In her third installment of Fife Fridays, Katie Weinsheimer takes us on a trip to one of the jewels in Fife’s crown: Dunfermline.
Welcome to the third installment of Fife Fridays, the one where I once again follow my rules and take a Friday day trip to a location within the Kingdom of Fife. This week I travelled to Dunfermline, a town steeped in Scottish history, both Mediaeval and modern.
Since the eleventh century, when Malcolm III of Scotland married his Queen consort Saint Margret, Dunfermline has been the birthplace and final resting place of Scottish royals. King Robert the Bruce became the last of seven kings to be buried in Dunfermline in 1329. Dunfermline further declined in importance when King James I relocated the royal court to London. From the eighteenth to mid-twentieth century, the linen and damask mills of Dunfermline were world-renowned. It was on the looms of Dunfermline that Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding gown was made.
As you may be able to tell from my quick rattling of Dunfermline historical facts, I was smitten. Not only was its history intriguing, but the town of Dunfermline itself had a lot to offer. There were music venues, cafes, shops, parks, pubs, and anything anyone could ask for from a Scottish town. I spent a day exploring, and I feel like I just scraped the surface. Especially coming from the Bubble’s three streets, the wealth of things to do and see was a welcome surprise.
My day began, as most journeys from St Andrews do, at the bus bay. However, rather than travelling by bus, I decided to take the train. While there are buses that run to Dunfermline fairly easily, the train was a much faster option. Only paying a few pounds more, I shaved an hour off of my travel time. And, especially as the daylight hours are contracting, I found that hour very valuable. I took the bus to Leuchars (any Dundee bus will first stop at Leuchars) and then boarded the train to Inverkeithing. In Inverkeithing, I transferred to the train bound for Cardenden. I got off at the Dunfermline Town stop and walked through a large central park toward the centre of town.
After passing a few residential streets, I found myself on the high street, a bustling pedestrian street lined with restaurants and shops, varying from a charity shop to a knitting shop to a jewellery shop. I kept walking down the sloping street and towards massive bell tower of city hall. At city hall, I turned left and walked towards a large church and graveyard. I did not fully realise what I was seeing as I wandered into the nave of the church (Dunfermline KY12 7PE).
The nave of the church was originally built in 1128. 1128. Just let that sink in for a minute. And, before the abbey was built, St Margret had established a priory in that spot in 1070. My favourite part of this massive Romanesque church was the carved spiral piers. It added a sculptural element to the massive supports that I had never seen before. The apse and choir of the old church are now gone, replaced with a 19th century church that is still active. This church also houses the remains of Robert the Bruce and has knowledgeable staff that can tell you all about the history of the area and the remains. I won’t spoil that for you, but suffice to say, it is a really interesting story.
After exploring the church and surrounding grounds, I decided to make my way back to the high street for lunch. Just off the high street, near the market cross, is a small café called Café Wynd (10 Cross Wynd, Dunfermline KY12 7AP). I had a ham and cheese sandwich (no it was not a toastie) and a cup of broccoli pea soup. Both really hit the spot, especially on a cold windy day. The ham and cheese had shredded cheese which I was unsure about at first, but it provided a really nice texture and brought out the sharpness of the cheddar. I would highly recommend getting it on the brown bread – there were seeds and whole grains in the bread that made the sandwich even better.
After lunch, I had planned to go back to the palace ruins, but got side tracked on the way at the Dunfermline Carnegie Library (7NL, 1-7 Abbot St, Dunfermline KY12 7NW). Originally opened in 1883 by Andrew Carnegie, the building today has been recently rebuilt. It is now apparently the Best Building in Scotland, according to the plaque outside the main entrance. I do not know if it is the best building in Scotland, but it is a pretty cool one. I planned to pop in and ended up spending hours in there. The upper floors now have an interesting museum that explores Dunfermline’s history from Medieval to modern times in interactive exhibits. I loved learning about Dunfermline textiles as well as the music scene, two aspects of the town I would have not considered otherwise.
I spent so much time in the museum that I missed the winter hours of the palace. Beware of shortened hours for a lot of attractions during the winter months because, although it makes sense, this is not something I thought of. Instead, I took a meandering stroll about town and the surrounding glen. Walking through the glen made me feel like I was the heroine straight out of a mystical storybook. It looked exactly like what I pictured a glen to be. After my short walk, the sun was beginning to set, so I made my way back to the train station and reversed my steps back to the Bubble. I have loved all of the places I have visited, but the casual historian inside of me loved the depth and breadth of history Dunfermline offered. I would go back in a heartbeat, especially because I missed the palace.