The town of Dunfermline, in Fife, used to be a Royal Burgh and is the most populated town in the county so it's an ideal place to base yourself so you can explore the Kingdom of Fife and further afield. There are so many things to do in Dunfermline and it's close to many pretty towns and villages, including Culross (where Outlander was filmed). The town itself has an impressive history dating back to at least the 11th century and there are many historic sites around the town such as Dunfermline Abbey where Robert the Bruce is buried. Dunfermline is also well connected by bus and train and is around three miles north of the Forth Road Bridge.
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A wee bit of history
Although the first written record of Dunfermline was in the 11th century when Malcolm III married Saint Margaret, discoveries including flint arrowheads, a stone axe and a stone ball date the area back to Neolithic times. It was Malcolm III who established Dunfermline as a seat of royal power and no less than 18 royals are buried here. The town was Scotland's capital until 1603 when the union of Scotland and England occurred. The loss of any royal connection happened when the Scottish courts relocated to London and the town declined following a major fire in 1624 when much of the town burnt, The town began to flourish again after the introduction of the weaving of linen damask. Dyeing, bleaching, soap making, rope making and brewing helped to keep the town prosperous in the following years.
What's the town like today
Dunfermline today is a busy and popular town with all the amenities you'll need if you decide to base yourself here during your vacation. The High Street has many of the usual shops, and the road off the main shopping street has some delightful independent shops. The main supermarkets are located in the retail parks on the outskirts of town and Duloch park, which is just outside Dunfermline and is reachable by bus from the town's main bus station, has a multi screen cinema, bowling alley, restaurants, crazy golf and a large gym and spa. The town is popular with locals who enjoy the shops and cafes and tourists love to visit the historical sites which are some of the most important in the country. With so many things to do in Dunfermline it's a lovely town to use as a base while you explore the country.
Things to do in Dunfermline
Undoubtably one of the most popular things to do in Dunfermline. We can date Dunfermline Abbey back to 1070 when King Malcolm III married Queen Margaret. She loved it so much she brought in Benedictine monks from Canterbury to set up a religious community. Her son turned the church into a rather more grand abbey after 1128. You can still see the original nape here when you visited, the attached Abbey Church, which is still in use, was built in 1821. Queen Margaret later became Saint Margaret and she is buried in the grounds. Many of the buildings were destroyed uring the wars of independence and Robert the Bruce helped greatly in the rebuild and he is also buried here, minus his heart. In 1587 James VI granted the Abbey to his wife, Queen Anne of Denmark who's son, Charles , was born here. The Abbey and the remains of the palace are today looked after by Historic Scotland and they are well worth a visit.
A name you'll come across often in Dunfermline is Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish born American Industrialist and philanthropist who was born in the town, and it was he who gifted this beautiful park to the town. Covering 76 acres with miles of walks this park is a gem just south of the Abbey. Look out for historical features such as the Andrew Carnegie statue and the ornate Louise Carnegie gates. There are formal gardens, a Kitchen garden, Japanese gardens and glasshouses, three separate play areas for children and the Glen Pavillion, a stunning Art Deco building in the park which is used for alll types of events and also has the Peacock Cafe for light meals and snacks.
Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum
Although Andrew Carnegie was one of the greatest Scots of the 19th century he came from humble beginnings and this cottage, where he was born, has been preserved to let us see what the town was like in the 1800's. You can find out more about his life, about his immigration to America and about how he became the richest man in the world. Across from the cottage as the art deco museum hall where you can find out about his legacy, about the 2,800 libraries he built across the world, about his relationships with legendary names such as Marie Curie and Theodore Roosevelt, and about the creation of the Carnegie Hall in New York and the Peace Palace in The Hague.
Scottish Vintage Bus Museum
Set in 49 acres of land just north of Dunfermline the Vintage Bus Museum has over 100 exhibits, buses from every decade, trains, a horse tram and they even do tours on some of the buses. It's an old fashioned, nostalgic place which will bring back many memories if you are local, and if not it would be utterly fascinating to see our public transport and how it used to be. You can go inside some of the buses which kids love and there are other exhibits to explore too.
Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries
Situated in the Heritage Quarter, next to the Abbey, this cleverly designed building opened in 2017. It is free to explore and tells the story of Dunfermline's history over two floors, with interactive exhibits, story boards, special films and interviews. It's a masterpiece and definitely worth a visit. There is a mezzanine cafe with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the landscaped gardens, Heritage Quarter and Abbey. There is also a library, children's library and local study space. The building itself has won EAA Building of the Year and cost £12.4 million to build, it's modern and intriguing, from both the outside and inside. It was once the world's first Carnegie library, before Carnegie built a further 2,800 across the world and the present building incorporates this.
You won't miss this bright orange grand house as you stroll through Pittencrieff park. It was a museum telling the story of the the park and the town but it closed when the extension of the Carnegie galleries opened. It has changed hands over the years with some of the most prominent families in Fife including the Wemyss family, The Hunts, The Clerks and the Grants. It was eventually bought by Andrew Carnegie who hired Sir Robert Lorimer to refurbish the house which he then donated, along with the park, to the town, This 17th century building was built using stone from the Palace and it's a T shaped building with three floors and a garret.
Malcolm Canmore's Tower
In Pittencrieff Park you can find the remains of a tower which was, effectively, the seat of Royal power in the time of Malcolm III, from here he ruled his kingdom until the Royal Palace was built nearby. What's left now is the rubble foundations surrounded by a modern wall for protection but this tower is once thought to have had two floors and an attic, perhaps having up to 20 small apartments in it. There is a section of foundation remaining that is 10 feet wide, showing this would have been pretty difficult to attack back in the 11th century. Despite this King Edward I managed to destroy it in 1304. You can find the tower by entering the park at the entrance opposite the entrance to the old section of the abbey.
How to get to Dunfermline
Dunfermline is around 13 miles from Edinburgh. You can get the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Dunfermline direct, or the bus from Edinburgh bus station. If you are driving from Edinburgh head for the Forth Road Bridge and keep on the motorway until you see the signs for Dunfermline. From Glasgow it's around 34 miles and you can get the bus direct from Buchanan bus station to Dunfermline town. If you'd prefer to take the train it leaves from Glasgow Queen Street and changes at Haymarket.
With an average temperature of 15-19º in the summer and 2-3º in the winter, there aren't generally any extreme temperatures in Fife. The coldest months tend to be December, January and February and the warmest June, July and August. It's warmer in Fife with little extreme weather than further up north so if you like more even temperatures Fife is perfect. You are unlikely to ever encounter scorching weather although it has been known, occasionally. What you'll almost definitely encounter though is rain, although, again, you might not. The weather, like the rest of Scotland, is famously indecisive and unpredictable. My advice? Pack wisely.
Restaurants in Dunfermline
For evening meals or sit down lunches restaurants such as Dhoom, The Everest Inn and Khushi's serve delicious Indian and Nepalese and Asian dishes. If you'd prefer Italian try Gratzi, Carlucci or Incontri or if some Spanish tapas sounds up your street try Tapas Ducal. If you want a cafe there are some amazing options, including The Loch Cafe, Wynd Cafe and The Fire Station Creative.
Accommodation in Dunfermline
There are many lovely places to stay in Dunfermline. Pitbauchlie House Hotel, The Guild and Linen Exchange, which is a Wetherspoon hotel, and Keavil House Hotel, which is a Best Western, are all large hotels with fantastic reviews. If you are in town for the weekend and after something a little lively The City Hotel would be perfect. There are a few good guest houses including The Pitreavie Guest House and The Clarke Cottage Guest House. Click on the names of the accommodation to check prices and book.
You can find out more about Dunfermline on the town's website Visit Dunfermline
Map of Dunfermline