A Fife Less Ordinary; LINDSAY SUTTON Finds That, despite Being Steeped in History, Fife Is Still Very Much for the Living

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), June 16, 2018 | Go to article overview

A Fife Less Ordinary; LINDSAY SUTTON Finds That, despite Being Steeped in History, Fife Is Still Very Much for the Living


Byline: LINDSAY SUTTON

T'S one of the oldest comedy sketches in the book.

IThe TV newsreader says: "And finally, in today's football match, the score was East Fife 4, Forfar 5. "I'm sorry, I'll read that again: East Fife 5, Forfar 4 ... " But the old joke isn't the only thing that put the Ancient Kingdom of Fife on the map. For the past eight years, this area of East Scotland - it's north of Edinburgh and south of Dundee - has been voted No 1 Outdoor Destination by Scotland National Heritage.

The fact that it's the 'Home of Golf,' with its five courses focussed on St Andrews, does help the cause. But it's far more than that. Quite simply, Fife is a classic 'hidden gem' that often gets pushed aside by the Highlands and Islands or Scotland's big city magnets.

People who have never been to Fife just don't know what they are missing.

It's beautiful, characterful, has coastal villages to die for, is an up-and-coming foodie destination, and has a wealth of abbeys, castles and palaces. It was the royal capital of Scotland until the 17th Century, is linked to the rest of eastern Scotland by five distinctive bridges, including the worldfamous Forth Bridge and the newly opened Queensferry Crossing.

On top of all this, Fife has Scotland's longest continuous coastal path, stretching for 117 miles through some pretty attractive seascapes.

A couple of days in Edinburgh allows you to indulge in big-city attractions, before appreciating the peace, tranquility and beauty of Fife.

Hiring a car gives you the opportunity to take in the majestic bridges, including the stylish new Queensferry Crossing, beautifully designed to speed up traffic flow across the great Forth inlet.

Once on the northern bank, you have the chance to take in a sea-level view of the bridges, from the small hamlet of North Queensferry down below. A proper breakfast at Rankin's Cafe in the Main Street sets you up nicely for your Fife experience.

Turn inland, past Rosyth Naval Shipyard, and you will soon discover another unexpected treat, in the form of Culross, pronounce Cue-Ross. It's like a 17th Century time capsule, with its ancient buildings, many restored to pristine condition. If it resembles a film-set, that's because it's often used as such. Kidnapped, starring Michael Caine, is a classic case.

In its heyday, Culross was a hive of industrial activity. Sea salt was boiled; coal was extracted from under the Forth; and the village 'hammer men' made ironware. Some coal was exported to Holland, the ships bringing back red pantile (pantile) roof slates as ballast, which explains today's 'Continental' feel of the community's houses.

All this is explained by volunteer guides, who will also show you Culross Palace, a 16th Century merchant's house; and St Mungo's Chapel, built by Archbishop Blackadder, believe it or not.

The nearby former linen-weaving town of Dunfermline is not to be missed. Its abbey is the burial place of Robert the Bruce, no less.

Throughout the town, the benign hand of Andrew Carnegie - once the richest man in the world - is still evident. …

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