THE EAST NEUK OF FIFE
Inland from Fife’s fabled golf links, is Falkland Palace. Before Falkland Palace was built a hunting lodge existed on the site in the 12th century. This lodge was expanded in the 13th century and became a castle which was owned by the Earls of Fife – the famous Clan MacDuff. In 1371 Falkland Castle was destroyed in by an invading English army. By 1402 it had been rebuilt and became the centre of a power snatch scandal when Robert, Duke of Albany imprisoned his nephew and rival David, Duke of Rothesay, the eldest son of King Robert, in the Well Tower at Falkland. The incarcerated Duke eventually died there from neglect and starvation. Albany was exonerated from blame by Parliament, but suspicions of foul play never left Rothesay’s younger brother the future King James, and which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Albany Stewarts.
There is something endearingly odd about a ‘palace’ inserted into a street scape (or a street scape built around a palace to be chronologically correct). Scottish palaces aren’t ‘grand’ in the French tradition, nor are her castles necessarily fortifications in the Welsh tradition. They’re uniquely Scottish and discreetly understated with a hint of class and former status instead
Between 1501 and 1541 Kings James IV and James V transformed the old castle into a beautiful royal palace: with Stirling Castle it was one of two Renaissance palaces in Scotland. Falkland evolved and became a popular retreat with the Stewart monarchs. They practised falconry there and used the vast surrounding forests for hawking and hunting deer. Mary Queen of Scots became especially fond of Falkland.
In the centuries that followed Falkland continued to develop as a royal retreat, with ornamental gardens being added and enhanced. After the Union of the Crowns (1606), Kings James VI, Charles I, and Charles II all visited Falkland. A fire partially destroyed the palace during the English Civil War and its occupation by Cromwell’s troops. It quickly fell into ruin. In 1885 John, 3rd Marquis of Bute inherited the estates of Falkland and started a 20-year restoration programme
In the early 1950s, John, 5th Marquis of Bute decided to appoint the National Trust for Scotland to take care of the Palace in a classic trade off of maintenance in return for access. Today the palace cuts a slightly unusual profile with its road side location as it opens up behind
You’re never far away from golf on the East Neuk of Fife, and Crail possesses it’s own charismatic links, the seventh oldest in the world. It’s the village and it’s charming harbour however that we’re interested in. This coastline is dotted with fishing communities of the North Sea. Crail is one of Scotland’s most picturesque little harbours, and an ideal spot for something to eat (we recommend the catch of the day).
Crail harbour is probably Scotland’s most photographed traditional fishing community. We try and use it for lunch
Scotland’s Secret Bunker
Buried a little bit inland in the East Neuk of Fife is Scotland’s secret bunker is a legacy of the Cold War and has now been opened-up for tours. It’s conveniently located just outside Crail, and this has doubtless added to it’s recent increased popularity. We know this is a secret establishment because it appears on Google maps! We prefer to think that it’s actually a testimony to the cunning of British intelligence. Think about it? If you had to camouflage a secret bunker then what better place to conceal one then the golf courses of Crail and Kingsbarns? Those Russians would never had stood a chance against this quality of cunning and guile!