887 to teach needlework to
the daughters of neighbouring mining families.
Although no longer teaching,
the staff do accept restoration commissions from time to ttime.
The town of Kirkcaldy is the largest settlement in Fife having risen to prominence through the manufacture of linoleum. Its main street runs 0.9miles in length (1.4 kilometres), earning it the nickname of “The Lang Toun.” Other industries here include flour, malt, printing and light engineering, and there is an excellent art gallery and museum housing a fine collection of Scottish colourists with the more recent addition of local boy Jack Vettriano. The Adam Smith College has two campuses in the town.
From Kirkcaldy, the B925 runs west to meet the M90, with the A921 skirting the coast through Burntisland, where stands the former Clan Durie stronghold of Rossend Castle; Aberdour, with its historic Douglas castle and Silver Sands Beach, and Dalgety Bay, a dormitory village for Edinburgh, joining up with the M90 just above its approach to the Forth Road Bridge.
But the Kingdom of Fife also extends west from here, notably to Dunfermline, the ancient Capital of Scotland where Scottish monarchs governed from the 11th century. Malcolm III and his Saxon Queen, St Margaret are buried here, as is Robert the Bruce. Adjacent to the ruins and restored fine abbey buildings is the Abbot House, an award winning heritage centre.
And it is often forgotten that Charles I was born in the Royal Palace of Dunfermline which was abandoned after Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in 1650.
In contrast, the American benefactor Andrew Carnegie was born in a cottage on the east side of Moodie Street and later lavished some of his vast accumulated wealth upon the town, including the Carnegie Library and Carnegie Swimming Baths. Andrew Carnegie House which is located on the edge of Pittencrieff Park has served as the headquarters of the Dunfermline Carnegie Trust; the Carnegie Hero Fund, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust since the completion of the building in 2008
West of Dunfermline, on the shores of the River Forth as if flows into Clackmannanshire and Stirlingshire, is the Royal Naval Dockyard at Rosyth, and further west, the pretty town of Culross. From Rosyth there is a ferry service to the European mainland at Zeebrugge. According to tradition, it was at Culross that Princess Enoch, the daughter of King Loth of the Lothians, having been disowned and cast off in a coracle by her father for becoming pregnant, came ashore and gave birth to the future St Mungo (also St Kentigern), founder of the City of Glasgow.
In its hey-day, Culross was a centre of the coal mining industry, and the splendid ‘Palace’ of Culross was built by Sir George Bruce of Carnock, whose elaborate family monument stands in the north transept of the Abbey church. Many of the
buildings in this colourful town come under the protection of either the National Trust for Scotland or Historic Scotland.

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