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Dunfermline Palace

Photograph Dunfermline Palace Scotland

A few miles west of Edinburgh the Firth of Forth contracts to a narrow channel, and here since the earliest times has existed a ferry which enabled easy communication between the capital and the eastern border, and the peninsula of Fife. Not far from the northern end of this ferry route, within easy reach of Edinburgh, yet not exposed to sudden raids from the southland, sprang up the town of Dunfermilne, which has played a prominent part in Scottish history. The region was much affected by Malcolm Canmore, and here he built him a tower, some small remains of which may still be seen on a rocky promontory projecting into a small glen near the palace and abbey. This was a keep apparently about fifty feet square, now but a grass-grown stump. "The site of Malcolm's tower," says Mercer, "was strikingly adapted for a stronghold, and could not fail of attracting a rude engineer of the eleventh century. Fordun says it was a place extremely strong by natural situation, and fortified by steep rocks; in the middle of which there was a pleasant level, likewise defended by rock and water, so that it might be imagined that the following words were descriptive of this place: -- 'It is difficult to men, scarcely accessible to wild beasts.' The place on which the tower was built, -- forms the summit of a very steep eminence that rises abruptly out of the glen, and causes the rivulet to wind round its base, forming a peninsula. The whole sub- structure of the glen on both sides is formed of freestone, which projects in many places from the surface; and these rugged declivities must have been clothed with thick impervious woods, rendering the summits extremely difficult of access on three sides."

In this tower lived Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, and here he married the Saxon princess Margaret, granddaughter of Edmund Ironsides, King of England. When William the Conqueror overthrew the Saxon dynasty, Edgar, heir to the throne, with his mother Agatha and his two sisters Margaret and Christian, took ship to flee to Hungary. Being blown north by contrary winds, they landed in a bay called St. Margaret's Hope, near North Qucensferry, and sought the hospitality of Malcolm.

Malcolm's Tower was but a poor residence for kings, and it was eventually replaced by a palace adjoining the abbey founded by Malcolm. It is said that Robert Bruce was the builder of the palace, but it was added to by later kings. It was frequently visited by the Scottish monarchs, as is evident from state papers dated there. James IV was very partial to the palace, and practically rebuilt it. James V visited it with his bride, Mary of Lorraine, and James VI resided here often. Here were born Charles I in 1600, and Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, in 1596. The last royal visitor was Charles II, in 1650, after which time it appears to have gone to ruin. The roof fell in in 1708, and all that is now left is the south wall, two hundred and five feet long, and the kitchen.

 

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