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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fife

The Fife peninsula extends from the broad Forth estuary in the south to the Firth of Tay in the north. Where once the Picts held sway and where trade with the Friesians, Flemings and Normans flourished in the Middle Ages, now tourism and young, ambitious service and electronics companies centered on Glenrothes in the so-called "Silicon Glen" provide employment for the local people. The region is administered from the town of Cupar.

St Andrews, Scotland

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Dunfermline, Scotland

Dunfermline, about 25mi/40km north of Edinburgh on the Fife peninsula, is famous as the historic capital of the Scottish kingdom. In later years it derived its prosperity from coal mining and also as a world center for trade in damask linen. Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie has helped to enrich his home town by the donation of several social and cultural facilities.

Malcolm Canmore's Tower

Situated in the west of Dunfermline and a good starting point for a tour of the town is Malcolm Canmore's (Malcolm III) Tower in Pittencrieff Gardens. The foundation walls of this fortress date from the second half of the 11th century when Malcolm built his royal residence in the town. During his 35-year reign he and his wife Margaret tried to create a united and civilized nation, however, he fell victim to an ambush at Alnwick in 1093.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum

"The child who is granted the opportunity to grow up in an area like Dunfermline draws in with every breath poetry and romance, with every look he absorbs the environment, the history and traditions of his home town. These first impressions will remain locked in his memory until death; they may disappear for a short time but they will always return and fill his thoughts, giving light and color to his life. No intelligent child from Dunfermline can erase the memories of the monastery, the palace and the gorge. They touch his soul, they fan the spark within into a flame, they make something different, something greater out of him, than would have been the case if he had been less fortunate in the place where he was born." These were the words that Andrew Carnegie the steel magnate and philanthropist used to describe the town of his birth in his memoirs of 1920. In fact, few inhabitants of Dunfermline at that time would have waxed quite so lyrical about life in the "Hungry 1840s", but this warmth reflected the long-lasting affection that Carnegie, like many other emigrants, felt for his home town.
The small cottage in Moodie Street where Carnegie was born in 1835 is now part of a museum devoted to his life. A comprehensive collection of pictures and documents describes how a poor weaver's son became one of the richest industrialists and greatest benefactors of his time, the man who was the embodiment of the "American dream". On the ground floor of the museum stands the Jacquard loom that his father William Carnegie used to earn the paltry sum of 42 pence a day.
Dunfermline can thank the town's favorite son for the nearby Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Clinic, the Carnegie Leisure Center in Pilmuir Street (dating from 1877 it was probably the first public swimming pool in Scotland), the Central Library, the first of almost 300 free lending libraries, and also Pittencrieff Park.
Address: Moodie Street, Dunfermline KY12 7PL, Scotland

North Queensferry - Deep Sea World

The aquarium, opened in 1993, allows visitors to view its coral reefs from within a 122yd/112m glass tunnel. The tanks feature the largest collection of Sand tiger sharks in Europe. Daily shark feedings. There are also pirate and special exhibitions.
Address: Battery Quarry, North Queensferry KY11 1JR, Scotland

Inchcolm Abbey

Boat trips leave North Queensferry for the well-preserved Augustinian monastery on the island of Inchcolm. Alexander I founded it in 1123 for monks from Scone but it is now in the hands of Historic Scotland. An example of Early Gothic ribbed vaulting can be seen in the octagonal chapterhouse, while 13th century frescoes in the chancel depict a funeral. The island is popular with nature lovers, not just for the bird sanctuary but also for the colony of seals.

Aberdour, Scotland

The beach at Aberdour.
The harbor at Aberdour (pop.1,200); 4mi/6km east of the Forth bridges), where the beaches are justifiably described as "silver sands", is overlooked by Aberdour Castle. Started in the 14th century by the Douglas family and then extended in the 16th/17th centuries, the castle boasts some fine paintings on its walls and staircases.

Kirkcaldy, Scotland

Some fine 17th century houses line Sailor's Walk near the harbor in the linoleum and mining town of Kirkcaldy (pop. 52,500). One of the town's most celebrated sons is the architect Robert Adam (1728-92). Together with his brother, they created the Classical "Adam style". Another native of Kirkcaldy was the economist Adam Smith. He wrote his celebrated "Wealth of Nations" while working as a senior customs officer in 1776.

Kirkcaldy Art Gallery and Museum

The Art Gallery and Museum on the Esplanade contains work by Scottish painters and some interesting exhibits documenting the history of linoleum production.
Address: War Memorial Gardens, Kirkcaldy KY1 1YG, Scotland

Ravenscraig Castle

The imposing ruins of Ravenscraig Castle stand on a rocky projection by Dysart Road. Defended by two huge round towers built by James II, the castle dates from the mid-15th C.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

East Neuk Villages

Time seems to have forgotten these picturesque villages with their crooked fishermen's cottages and pretty gabled houses. It often seems that the artists, watersports enthusiasts and golfers have the place to themselves.

Lower Largo

In the main street at Lower Largo (pop. 800) a bronze statue reminds passers-by of Alexander Selkirk whose fate inspired Daniel Defoe to write "Robinson Crusoe"; however Defoe's literary hero was English. Selkirk, who was born in Lower Largo in 1676, set off on board the "Cinque Ports" on a voyage across the Pacific. After a series of disputes with the captain, he was deposited on the island of Juan Fernandez 400 nautical miles off the Chilean coast. It was 52 months before he sighted a ship which took him back to England.

St Monance

Among the pretty little villages on the southeastern corner of the peninsula are St Monance (pop. 1,300) with its interesting Gothic parish church and a number of charming little cottages (now very popular with artists) and Pittenweem (pop. 900) where rows of attractive houses encircle the old harbor and the parish church possesses a huge tower (1592).

Isle of May

The Isle of May a few miles off the peninsula's southwest coast is a nature reserve with the second oldest bird-watching station in Great Britain. It has been run since 1934 by the Scottish universities. With such species as puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes to observe, ornithologists are always keen to visit the island.

Pittenweem - Kellie Castle and Garden

Typical architecture around Pittenweem.
The oldest part of Kellie Castle (3mi/5km north of Pittenweem) probably dates from ca. 1350. The castle, as it is today, belonged to the Earls of Mar and Kellie and was built during the 16th century and early 17th century. James and Robert Lorimer carried out a major restoration of the T-shaped castle ca. 1878, but the site is now administered by the National Trust for Scotland. The 17th century paneling in the Lounge, the landscape pictures on the paneling in the Dining Room and Jakob de Witt's ceiling paintings in the Vine Room showing the Greek gods and the rich plasterwork on the ceiling deserve special attention. The Late Victorian garden is noted for its display of roses.
The garden also has box hedges, colorful borders, organic and herbaceous plants and fruit trees.

North Carr Lightship & Fishing Boat

In the Anstruther harbor a fishing boat used at the turn of the century and the North Carr lightship (1933-75) are both open to the public.
As the headquarters for the Maritime Volunteer Service, every effort is made to open on Sunday afternoons - subject to availability of staff.

Crail, Scotland

View of Crail harbor.
In a fit of anger the devil is said to have thrown a piece of the Isle of May at the church in Crail but fortunately he missed. What other explanation could there be for the huge stone in the graveyard? Crail (pop. 1,300) may well be at the center of many legends, but there is always a pleasant atmosphere in the village, especially when the fishing boats land their catches of prawns and lobsters and the fishermen prepare them on the quayside. The whitewashed houses with stepped gables and red pantile roofs are favorite subjects for painters and photographers.
Crail Museum and Heritage Centre housed in an 18th C cottage documents the full story of Crail's past.

Loch Leven

The Leven River and surrounding Mountains.
Loch Leven (10mi/16km north of Aberdour on the M90) is best known for the pink-fleshed trout that swim in its waters. Lochleven Castle and its 14th century tower house stands on one of the islands in the lake. It owes its place in history to Mary Stuart who after a year's incarceration escaped from the island with the help of the young Lord George Douglas and her page William. This night-time escapade is recorded in Scott's "The Abbot" (1820).
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Kinross House and Garden

On a stay in France the court architect Sir William Bruce visited Vaux-le-Vicomte, a castle near Paris built by Le Vau. Its parkland was designed by Le Notre and was regarded as a masterpiece of landscape design. Undoubtedly what Bruce saw in France inspired him when he came to design his own house and garden at Kinross. In the two-story Palladian structure, which Daniel Defoe described as the "finest and most perfectly balanced piece of architecture in Scotland", perfect symmetry combines with the restrained design of Ionic columns, Corinthian pilasters, angular gables and small chimney stacks.

Balgonie Castle

Balgonie Castle (2mi/3.5km east of Glenrothes) dates from the 14th century when the huge keep with its 10ft/3m thick walls and chapel were built. Little remains of the extensions that were completed ca. 1702. The castle fell into disrepair from the middle of the 19th century but in 1985 Raymond Morris the 30th laird of Balgonie started work on its restoration. Now the medieval tower is used for banquets and weddings are frequently solemnized in the chapel.
Address: by Markinch, Fife KY7 6HQ, Scotland

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace in the pretty town of Falkland (pop. 1,200; 11mi/18km north of Glenrothes) used to be a hunting lodge for the Stuarts and now belongs to the Queen, although it is administered by the National Trust for Scotland. Its first mention in documents came in 1160 when the estate was the seat of the MacDuffs. In 1371 it became the property of the Albany family but in 1425 it fell to the Crown and James II laid plans to convert it into a palace, although it was between 1501 and 1541 that today's palace took shape. James V died here in 1542 a week after the birth of his daughter Mary Stuart who in later life became a frequent visitor to the palace.
Of the three original wings that Cromwell's army set fire to in 1654, only the east wing and the south wing (restored in 1887) with royal chambers remain. The Early Renaissance courtyard facade is reminiscent of the French Loire valley châteaux. This was certainly no coincidence as the "Auld Alliance" between Scotland and France was re-affirmed by the marriage of James V and Mary of Guise here in 1538. The facades overlooking the inner court are decorated with busts of figures from antiquity, while the external facade of the south wing retains its Late Gothic features. Two huge circular towers flank the gatehouse at the entrance. Flemish Gobelin tapestries from the 17th C and 19th C oak paneling are of particular note in the south wing Gallery; however, the Royal Chapel with a frieze around the walls, screen and 16th C oak paneling is probably the highlight of the palace. The wooden ceiling, painted with the heraldic emblems of Scotland, France and England - the thistle, fleur de lys and the rose - date from the 17th century like the Flemish tapestries, while the magnificent bed (17th century) in the east wing's Royal Chamber is probably where James V died. The rest of the furniture was made during the 19th C but followed the style of the original fittings. In the beautiful gardens to the rear lies Britain's first tennis court. Laid out at the behest of James V in 1539, it is still in use.
The grounds have been laid out according to the original royal plans, including a tennis court dating from 1539. There are also a wide variety of trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders.

Abernethy, Scotland

Abernethy (pop. 900; 8mi/13km to the northwest of Falkland) was once the capital of the Pictish kingdom and in the ninth century a stronghold of the Scottish church. The only relic of a glorious past is the 78ft/24m high tapering Round Tower, one of two such round towers on the mainland (the other is in Brechin). The base of the tower dates from the ninth century, while the upper section dates from the 11th or 12th century. A Pictish stone with religious motifs sits at the foot of the tower.

Cupar, Scotland

The narrow alleys in the attractive town of Cupar (pop. 7,700) demonstrate the architectural style of the 18th century. The parish church was first consecrated at the beginning of the 15th century and was altered in the 18th century.

Hill of Tarvit Mansion House and Garden

The mansion at Tarvit (2.5mi/4km to the south of Cupar) has been faithfully restored by the National Trust for Scotland. Sir Robert Lorimer designed the property for the wealthy railroad executive and art collector Frederick Sharp. The original building, the work of Sir William Bruce (1696), did not meet the needs of the new owner who required more room for his collection of fine furniture, tapestries, Chinese porcelain, Dutch masters and paintings by Raeburn and Ramsay. The Edwardian south side of the country house overlooks Lorimer's terraced gardens. Flemish tapestries (17th century) and Scottish and English oak furniture (17th/18th century) adorn the wood- paneled hall. French furniture in the Lounge displays hints of Roccoco, while the Georgian Dining Room has a distinctly Palladian atmosphere. Scotstarvit Tower on the estate dates from 1579.
Scotstarvit Tower is situated less than a mile from the Hill of Tarvit Mansionhouse. This tower is known to date from 1579.

Balmerino Abbey

Destroyed during the Reformation Balmerino Abbey itself was founded by Cistercian monks in 1229. It is said that Queen Ermingade the second wife of William "the Lion" laid the foundation stone.

Leuchars, Scotland

Leuchars (pop. 2,500) lies 10mi/16km to the east of Balmerian Abbey beside St Andrew's Bay. The Norman Church of St Athernase was started at the beginning of the 13th century by Sair de Quinci and the chancel and apse have not been altered since. The main nave and tower date from the 17th century.

Earlshall Castle

The fortress of Earlshall with turreted walls up to 5ft/1.5m thick was erected in the 16th century and the barons of Earlshall have lived there ever since. The fine, painted ceiling and the paneling in the Long Gallery are of particular note.

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