This journal describes a weekend stopover my wife and I had in Fife on our way up to the Orkney Isles.
by Drever on September 18, 2011
St Andrews a small town in Fife has more than its fair share of claims to fame. It is credited with being the ancient home of golf and it has Scotland’s oldest university. Here at St Andrews University Will and Kate our future king and queen met. Fife itself was once a kingdom in its own right. Legend credits St Rule (also known as St Regulus) with bringing relics of St Andrew in the 8th century to the area from their original location at Patras in Greece. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.St Rule's 33m tower beautifully built in grey sandstone ashlar and adjoining choir were part of a church built in the 11th century to hold the relics. Earlier churches on the site probably fulfilled the same purpose. The nave of St Rule's with twin western turrets and the apse of the church no longer stand.The tower now stands in the grounds of a later building, that of St Andrews Cathedral. It supplied more accommodation than the older church offered. The Romanesque style older church probably served as the Cathedral up to the early 12th century. The lofty tower would have been a beacon for pilgrims heading for the shrine of St Andrew. It commands a view of the town, harbour, sea, and surrounding countryside. In the Middle Ages a spire on top of the tower made it even more prominent. Ladders between wooden floors originally offered access but it gave way to a stone spiral staircase in the 18th century.St Andrews Cathedral dominated the history of the medieval church in Scotland from its construction in the 12th century until the Protestant Reformation in 1560. Scotland’s largest and most magnificent medieval cathedral was the seat of Scotland’s leading bishops. It occupied a site used for worship since the 8th century when St Rule brought the relics of St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint here. Work began on the new cathedral in 1158 and continued for over a century. The west end needed rebuilding between 1272 and 1279 because of a storm causing its collapse. King Robert I attended its dedication on 5 July 1318. A fire partially destroyed the building in 1378 and restoration work needed another 62 years of work. In 1559, John Knox a leader of the Protestant Reformation preached a fiery sermon in St Andrews parish church against the Roman Catholic Church. It led to abandonment of the cathedral in 1561as a place of warship and its replacement by the parish church. Gradually the former headquarters of the Scottish Church fell into ruins.About the end of the sixteenth century the central tower gave way, carrying with it the north wall. Afterwards large portions of the ruins provided a quarry for building purposes. However even at the end of the seventeenth century some of the priory buildings remained entire and notable remains of others existed. Nearly all traces have now disappeared except portions of the priory wall and the archways, known as the Pends.Not until 1826 did preservation work begin, an interesting feature being the cutting out of the ground plan in the turf. The principal portions surviving, partly Norman and partly Early Scottish are the east and west gables, the greater part of the south wall of the nave and the west wall of the south transept.When intact it had, besides a central tower, six turrets; of these remain two at the east and one of the two at the western extremity, rising to a height of 30 metres (100 feet). It is in the care of Historic Scotland. The ruins suggest the great size of the building at 350 feet (over 100 metres) long.A graveyard encircled by the most complete and imposing monastic enclosure walls in Scotland surrounds the cathedral buildings. Even in its ruinous state the cathedral remains a prominent landmark, the focus of the three medieval streets of St Andrews, and visible from the sea.Beyond the church and cloister stand other architectural fragments, including the Pends Gate and much of the precinct wall. Outside the wall, on a ledge overlooking the sea, are the foundations of the church of St Mary on the Rock (St Mary Kirkheugh), probably marking the site of the first church.Lots of history here and well worth a visit.
Fife is full of historical sites. One we visited was Lochleven Castle. We approached it by boat in the same way as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and the many other Scottish Monarchs who visited, including Mary Queen of Scots. The partly ruined castle consists of a rectangular courtyard surrounded by a curtain wall, with a tower house, at one corner, and the round Glassin Tower projecting from the opposite corner. The foundations of demolished ranges of buildings remain around two sides of the courtyard. Of the outer court, only an earth bank shows the position of the walls, with fragmentary remains of a bakehouse the only visible remains.The castle has had a turbulent life. During the First War of Scottish Independence (1296–1328), the invading English army held Lochleven Castle. Parts of the curtain wall date from its occupancy. The Scots under Sir William Wallace recaptured it before the end of the 13th century. English forces laid siege to Loch Leven again in 1301, but the Scots broke it in the same year. Following King Robert the Bruce death (reigned 1306–1329), the English invaded again, and laid siege to the Castle in 1335. They tried to flood the castle by building a dam across the outflow of the loch. The water level rose for a month until the defenders damaged the dam, causing it to collapse and flood the English camp. The addition of the five-story tower house of which four floors remain strengthened the castle in the 14th or early 15th century. The original entrance, now closed, is 5m above-ground level because of the danger of flooding. It gave access directly into the lord’s hall on the third floor. The lowest level is a vaulted basement, with a vaulted kitchen above and living space above.Mary Queen of Scots first visited in 1561 as a guest of the owner, Sir William Douglas. She returned as a prisoner on 17 June 1567 after her nobles defeated her forces in battle. They opposed her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell. She spent most of her captivity in the early 16th-century Glassin Tower of the castle under the custody of Sir William Douglas. Apart from Sir William, the household included his mother Lady Margaret Douglas, mother of Mary's half-brother the Earl of Moray, and his brother George Douglas, as well as Willie Douglas, a young orphaned relative. Mary fell ill on arrival and about a month later she miscarried twins that she had conceived with Bothwell. A few days later she abdicated as Queen, in favour of her infant son James. Mary recovered during the autumn and winter, and gradually won over George Douglas to help her escape. On the night of the escape, Willie Douglas stole the keys and let Mary, dressed as a servant, out of the castle. She was rowed across the loch to where George Douglas and others awaited her, and they fled to Niddry Castle in Lothian.The island containing the castle was smaller in Mary’s time than it is now because of drainage works in 1836. When Queen Mary was a prisoner, the walled castle enclosure with its little garden to the north was all that appeared above the water. The Glassin Tower in which Mary spent her early imprisonment is a round tower, added to the south-east corner of the curtain wall in the 16th century. The tower has a vaulted basement, defended by a gun port, and two small rooms above. The lower room has an oriel window. The floor above the hall in the tower house served as Mary’s later prison. The top floor housed her doctor.Historic Scotland now manages Loch Leven Castle and the 12-person ferry to it running from Kinross during the summer months. The history of the castle is perhaps greater than the remains but nevertheless it is well worth a visit.
On a visit to St Andrews we decided to return via the coast road to our hotel at Glenrothes. On our way we came to Anstruther a beguiling place to explore with its cobbled streets, narrow wynds, white washed cottages, crow stepped gables and red pantiled roofs.Anstruther’s importance as a fishing centre dates to the 14th century. At the time the Balmerino Abbey owned the land of Anstruther Easter harbour and the monks received salted herring in rent for space to dry nets. Appropriately the 16th century lodging of the Abbots overlooking the ancient fishing harbour now contains the Fisheries Museum, which being interested in boats I decided to explore.A collection of models there show the variety and beauty of the old fishing boats with full size vessels displayed in a former boatyard and the harbour. The museum currently has 18 full-size boats in the collection. Added attractions within the museum include a collection of paintings and a photographic archive with over 10,000 negatives on the days of sail and steam. The exhibits starts from Stone Age vessels and fishing and continues right through to the present-day. Of particular interest to me, having sailing experience was the design of fishing boats for different sea states and tasks. Boats that are operated from beaches are lighter and have a more rounded hull than boats used in harbours. Inshore vessels working among rocks and skerries are more manoeuvrable than those designed to withstand the force of the open sea. From the beginning of the 19th century a class of boat called the Skaffie appeared in the Moray Firth region. The early skaffie boats were small with rounded stems, raked sterns and no decking to provide shelter and protection. They had two-masted with a tall dipping lugsail and a mizzen sail. Their short keel gave them good manoeuvrability in good weather, but instability in bad weather. The crew of around six could haul these up on to the beaches. Because of the vulnerability of the boats, they operated only in full view of the land. With better harbours built from the mid to late19th century these boats gradually became bigger and could be around 42 feet (13 m) long, and partially decked as hauling the boats out of the water became unnecessary. After 1900 the "Fifie" then became the main fishing boat on the Scottish east coast. They appeared from the 1850s and served well into the 20th century. Fifies had a vertical stem and stern with a broad beam, which made them stable. Their long keel was a disadvantage if manoeuvring in confined spaces. These boats were two masted with a main dipping lugsail and a mizzen sail. The masts set far forward and aft allowed good working space. Fifies built from 1860 onwards were all decked, and from 1870s the bigger boats had carvel planking - planks laid edge-to-edge instead of overlapping as in the clinker style of previous boats. Boats now reached 70 feet (21 m) in length and were fast.In 1879, Lossiemouth fisherman, William "Dad" Campbell came up with a radical design for his new boat. It had the vertical stem of the Fifie and the steeply raked stern of the Skaffie. As the Zulu War raging in South Africa at the time this design became the Zulu class.The Zulu boats continued with the carvel method of planking. The shape of theses gave the boats a long deck but a shorter keel, which improved manoeuvrability. Zulus like the "Fifie" had two-masts but carried three sails - fore, mizzen and jib. The sails were heavy and difficult to haul, and the masts had to be long and strong. Masts could be 60 feet (18 m) tall on boats of 80 feet (24 m) in length. Their design produced fast boats that became ideal for the herring fishing fleets. They got to the fishing grounds quickly and returned swiftly with the catch. Because of these qualities, the Zulus rapidly became popular along the entire east coast. As the 20th century approached, steam capstans made hauling the sails and nets easier for the crews. Steam power eventually ousted sail as the propulsion unit and a new era dawned. Even as steam power was taking a hold on the Scottish fleet, experiments with diesel and petrol powered engines paved the way for motorised fishing vessels (MFVs). These engines proved ideal for converting some of the remaining Zulu boats to power. From 1750 until 1913, ships regularly left Scotland's East Coast ports to fish for whales in the Arctic. This is another story also covered by the museum.
During our weekend stay in Fife we visited the small town of Falkland, a place that time has forgotten, with narrow streets and difficult car parking. Dominating the skyline and rising majestically out of the town centre is the outstanding 16th-century Falkland Palace - country retreat and hunting lodge of the Stuart monarchs. For the Stuart Kings and Queens, the main recreational pastime at Falkland would have been hunting deer and wild boar in the forests of Fife. They also practised falconry and used the vast surrounding forests for hawking.James IV and James V built the Royal Palace between 1501 and 1541 to replace a castle dating from the 12th century. French and Scottish craftspeople created a masterpiece of Scottish Gothic architecture. Mary, Queen of Scots spent the happiest days of her life here ‘playing the country girl in the woods and parks’ at Falkland. She spent many a day riding up in the nearby Lomond Hills.After the Union of the Crowns, James VI (James I of England) and Charles I all visited Falkland. However Cromwell's parliamentary invading army set the palace on fire and it quickly fell into ruin. In the early 1950s the Crichton-Stuarts, the Keepers of Falkland Palace, who renovated it appointed the National Trust for Scotland to take care of the Palace.The palace itself is split into two parts, the Royal Residences and the Keepers Apartments. The latter hosts an extensive collection of interesting displays including some of true craftmanship.Falkland Palace’s main purpose was pleasure rather than defensive and its design has resulted in a building reminiscent of a French Chateau. The rooms are smaller than I expected, but they contain a host of furniture, tapestries and paintings which give them a comfortable and lived in feeling. On the tour which takes about an hour we visited the recreated King’s Bedchamber and Queen’s Room, several of the Keepers Apartments, a lovely little library at the top of a spiral staircase that ends in mid-air, the old kitchen, bake house and the Royal Chapel.The King’s Bedchamber contains a wooden four poster bed with intricate carving on its posts. As we wandered around the figures of Stuart Kings and Queens gazed down on us from the many portraits that adorn the Palace walls. It is easy to imagine Mary, Queen of Scots enjoying the gardens or reading a book by the light of the small windows in the Queen's Room. A spooky object to look out for is the death mask of Mary Queen of Scots hung above the doorway to the Queen's Room. Guess where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Captain Hook, a painting of Charles I hanging here in the palace. Don’t miss the prodigious 17th-century Flemish hunting tapestries in the hall. Because Mary and her mother, Mary Guise, were both Catholics the chapel is the only Catholic chapel within a British palace. It has a full set of stained-glass windows, a beautiful painted ceiling, the coats of arms of the Stuarts plus a fine icon made by Polish soldiers based here during WW II - out of corn beef tins and cartridge cases.The Gardens are just as interesting and worth viewing, again set aside an hour to do them justice. One feature is the oldest royal tennis court in Britain, built in 1539 for James V, a surprising refinement in 16th century Scotland. The game played here is Real Tennis. It has a different set of rules from Lawn Tennis. The roofed spectator area is home to several swallows, which swoop in and out, through the door left open for them, during spring and summer. The court is home to the Falkland Palace Royal Tennis Club. In the gardens you'll be able to play a game of draughts if you like. After your tour enjoy a peaceful walk around the village of Falkland which is one of the most historically preserved villages in all of Great Britain due to measures taken in the late 1800s by the community, with recent awards for "Britain in Bloom", "Beautiful Scotland", and the Gold Medal in "Entente Florale". You'll feel like you are walking back in time without a care in the world.
On our way to Fife to have a short break my wife and I stopped at Dunfermline to visit its Abbey and Royal Palace. The Abbey has a history stretching back to the 11th century. David I, son of King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret raised the little priory here to the lofty status of abbey - the most visually stunning example of Romanesque architecture in Scotland. Development of the Abbey continued up to 1559. At the time there were some 25 monks in Dunfermline Abbey. In that year they removed everything of value from the abbey anticipating the looting that occurred a year later as the Reformation got underway.Dunfermline Palace connects to the former monastic residential quarters of the abbey via a gatehouse. It occupies what was originally the guest house of the abbey. Throughout the 16th century, Scotland's monarchs and royal family members were often in residence. Only the south wall of the Palace stands anything like complete. It occupies a spectacular location above the steep north side of Pittencrieff Glen, now part of Pittencrieff Park. Unfortunately it was raining when we were here otherwise we would have explored it.Here, in 1600 Charles I, the last monarch born in Scotland, emerged blinking into the world - with the union of the crowns in 1603, Charles’ father James VI moved to London. Despite Edward I of England’s attempts to take over Scotland it was to be a Scottish king that sat on the English throne, though not always comfortably. James VI of Scotland (James I of England) is best known for the King James Bible but his unfortunate son Charles I is best known for losing his head during the civil war between parliament under Cromwell and the Royalists. Apart from the king’s son Charles brief stay at Dunfermline in 1650 before the Battle of Pitreavie, Dunfermline ceased to be a royal residence. During the subsequent Cromwellian occupation of Scotland, the building lay abandoned. Now the Historic Scotland Visitor Centre, complete with its two small museums, occupies the upper part of the old gatehouse, and from it you descend a tight spiral stair to the kitchens attached to the Palace. The undercrofts below the kitchens are well worth exploring. To the north of the Visitor Centre is the almost complete basement of the huge refectory which served the Abbey. From here access is possible to the other parts of the old south range of the Abbey.As we see it today, Dunfermline Abbey Church is a mixture of architectural styles and times. The building encompasses the nave of the Norman church with a door leading on to the new Dunfermline Abbey Church built in the Perpendicular Style. The two buildings are under separate management with the old nave under the care of Historic Scotland. It bears an unusual form with five pillars on one side and six on the other, some of which bear a carved chevron pattern. As well as some fine stained-glass windows, you'll also see brass lines on the floor indicating the outlines of the first church built in the 10th century. In 1818 during the building of the new Abbey Church on the site of the old choir, the workers unearthed the grave of King Robert the Bruce who despite being outnumbered approximately 4 to 1 defeated the English forces under King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn and cleared them out of Scotland.On his deathbed in 1329, Robert the Bruce asked that his heart be carried into battle against the "Infidels" because he himself had not been able to go on a Crusade. Sir James Douglas took Bruce's heart in a casket with him to Spain in 1330 but, in a battle the Moors ambushed him. Tradition has it that realising that he could not escape he took Bruce's heart from the casket about his neck and flung it ahead of him into the midst of the Moors, crying: "Forward, Brave Heart". Brave Heart is that of Robert the Bruce and not that of William Wallace as a certain film implies. Sir William Keith brought Bruce's heart back to Scotland and it was buried in Melrose Abbey. Before reinterred Bruce’s body historians took a plaster cast of his face which is on display in the Abbey. It allowed scientists to reconstruct his features. His tomb now lies under the pulpit at the New Abbey Church, a brass plaque marking the spot. The list of those interred at Dunfermline includes, King Malcolm III, Queen Margaret and their children: Edward, King Duncan II, Aethelred, Edmund, King Edgar, King Alexander I and King David I. The remains of King Malcolm IV, King Alexander III, Queen Annabella, Robert the Bruce's wife, Queen Elizabeth, their daughter Maltilda and his sister, Christian also lie buried here. To visit Dunfermline Abbey and Royal Palace is truly to take a march through Scottish history.
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