Burntisland and Kinghorn
Burntisland is a coastal village located in Southern Fife. Originally owned by monks of Dunfermline Abbey in he twelfth century, the area was sold in exchange for land, ceded from the Barony of Kinghorn and became known as the Royal Burgh of Burntisland in 1586. It is lucky to have one of the finest beaches in Fife and which is why it remains a popular holiday spot and is the only community in Fife to have access to two swimming pools; a modern indoor pool known as 'The Beacon' and another within a large caravan park nearby and nominally reserved for guests but not exclusively so.There are many hotels, guest houses and B&B facilities in the town which reflect the modern day importance of tourism. It wasn't always that way and shipbuilding became a major industry in the town at an early stage and Burntisland was once the second busiest port in the Firth of Forth.
In 1601, King James VI, chose Burntisland as an alternative venue for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and where the idea for a new translation of the Bible was discussed here for the first time.
In 1633, one of the regular ferries, the ‘Blessing Of Burntisland’ sank while King Charles I was aboard. The ship was reputed to be carrying a vast fortune in Royal Treasure and ever since that time, there have been many attempts to locate this treasure but with little success so far.
Naturally, the port supported many fishing boats and, as the industrial revolution grew, the importance of shipping coal from the nearby mines became the most important industry of the town. In 1847, a new railway line opened from Burntisland to Cupar and three years later, in 1850, the World’s first roll-on roll-off ferry was established and where coal could be transported across the estuary in rail waggons without need of being emptied into a hold then reloaded onto waggons on the other side. Travellers were obliged to use other ferry services. Ferry services from Burntisland ceased in 1890 after the Forth Rail Bridge opened.
In the twentieth century, shipbuilding and Aluminium smelting were the major part of the town’s economic structure but the mainstream shipbuilding ceased in 1969 and the aluminium plant closed in 2002.
Today, the fishing fleet and trade ships have gone and the tourism is now the principal industry of the town and it’s a role it is well suited to. The wide sandy beach is and has been a firm favourite of Edinburgh people seeking relaxation and finding it easy to get there ever since the Forth Rail Bridge opened in 1890. It’s arguably the best beach in Fife and exposes many acres of clean sand when the tide has receded to its maximum extent. As such, most of this area is quite shallow at high tide and relatively safe as a consequence. Nevertheless, the RNLI maintains an inshore lifeboat nearby for use in emergencies.
The ‘High Street’ has retained a traditional appearance and in summer, the well renowned and award winning Burntisland and District Pipes and Drums Band are a welcome sight and sound that has often vanished from many towns in Scotland.
In summer, Burntisland Links welcome the travelling fun fair and carnival. Although the town has a residential population of about six thousand people; this number swells close to about 30,000 in mid-season and especially when the local Highland Games takes place. Like many Fife towns, Burntisland also has a golf course.
Leaving Burntisland, it’s worth mentioning the smaller town of Kinghorn and which shares Pettycur Bay and lies just a few miles eastward of Burntisland. The Pettycur Holiday Park mentioned above lies between them and just across the road from a monument of major historical significance.
King Alexander III of Scotland had three children by his first marriage but all died young leaving no successor to the line. On November 1, 1285, he married Yolande de Dreux and she became pregnant by him. On the 19 March 1286, Yolande was residing in Kinghorn while the King had official business in Edinburgh. Upon concluding this business, the King insisted on travelling to meet his bride despite the fowl weather and advice that he should not. He insisted and upon arrival in Fife. he rode ahead of his followers before apparently disappearing. Next morning, a search found his body in Pettycur Bay and where his neck had been broken. The roadside memorial is sited where he is thought to have ridden his horse over the cliff and to his death. Months later, Yolande gave birth to a stillborn son. The rightful heir thus became Alexander’s grand-daughter, Margaret, ‘the Maid of Norway’ but she died during her journey to to Scotland in 1290. In desperation, King Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate as regards the true heir to the throne but quickly saw the opportunity to further his own desires to annex Scotland in a similar way to how he had annexed Wales by the Statute of Rhuddlan which began in 1284. Edward chose John Balliol as the rightful heir to the Scottish throne and thus started a tortuous route that would ultimately lead to the battlefield of the Bannockburn described elsewhere on this web site.
The Terraced Gardens of Aberdour.
Aberdour lies west of Burntisland and lies just beyond the extent of Pettycur Bay yet blessed with a small sandy and popular bay of its own. In mid-summer the small sandy beach and harbour area is popular but vehicle access and parking is at a premium.
Being honest, terraced gardens are usually more associated with more mountainous regions of the planet and more often seen in Asiatic countries rather than in Scotland. In sharp contrast however, one exists in the village of Aberdour albeit more of a stepped lawn rather than the gardens that probably thrived there in previous centuries.
Aberdour has a long history and originally existed as two communities on either side of a river but is now considered as a singular entity. In the twelfth century, Aberdour estate was affluent, prosperous and owned by the de Mortimer family. It remained basically affluent for the next four hundred years with ownership passing to the Douglases in 1342.
From historical resources, it seems the Aberdour estate was still prosperous circa 1650 but was in substantial decline just twenty-five years later. The Earls of Morton abandoned the building in 1790 and the eastern part of the building was fully abandoned just one year later. The building continued to fall into disrepair with much of its stonework reused to repair other local buildings. The old tower collapsed in 1844.
It seems highly likely that the stepped gardens may have been necessary because the much smaller original garden to the west of the main building may have proved too small and inadequate. The smaller and orginal garden is still maintained to an excellent standard whereby the stepped area has been reduced to lawns.
Although nobody was left to care for the building, it did at various times serve as a school, accommodation for soldiers and even a Masonic Hall. It was turned over to state care in 1924.
Neighbouring the castle is the rail station and which has won awards in the past for its horticultural efforts. Also close to the castle is St Fillans Chapel located close to the castle. It's a small and beautifully restored chapel and well worth a few moments of your time.
Last Photograph is by Andy Hawkins; all others by Alandon.
Text by Alandon