The History of Falkland Palace
The history of Falkland Palace can be traced back to the middle Ages, when it was home to the Earls of Fife. It was however in 1458 that James II declared the village of Falkland a Royal Burgh, which entitled it to elect officers for justice and to hold weekly markets and an annual Fair.
But before looking a bit closer at the History of Falkland Palace itself, let me just take you on a wee tour of the Royal Burgh of Falkland, which nestles at the foot of the Lomond Hills, the twin peaks of East and West Lomond. providing the most magnificent backdrop both for the town and the Palace. It's only 3 miles from my home of Auchtermuchty
, and heading south just 8 miles from the new town of Glenrothes
, while the famous St Andrews
- is only about 20 minutes away by car.
May I also suggest you also check out the Things to do in Fife pages. It will help you with planning not only what to do in Falkland, but also I'm sure you'll find plenty of things for the whole family in and around the Kingdom.
The town itself is dominated by the Palace, and no other town displays such a sense of the past. Strolling down the narrow cobbled streets is like retracing the steps of royalty. Although I only live 3 miles away, I always feel when I wander down the High Street that I’m transported back into another age. It’s only the modern cars parked along the road that remind me that I’m in the 21st century.
In 1970 Falkland was made Scotland’s first conservation area, and there are few other villages in the country quite so rich in awesome old buildings. The quaint old houses, the narrow streets with cobbled pavements (sidewalks), the Market Cross and fountain in the High Street all take me back into history. There is an exhibition on the history of the Falkland Palace and the Burgh in the restored town hall which was bought in 1986 by The Trust, which has also been responsible for restoring so many of the ‘little houses’ in the town.
The Wee shop Falkland
King James IV rebuilt the original structure between 1501 and 1513 to replace the original castle. James V added to the buildings there, transforming it into a sophisticated Renaissance palace. He was also responsible for adding the royal tennis court in 1539, which are still there today. He died at the Palace in 1542 and his daughter, Mary, became Queen while still a baby.
Mary Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor, enjoying the peace and tranquility there and getting away from the problems and politics of Edinburgh. She enjoyed playing tennis, riding, hunting and hawking around Falkland. The Royal Tennis Court is reputed to be the oldest surviving Royal Tennis court of its kind in the world. A club still plays Royal (or Real) Tennis there today.
The Royal Burgh of Falkland flourished with the weaving trade, later becoming an important part of the hand-loom weaving industry. The weavers’ cottages throughout the town with their small strangely spaced windows are reminders of this industry. Of course with the onset of the Industrial revolution in the 19th century, power was brought to the looms. Only one factory remains today, the St John’s Works.
All around Falkland you’ll see signs of its Royal, industrial and social past in the buildings and streets. You’ll see the Marriage Lintels, the Burgh Crest, coats of arms, carvings and statues all have a story to tell.
Sign on house in Falkland
Look around the buildings in Falkland and you'll see lots of signs on the walls and above the doors.
Sign above door in Falkland
Falkland’s fortunes were closely linked with the weaving of linen. In 1792 there were 231 weavers in the village, probably about a third of the population. Other buildings in the village reflect other phases of its history, and other industries including brewing.
A walk around Falkland is a remarkable experience. Some of buildings simply ooze a deep and genuine history that takes some beating anywhere. At times it is difficult to know where to look. There are no fewer than 28 listed buildings in the village. In fact the history of Falkland just goes hand and hand with the history of Falkland Palace.
The centre of the village is dominated by the palace gatehouse. But other fine buildings, many with towers of their own demand you show an interest in them. One of my favourites is the narrow cobbled wynd that looks seems almost unchanged over hundreds of years. And the Bruce Fountain in the Market Place is a central point and is used now almost as a roundabout.
One of the Tea Shops in Falkland
Of course, before or after (or both) taking a tour and looking at the History of Falkland Palace, you might want to try some of the ‘yummy’ places to eat, whether you’re wanting a cup of tea and homemade scone or shortbread, or a three-course meal, Falkland can provide it. For homemade scones, delicious shortbread, pancakes,
clootie-dumpling, and all sorts of other and all sorts of other Scottish recipe 'goodies', try Kind Kyttocks or The Hayloft. There are a number of good eating places whatever your taste.
One of the Falkland Pubs
But although the History of Falkland Palace is wonderful and even enchanting, I hope you will understand that on the short web page I only provide you with a sketch.
The Royal Palace of Falkland was the country residence of Stuart kings and queens when they hunted deer and wild boar in the local forest. Mary, Queen of Scots spent some of the happiest days of her tragic life here, ‘playing the country girl in the woods and parks’.
The history of Falkland Palace goes back much earlier than the 16th century, but I just want to take you from that time. It was built between 1501 and 1541 by James IV and James V, replacing the earlier castle and palace buildings dating from the 12th century, traces of which can still be seen in the grounds. The roofed South Range contains the Chapel Royal, and the East Range the King’s Bedchamber and the Queen’s Room, both restored by the Trust. The Keeper’s Apartments in the Gatehouse are now also on display. The palace contains fine portraits of the Stuart monarchs and two sets of 17th-century tapestry hangings.
It was James V completed the massive gatehouse, through which visitors access the Palace today, although James IV completed most of the adjoining facade of the building. This is the part of the Palace, which was restored in the 19th century by the Hereditary Keeper of the Palace, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. He refurbished the interior of the South Range, creating a comfortable home for himself. His son continued the good work by recreating a beautiful chapel, which had originally been built by James V. Only the external walls of the East Range are still standing and there is no trace left of the North Range.
Unfortunately, as in all National Trust for Scotland property, photography is not allowed inside, so I’m not able to show you some of these wonderful rooms.
In addition to the Palace, there is a large and beautiful garden, full of well-manicured lawns, mature trees and colourful flowers. Even without the Palace, this would be worth a visit on it own merit.
The garden, designed and built by Percy Cane between 1947 and 1952, contains three herbaceous borders enclosing a wide lawn with many varieties of shrubs and trees. Here also is the original Royal Tennis Court – the oldest in Britain still in use – built in 1539. There is also a small herb garden border featuring quotations from John Gerard’s book Herball (1597).
The history of Falkland Palace went through a different phase during the 19th century when Onesiphorous and Margaret Tyndall Bruce inherited the estate which included Falkland and the position of Keeper of the Palace. They became great benefactors to the town and in 1826 financed the rebuilding of the Parish Church for the people of the town. They erected the Bruce Fountain in the Market Place, build the ‘big’ house of Falkland on the estate west of the town, and donated a field to the village Cricket Club which still plays there today.
Statue of Onesiphorous Tyndall Bruce
The Office of Keeper was acquired in 1887 by the descendants of the Royal Stuarts, John Patrick Crichton Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Probably the greatest Victorian patron of the arts, he rebuilt and restored much of the Palace. His grandson Major Michael Crichton Stuart and his wife Barbara made it their home after the Second World War. They were the ones who created the wonderful gardens and appointed the National Trust for Scotland as Deputy Keeper in 1952. Their son, Ninian, is the current Hereditary Keeper. Although the Palace technically still belongs to the crown, it is in the safe care of the National Trust.
For those interested in walking, the area has several superb walks. Those who have more energy than me may decide to climb to the top of the Lomond Hills. Its 424m summit is not high by Scottish standards, but the magnificent views will be reward for the climb. Of course other more gentle walks can be found closer to Falkland. Be sure to check out the Maps and Weather before you go climbing up the hills!
From the hills you can see the towns of Auchtermuchty to the north and Glenrothes to the south.
To learn more about other places and things to see and do, see also the following:-
Maps and Weather
- Find your way around and be prepared for the weather!
- Explore this lovely fishing village and treat yourself to some delicious Fish and Chips.
- This lovely place (my home) is also home to a great Festival every year in August.
- See the lovely and even awesome bridges that might be your way into the Enchanting Kingdom for things to see and do in Scotland!
- Visit this New Town with all its amazing modern sculptures, or pop into the Markinch Highland Games.
- The 'Lang Toun', one of the largest towns in Fife.
- The 'Home' of golf, and the oldest University in Scotland, wonderful beaches, and the the history of St Andrew and the saltire.
- Visit this scenic fishing village and home to Pittenweem Arts Festival.
- The ancient capital of Scotland, a modern city, yet bulging with history of Kings and Queens, as well as the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie.
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History of Falkland Palace