Falkland – Scotland’s first Conservation Area
The village of Falkland, nestling at the foot of East Lomond in the ancient Kingdom of Fife, is my favourite day out when I am in the mood for a dose of culture and local history. The jewel in Fife’s crown, it is set in the agricultural heart of the Kingdom, surrounded by farms – arable, livestock and fruit. It was made a Royal Burgh in 1458 by James II and the Royal Palace of Falkland was the country residence of the Stuart monarchs until 1665 including Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots – beheaded by Queen Elizabeth 1 of England in 1587) who spent some of the happiest days of her tragic life there hunting deer and wild boar in the forests.
In 1970 Falkland was made Scotland’s first Conservation Area with 28 listed buildings and many other old and interesting buildings, cobbled streets and narrow wynds. It has some curious little shops and it hosts several annual festivals and other events and is home to one of Scotland’s most successful cricket clubs as well as a tennis club (Falkland Palace has the worlds oldest tennis courts still in use playing Royal or ‘Real’ tennis), a golf club and a bowling club – all this with a population well under 2000!
In The Shadow Of The Hill:
Falkland lies at the foot of East Lomond (known locally as Falkland hill). This hill, along with its sister hill West Lomond, 3 miles away, are known as the ‘Paps of Fife’ and form part the Fife Regional Park, an outdoor resource much valued by the locals. In days gone by this area was covered in forest and was used as a hunting reserve by the ruling classes. As well as deer (still common in the area) there was wild boar – a formidable quarry quite capable of turning the tables on any unwary hunter.
Falkland From Above:
It is amazing how much history is packed into such a small area. As a Scotsman through and through who is very proud of his country a village such as this gives me an ‘anchor’ I can relate to. It represents the many hundreds of years of Scottish history which has led to the formation of the land I call home. I never tire of roaming its narrow wynds and beautiful green areas or of climbing the hills above. There are many historic places like this one but I have a personal connection to Falkland – Nichol Moncrieff’s house (see below) was where my maternal grand-aunt was taken into domestic service shortly before the outbreak of the First World War at the age of just 12. Some of the family still live in the village. Come with me on a tour through its streets and historic places.
The Village Center:
The village of Falkland is probably most famous for being the location of Falkland Palace generally regarded as the best example of French influenced Renaissance architecture in the UK. The centre of the village – marked by the Bruce Fountain is dominated by the Palace gatehouse, the statue of Onesiphorus Tyndall-Bruce, the Parish Church and the clock tower of the old town hall (now a museum).
Although technically still owned by the crown, the Palace is open to the public and guided tours are conducted by the National Trust for Scotland which is now responsible for the upkeep. As well as an interesting tour of the building, the extensive gardens are quite impressive – look for the Royal or ‘real’ tennis courts and during the summer months you may have to duck to avoid the swallows which nest at the top of the corbels in the corridor and swoop in and out of the narrow doorway with little regard to human presence!
Falkland Parish Church was rebuilt in 1850 by the kindness of the Tyndall-Bruce family (Onesiphorus and his wife, Margaret – they paid for it in its entirety) who were great benefactors to the village and the estate and were the Hereditary Keepers of Falkland Palace.
Very close to the Bruce Fountain lies a cobbled cross inlaid into the street to mark the site of the old market. The fountain now acts as a roundabout in what can be a very busy area during the tourist season. The fountain gives forth a refreshing-looking gush of water but it is not advisable to drink from this well as the water comes straight from the hill (populated by many sheep) and is untreated.
Falkland has an active community who are not just steeped in history. The cricket club, the golf club and the tennis club are all well supported. There are several festivals which take place each year and attract many visitors.
Falklanders take a pride in their village. Much effort is put into floral displays and gardens – so much so that Falkland has won the Royal Horticultural Society ‘Britain in Bloom’ – champion of champions two years in a row (2009-2010) and has been a gold medal winner in the Large Village category. Look at this small selection of floral displays.