The Kingdom of Fife
was born in Buckhaven, on the East coast of the Kingdom of
Fife, and raised in the old fishing villages of Cellardyke
and Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife. King James IV called
Fife's coastline a fringe of gold and it is easy to understand
why when you see the many miles of award winning sandy beaches
and picturesque fishing villages along the coastline.
has a long history of association with the Scottish monarchy,
so much so that it's people fiercely defend it's right to be
known as the Kingdom of Fife. The kingdom is home to Scotland's
ancient capital, Dunfermline, the ancient Palace of Falkland
and also the Home of Golf, St Andrews. Considering it is Scotland's
smallest region, Fife provides the visitor with a wealth of
places to visit and things to do. Whether history, travel, cuisine,
gardens, crafts, sport or relaxation is your interest, the Kingdom
of Fife provides it all.
History Of Fife
the road and rail bridges were built over the rivers Forth and
Tay, people suddenly began to discover the long forgotten wonderland
that is the Kingdom of Fife. For many a century no other place
in Scotland was quite as exciting to live in and it still has
a heritage that is unique, though four hundred years have passed
since the height of its fame.
came early to settle in Fife. About eight thousand years ago,
when the entire population of Scotland numbered only a few hundreds,
a strip of coastline in North Fife was one of the rare abodes
of those Stone Age settlers, the Mesolithic folk. It is still
a good place for people who like shellfish, as they did.
in Neolithic times and through the long centuries of the Bronze
Age, the population was steadily growing. And then, almost two
thousand four hundred years ago, a great wave of invaders from
the Continent, the Gaelic-speaking Celts, swept triumphantly
into Scotland to start a new Iron Age of progress. Their first
foothold was on the shores of the River Tay. And up the estuary,
where the hills of North Fife and Perthshire meet, the invaders
covered the summits with forts that are still clearly visible.
later the early Christian missionaries arrived and one of these
was a monk called St. Rule, from Patras in Western Greece. He
brought a human armbone, three fingers from a right hand, one
tooth and a knee-cap, all genuine parts of the skeleton of St.
Andrew. People liked a piece of a saint in those days. Local legends have St Rule establishing an area of consecrated ground, presumably at modern Kirkhill, marked out with twelve crosses. This ground was to become the new resting place for the relics.
else happened too that was even more remarkable. When the local
King of the Picts went down to the shore to find why this stranger
had come to his realm, suddenly a great white cross appeared,
shimmering diagonally in the clear blue sky. The cross eventually
became the national flag of Scotland and the martyr of Patras
the patron saint of Scotland. People did not know much about
this St. Andrew. He was a far-off mystery man. But his bones
were potent and that was what mattered.
better known, among the saints of Fife, was St. Margaret, the
Queen of Malcolm Canmore. Most of her life was spent in Southern
Fife, at the city of Dunfermline, then the capital of Scotland.
There a shrine was erected in her memory soon after her death,
and later she was given a more magnificent memorial, the great
Benedictine Abbey which her son David, erected. The ashes of
all but her head are still there.
most of the middle ages the Earls of Fife were first among the
nobility of Scotland. They had hereditary right to place the
crown on the King's head at his coronation and to lead the vanguard
of his army into battle. Fife too was the home of Scotland's
leading churchman, the archbishop of St. Andrews. The cathedral
at St. Andrews was by far the largest in the land, well over
100 hundred yards long.
was here that higher education flourished for the first time
in Scotland after St. Andrews University was founded in 1411.
Among Royal Palaces, too, the first favorite of Scottish monarchs
for almost two centuries was Falkland Palace in the Kingdom of Fife, built
with a Renaissance grandeur that has been described as without
parallel in the British Isles.
in those days was noted not just for its palaces, its churchmen
and its scholars. It was equally famed for its rich merchants
and its thriving trade with the European Continent. All along
the East Neuk coast, crowded hard against each other were the
Royal Burghs and the burghs of barony that specialized in this
overseas trade. In addition to the merchants and seamen on their
peaceful missions, Fife, produced a special breed of sea-dogs
whose fought the pirates of England for their Scottish shipmasters.
East Neuk ports were prosperous, with sturdy little houses beside
the sea-wall or up narrow wynds ( alleys ) that led so often
from the shore to the High Street far above it. It was the fisherfolk
who lived in the wynds. The sea captains and the merchants had
more spacious mansions, while the lairds loved the safety of
castles. One of the special charms of Fife is the abundance
of old houses, small and large, which still look as fresh today
as when they were built long centuries ago.
it was not all work and no play on those far-off days. In Fife
is the oldest tennis court in Scotland, a royal one built for
James V at Falkland Palace in 1539. There, people still play
real-tennis, which is tough and fast and very different from
the tennis of today. As for golf, there Fife has no equal in
all the world. By 1522 the game had already become an obsession
at St. Andrews and it has remained one ever since.
word " Fife " was originally an old Danish word that
meant " Wooded Country." But why Danish ? You only
have to look at Fife on the map of Scotland to see why. The
Kingdom of Fife thrusts itself into the North Sea like the head
of a belligerent wolf, challenging the snarling longships to
come and fight.
come they did. To Fife Ness, just a few miles North east of Crail, and
where the Fifemen waited, and where Dane's Dyke and the Longman's
Grave record their incursions; to the May Island, where six hundred
monks were sadly massacred; and to the Caiplie Coves and all
along the East Neuk coast to Earlsferry, where stone coffins
were unearthed containing their remains. In fact the Danish
Vikings suffered so many defeats in Fife that it became known
as their burial ground. The crafty Danes were given something
to think about by the even craftier Fifers.
why the " wooded country ? " Well, a long time ago,
when James IV built his huge ship " The Great Michael ",
it was said, with typical Fife exaggeration, that he cut down
all the wooded areas of Fife just to build her. Certainly it
was Fife where his Keel-cutters came from.
was also in Fife that Alexander III plunged to his death; Macduff
fled from Macbeth; Robert the Bruce's parents courted; King
Malcolm met his beloved Margaret; Mary of Lorraine landed at
Balcomie; Sir Henry Wood trounced Henry VIII's navy between
Crail and the May Island; Andrew Selkirk, alias Robinson Crusoe, sailed from Largo; the Spanish survivors of the Armada put
into Anstruther; Cardinal Beaton was slung into an unknown grave
near Kilrenny; and James V crossed the wee Dreel Burn in Anstruther
on the back of a Fife girl.
Pictish relics, to cathedrals and royal palaces, picturesque
villages and great castles, history is but a step away in the
Kingdom of Fife. Think golf and you, of course, think of St
Andrews. But golf fever is not confined to St Andrews alone
- there are more than 43 courses in the Kingdom.
you would like to visit Fife as part of a highly personalized
small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me: