CONTINUED.........

Kingsbarns to Forth Bridge / Dunfermline to Edinburgh


Dunfermline


Dunfermline AbbeyThe town that was Scotland's principal place of royal residence for several hundred years stands on a rise of ground topped by Dunfermline Abbey which was founded as a monastery in the 11th century to Queen Margaret, wife of King Malcolm III. Parts of the abbey have had to be rebuilt over the centuries and its old nave is now attached to a parish church. Just south of the abbey are the ruins of the monastic buildings and the abbey guesthouse, which became the royal palace, is now a visitor centre.

Carnegie museumDunfermline was the birthplace in 1835 of the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the son of a weaver. His simple boyhood home is a museum devoted to his life and to his benefactions, which at the time of his death in 1919 totalled $350 million. His gifts to his native town included the first of the thousands of public libraries he endowed around the world, and the splendid Pittencrieff Park, from which he had been excluded as a child when it was a private estate.

We stayed just outside the town at Holbeath which was conveniently situated close to the M90 - the food and accommodation were excellent. We decided to include the Forth Estuary in our coastal tour and to cross into Falkirk at the Kincardine Bridge.



Rosyth


Naval dockyardsIn 1909 the Admiralty bought a greenfield site by what was then the village of Rosyth, to build one of Britain's largest Royal Naval dockyards, but Rosyth's scale of operations was drastically reduced in 1994.

HMS something or otherThere is also a town to house the workers, with names like HMS Caledonia and HMS Scotia – its strange how they name housing estates to sound like ships. There is no public access to the docks and a new industrial park has been added called Europarc.

Bruce HavenJust down the road, there are some fine cottages in the lanes of the old trading port of Limekilns, which was the location for an episode in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped. We tried to find the village's oldest building, the 14th century King's Cellar, once a store for the court at Dunfermline, but we failed. Instead, we went to Bruce Haven, a pretty harbour area with a few yachts.



Charlestown


limekilnsAlthough we had just been at Limekilns, the actual derelict kilns are situated in Charlestown, which is now a quiet residential village. The harbour here is unexpectedly complex and together with the village, was founded by the 5th Earl of Elgin to exploit the lime deposits on his Broomhall estate. The village was originally built in the shape of a letter E to honour him. The limekilns, looking like a row of railway arches, are now fenced off as they are dangerous.



Culross


The PalaceWe stopped at the mudflats of Torry Bay and then went on to Culross, which is a complete surprise. Sir George Bruce was the 17th century laird of Culross, pronounced 'Cooross': He made a huge fortune from salt and coal exports and trade with the Dutch. His ochre-coloured mansion, completed in 1611, was so grand that it became known as The Palace. There are rare wall and ceiling paintings and a massive strongroom and lovely terraced gardens. The town with its Dutch style gabled houses fell into disrepair for 200 years, but in 1932 the Palace was the first building bought by the National Trust for Scotland, at a cost of £700.

CulrossMuch conservation work has now been carried out in Culross, which retains its red-tiled roofs, crow-stepped gables and cobbled streets. The visitor centre is located in the Town House, and another restored house conceals an electricity substation.

The House with the Evil Eyes takes its name from the window design high on its Dutch gable and the Study takes its name from a room at the top of a projecting tower.

The StudyThe Bruce family are buried in Culross Abbey, and many of the gravestones in the churchyard bear the royal warrant symbol of the Culross Hammermen, who held the monopoly to make all Scotland's iron baking 'girdles' or griddles.

We were overwhelmed by this hidden gem and in the sunshine it looks like a film set – indeed it has been used for many TV dramas. After our tour we had a ploughman’s lunch sitting outside and then dragged ourselves away to the splendour of Kincardine and Grangemouth.



Kincardine


Kincardine bridgeIt is easy to drive past Kincardine on the bridge and not see the town. We took the trouble to see the market cross and the marriage lintels - carvings above the doorways that are the initials of newlyweds who originally moved in.

marriage lintelWe found both and from now on will continue to drive past the town on the bridge!


STIRLINGSHIRE

The county lies between the Highlands and Lowlands and has a long and famous history of battles. It includes some 40 miles of the Forth Valley.




Grangemouth


GrangemouthIf you want to see industrial chimneys spewing out smoke for miles, then this is the place to go. The town was established as the eastern terminal port of the Forth and Clyde Canal, which opened in 1790 but is now closed. Although shipbuilding has ended and dockside buildings have been cleared, petrochemicals are now the main preoccupation, and we read that BP has an exhibition centre there.

BPWe thought it sounded interesting and tried very hard to find it, but failed miserably. After several circuits round various roundabouts and shopping centres we continued past more picturesque tanks and chimneys and found our way out.

Antonine WallSouth-east of the town, parts of the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans around AD 142 can still be seen. The wall was a rampart of soil and turf on a stone foundation which originally ran from Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde to Carriden on the Forth.



Bo'ness


Bo'ness stationThe town flourished during the Industrial Revolution and became Scotland's third most important port. Its prosperity came from coal, iron, salt, whaling and pottery. There is a ruined cottage, built in 1769, where James Watt experimented with steam engines. (It wasn't his experiments that ruined it). Offshore, there are tidal mud flats that attract wildfowl and waders.

MaudOn the northern outskirts is Bo'ness station, created on a vacant site by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society. The station has a trail that introduces visitors to a collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock.

We watched a steam train named Maud chug out of the station on a journey to Birkhill Clay Mine, where fire resistant bricks were processed until 1980 and you can see fossils of giant tree ferns living 300 million years ago.


WEST LOTHIAN

Named from Leudonus, and signifying his territory. No one knows who or what Leudonus was. It has been suggested that he may have been Loth, grandfather of St Mungo.



Linlithgow


LinlithgowWe passed Bridgeness with its tower that was built in 1750 as a windmill and later adapted as an observatory; it has been restored as a private residence now.

From here we went south to Linlithgow Palace, once the residences of James V and his daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, who were both born here.

LinlithgowIt is a splendid ruin that took two centuries to complete during the reins of eight monarchs, it has an ornate fountain in the inner courtyard. There are enormous fireplaces in the kitchens and a massive brewery downstairs. Charles I spent a night in the Palace in 1633 and `Butcher' Cumberland slept there on his way back from victory at Culloden in 1746 - his troops setting the palace alight before leaving.

LinlithgowThe palace stands on the banks of a natural loch where there is good trout fishing. The calm waters attract small boats, windsurfing and bird life. Beside the palace is the majestic, 13th century Church of St Michael with an incongruous aluminium spire added in 1946, that is actually rather impressive. The nearby Renaissance-style Town House, has an intricately carved well outside that was the work of a one-handed stonemason called Robert Gray.

The Medieval town has suffered from 1960s town-planning madness and some of the finest buildings are now lost; it is now a centre for microchip industries. From here you can walk along the Union Canal all the way to the centre of Edinburgh.



Blackness


Blackness CastleWe went to Blackness, the port of Linlithgow that gained a Royal Charter in 1389, a fact celebrated with a local drink, Blackness Milk - a mixture of milk and whisky. Yuk. Blackness Castle was used as a prison for Covenanters in the 17th century.

Blackness CastleIt was built in the shape of a galleon and stands on rock on the waters edge with a restored walkway on the jetty and the views over the river towards the Forth Bridges are amazing.. After the Treaty of Union in 1707 the castle was garrisoned and was once Scotland’s ammunition dump.

About 2 miles east is the House of the Binns, once the home of General Tam Dalyell who was a Royalist in the Civil War and a scourge of the Covenanters. House of the Binns

Hopetoun HouseHopetoun House is a splendid Palladian Mansion, surrounded by acres of deer park, the seat of the Marquess of Linlithgow. There is a splendid view of the Forth bridges from the roof.


MIDLOTHIAN

Forth road bridgeA pastoral area, dotted with volcanic cones, some of which form the foundation of Edinburgh.

The older name for the county was Edinburghshire.

 



South Queensferry


Beneath road bridgeSouth QueensferryWe spent an afternoon wandering under the bridges and through the town, bedecked with bunting.

The town takes its name from the ferry established here in the 12th century by Queen Margaret. It was for pilgrims to visit the shrine of St.Andrew in Fife.

There is an attractive tolbooth in the quaint, cobbled high street, and a nearby yacht harbour gives the best views of the bridges.

Site of ferry landingThe central figure in the annual Ferry Fair is the Burry Man, who is covered from head to foot in burrs and collects money for charity.Hawes Inn

We stopped for a pint in the famous Hawes Inn beneath the rail bridge. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote part of Kidnapped here, and brought it and Queensferry into the plot. The bar was adorned with masses of foreign banknotes.

In summer, cruises leave Hawes Pier for Inchcolm Island, where grey seals play and puffins nest in burrows near the ruin of 12th century St Color's Abbey. FerryA trip not to be missed.

Redundant gun emplacements are reminders of the peaceful island's sterner wartime role.

 



Cramond


Dalmeny EstateTo the east of the bridges lies the Dalmeny Estate, home of the Earl of Rosebery. There is a splendid Gothic Revival mansion but it only opens 3 afternoons a week. A waterside walk runs through the estate, past the oil terminal off Hound Point to Cramond, an attractive posh Edinburgh suburb. We crossed the River Almond on the A90 and took a side road in a residential area to a hidden parking spot near a weir on the river. It was quite a surprise to find such a tranquil wooded path, although planes flew very low overhead as they approached Edinburgh Airport.

Cramond KirkIn AD 142 the Romans built a fort near the mouth of the river, whose excavated site can be seen behind Cramond Kirk. Scotland's shortest ferry route – a rowing boat - crosses the mouth of the river. We walked to the shore where there is a path to Cramond Island.

Causeway to Cramond IsleAt low water the island can be reached on foot across the mud flats of Drum Sands, but there are fast incoming tides. A couple from the green wellie brigade, in their waxed jackets and hats arrived, and sure enough, there was the huge landrover in the little car park.

Lauriston CastleAnother walk along the breezy esplanade leads past picnic lawns to Granton and about half a mile inland is Lauriston Castle, a turreted 16th century tower house. When we entered the house a group of people were waiting for the guided tour and it looked like a doctor’s waiting room. We decided to have a look at the garden instead and pressed on.



Granton


Newhaven harbour We passed a caravan club site on the drive along the Firth of Forth to Granton. The area is crammed with boatyards, warehouses and fish processing plants and there is a harbour with concrete walls that is the headquarters of The Royal Forth Yacht Club.

An old fishing harbour at Newhaven has been modernised, as is the current fashion for waterfronts. There is a small lighthouse and a heritage museum in the restored fishmarket.



Leith


Port of LeithLeith was the main port of Edinburgh for centuries and although the quayside houses chemical industries, it has become a fashionable shopping and dining centre.

Britannia bellIt is now home to the decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia. There is a purpose built visitor centre and tours of the ship. We had already booked tickets and were given audio handsets that guided us around.We were surprised at the modesty of the accommodation and sad that such a national treasure should no longer be in use.

BritanniaThe state rooms were impressive, showing photographs and gifts from around the world and the engine rooms were gleaming!. The glass garage on one deck amused us as it houses the Royal Rolls Royce! It was an interesting and very worthwhile visit.



Edinburgh


City from the Castle

Arthur’s Seat This city is worthy of several days’ exploration.The town grew up around the high crag of an extinct volcano core on which the castle was built. Arthur’s Seat is a beautiful park set around another one.

Calton HillWe visited during the famous Edinburgh Festival in August 2007, when we had tickets for the Tattoo at the Castle. The weather was perfect and we walked until we dropped, including a climb to Calton Hill with it’s fabulous views over the Georgian New Town and Firth of Forth to Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills. On the top is an observatory and several interesting monuments.

We had an interesting tour around the new Scottish Parliament buildings which are modern and very attractive

Scottish ParliamentScottish Parliament

We also went into the Queen’s residence at Holyroodhouse and the Dynamic Earth Exhibition at the western end of the City before walking up the Royal Mile. This is a lovely road with narrow medieval streets leading to tiny courtyards.

HolyroodhouseDynamic EarthRoyal Mile

Canongate Kirk

The city was buzzing with ‘Fringe’ productions and street entertainers and the Tattoo was magnificent. There are numerous galleries, museums and beautiful buildings. The Scottish Crown jewels are housed in the imposing Castle, which is set on a high crag above Princes Street with its pretty gardens and shops.

St. Margaret's ChapelCastle & Scots Guard memorialPrinces Gardens and Art Gallery

Festival FringeFestival FringeTattoo

The city is beautiful and has a lovely atmosphere – I can’t wait to go again.


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