The historic Scottish county of Fife is a truly unique place that everyone should visit at least once. It is believed that the name stems from one of the Pictish Kingdoms known as Fib. The county has seen many important historic events, but it also the home to one of the most popular games in the world – golf. The town of St Andrews is one obvious place to explore with its castle, university and generally beautiful views over the sea, but don’t forget the other stunning places that are open for exploration.
Here’s our selection of 10 sites you mustn’t miss when visiting Fife.
1. St Andrews Cathedral
Built in 1158 by Bishop Arnold, the Cathedral became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland as the seat of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews. Work continued over the next 150 years, but was stalled by a storm in 1272, which blew down the west front, and by the first War of Independence against England. It fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th century Scottish Reformation.
The cloister retains its ruined chapter house and the restored stone-vaulted undercrofts that now house the cathedral museum. On display are fascinating artefacts from the early medieval era to post-Reformation times.
2. Dunfermline Abbey and Palace
Dunfermline Abbey’s royal connection dates back to the 11th century, when a priory was established there under Queen Margaret, wife of Malcom III, and now known as St Margaret. In the 14th century Robert the Bruce repaired the Abbey following its destruction by Edward I during the Scottish Wars of Independence, adding the vast monks refectory. In 1560, it was transformed into a royal palace by Queen Anna of Denmark, wife of James VI and I. The palace fell into disrepair in 1603 however, when James VI and Anna of Denmark left Scotland to assume the English throne.
Today Dunfermline Abbey and Palace are managed by Historic Scotland and are open to the public. The picturesque remains of the Abbey now consist of its impressive Romanesque nave, which is similar in style to that of Durham Cathedral. Inside, the tomb of Robert the Bruce may be viewed, with its 19th-century brass cover depicting the famous king.
3. Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum
Andrew Carnegie is best remembered for being one of the most crucial people of the 19th century American industrial expansion. The ‘King of the Steel Industry’ was one of the wealthiest men in the United States, but his early life was spent in Scotland. He was born in the town of Dunfermline, where the museum dedicated to his life can be found.
The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum is located in the cottage he spent his first years of life in. The building itself is from c1750, with the Carnegie family renting half of it in 1834.
The museum if open daily from 11am to 4pm.
4. Culross Palace
The bright yellow Culross Palace, with its splendid gardens, is a wonderful legacy of 17th century life. Built between 1597 and 1611, it was a centre of commerce and law in the town of Dunfermline. Being one of the best surviving burgh’s in Scotland, the Town House is a must for any explorers traveling in the region. Even King James VI & I paid a visit to the grand building.
The interiors of Culross Palace have largely been restored to their former glory, giving a glimpse into how it must have been to live there. The building has featured in the popular TV series ‘Outlander’.
5. Falkland Palace
A 12th century hunting lodge at Falkland was expanded in the 13th century to become a grand castle owned by the Earls of Fife – the infamous Clan MacDuff. In 1317, Falkland was destroyed by the invading English army.
Inspired by French chateaus, Scottish Stuart Kings James IV and his son, James V, transformed the palace Palace into a fine example of Renaissance architecture. In 1541, a Royal Tennis Court was built in the garden, a game Mary, Queen of Scots was especially fond of, scandalously wearing men’s breeches to play. Although the palace fell into disrepair after 1660, the building was saved by the 3rd Marquis of Bute in the 19th century. These restorations included redesigning the gardens and making the castle once again fit for noble residence.
6. Hill of Tarvit Mansion and Garden
Originally known as Wemyss Hall, the Edwardian stately home can be found near the town of Cupar. The mansion went under extensive reconstruction works in 1904, transforming the original 17th century building into a new and modern home. The grounds house the only exclusively hickory golf course in the United Kingdom. The award winning gardens are also worth visiting, with the sunken rose garden being one of the highlights.
Hill of Tarvit is open during the summer and early autumn months. The grounds are accessible all year round and are a perfect place for a picnic or a relaxing scenic walk.
7. Aberdour Castle
Built in the 1100s, Aberdour Castle may be one of the oldest buildings of its type in Scotland. Throughout the centuries it has served the Mortimer, Randolph and Douglas families. Because of its long continuous use the fortification has become a patchwork of different architectural styles. Following a fire in the early 18th century, the Morton family decided to buy nearby Aberdour House, leaving the old medieval castle to slowly decay away. Nowadays the site is in a ruined, yet still beautiful state.
The castle can be admired from afar in the village of Aberdour.
8. St Andrews Castle
One of the most historic and scenically beautiful castles in Scotland, St Andrews Castle was first fortified around 1100. During the Scottish Wars of Independence, the castle changed hands several times between the English and Scottish armies and was a fiercely contested fortress after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Following the Scottish Reformation the castle fell rapidly into ruin by 1656.
The castle’s grounds are now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument. The site is entered through a visitor centre with displays on its history. Some of the best surviving carved fragments from the castle are displayed in the centre, which also has a shop.
9. Old Course
Golf is an intrinsic part of the county of Fife and nowhere is it as obvious than in the town of St Andrews. The Old Course is considered to be the oldest golf course in the world, with people playing there for over 450 years. It has gathered a cult following with many enthusiasts around the world coming there at least once in their lifetime. The best part is that the golf course is open to the public and can be used by anybody free of charge.
10. Kellie Castle
The original 14th century castle was in a terrible state when the Lorimer family came to its rescue and restored it in the 19th century. The Victorian era works made the house into an almost fairytale like home, with stone towers and elaborate plaster ceilings. The gardens were influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, making it glorious to walk around them.
Kellie Castle is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the general public. For any hungry visitors the castle tearoom will provide them with a delicious slice of cake and meals made out of produce grown in the estate grounds.