Off the tourist trail in Falkland, Fife
Falkland Palace and why it is well worth a stop
Fife and neighbouring Perthshire both pull in the tourists en masse every year. Whether here for the golfing around St Andrews, to marvel at the East Neuk or just to pass through on the road north to the Highlands, it’s always a popular area. The little town of Falkland, though, is often by-passed. Maybe it’s because of its barely-even-there mentions in the guide books, or that Old Course fever has defeated all rational thought or just that the coach driver has never heard of it. Regardless, this is one that deserves some consideration.
On arrival the first thing that grabs me is the looming Falkland Hill/East Lomond that reminds me a little of Cape Town’s famous Lion’s Head when viewed from below. It’s very much worth a climb from the town for those that have time and you can read more about that on my Top Things to do in Falkland post. Falkland itself oozes charm. Lovely little arts and crafts shops, cafes and side streets make for a nice easy-going atmosphere about the place. My city mentality of Hurry Up And Let’s Do Stuff is sedated within minutes.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly Falkland Palace. Beautifully structured and supported by some luscious gardens it’s one of the best of its type in the country. There is no escaping the stunning palace interior although personally I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the Victorian style of decorating. This heavy, rich, bold approach to room filling would not be my choice but such were the times. The walls are adorned with grand paintings of prominent residents of the past. Remarkable wall-filling Flemish tapestries are also impossible to miss. Each room in Falkland Palace is superbly maintained and presents that step-back-in-time quality. The National Trust of Scotland has done a great job.
The Palace was built back in the 15th and 16th Centuries during the Stuart dynasty. That means it avoided most of the bloody conflict that Scottish history is so riddled with and is therefore still in an impressive state of repair. Several generations of royalty used the palace as a convenient and comfortable retreat. Falkland Palace is also one of the must-visit destinations for those following Mary Queen of Scots as this was one of her favourite spots and the Queen’s bedchamber is still marked by a marble bust of her famous face.
The gardens are vast and come to life in spring. Don’t forget to go as far as the world’s oldest tennis court (1539) at the bottom to say you have been and seen, just don’t expect Wimbledon. Photos are unfortunately not allowed inside the palace so by the time you step outside you will be snap-happy in the grounds.
I’m far from alone in appreciating the charms of the place as it appears the TV series Outlander chose to film in part here in 2013. This is the much-trumpeted show that will, we are told, make up for us letting Game of Thrones filming slip through our fingers (the insanity!). Look out for it on your screens in the months and years to come.
I fear that “hidden gem” is the most overused expression in tourism. My apologies for even hinting at it, but for visitors to the Fife area Falkland Palace represents a lovely alternative to the usual trail. Keen on more from Fife? Check out the lowdown from the Scotlanders’ campaign where I focussed on the Kingdom’s outdoor highlights.
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