Have you ever wanted to step back in time and experience Scotland as if you were in an episode of Outlander? Well, this week’s blog article is the perfect fit for Outlander and history fans alike. Located in Fife, Culross (pronounced Coo-riss) provides you the unique opportunity to get a real feel of a 17th and 18th century Scottish port town. It’s just an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, and you will not be disappointed.
However, the history of the town goes back much farther and is quite fascinating. As is often the case in Scotland, there is a legend linked to Culross. As outlined by the National Trust for Scotland, the legend goes that sometime in the 6th century, Princess Thenew was pregnant out of wedlock and sent away by her father in a boat. The boat drifted to Culross where “monks rescued her and her son Mungo was born” (St Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow and you can read more about him here). Where legend meets history is definitely a fun theme to explore throughout Scotland, and something we like to do on all of our Edinburgh walking tours.
Much of the town is managed by the National Trust for Scotland (more information can be found on their website). Walking along the cobbled streets, I was not surprised why they chose to film so many episodes of Outlander here- history is literally right before your eyes around every corner and down every cobbled street. The little, historic houses are an absolute marvel and are well-preserved (thanks to the Trust’s Little Houses Improvement Scheme); they feature beautiful white-harled exteriors and distinct, continental European roof tiles.
Make sure to leave time and plan a visit to the ‘Palace’- which is an historic attraction managed by the Trust. Now, just as a proper heads up, the word ‘Palace’ is a bit of a misnomer. According to the Trust, somewhere during the history, the name of the house became known as a ‘palace’. However, it is really a lovely and well-preserved mansion built by Sir George Bruce. He was a self-made man and came by his fortune through the mining industry and salt production.
I won’t go into too much detail as I think it’s best for you to visit the Palace in person and learn about the history first-hand. However, what I will say about the Palace is that it has some of the most exquisite painted rooms (on the walls and ceilings) of a 17th century home in all of Scotland. It’s just amazing to me that the home and this art- because it most certainly should be classified as art- is still around. For Outlander fans, you will be pleased to explore the rooms where they filmed for various seasons and episodes.
The 17th century-designed gardens at the Palace are also an absolute must-see component (and they also filmed Outlander there). They feature plants, flowers, and vegetation from around the world and are all grown “using methods that gardeners would have practised in the 1600s”.
Of particular note is that they sell their organic fruits and vegetables at Bessie’s Café (more about that below). The garden really is a magical place to savour and explore. Perhaps you can see yourself sitting in one of these little wooden covered seating areas?
If you’re looking for a wee break from your 17th century adventure, I highly recommend that you pop into Bessie’s Tearoom (which is conveniently located next to the Palace). This little restaurant is a gem and well-worth the visit. I’m also excited to say that they are dog friendly- on the day of our visit there were two cute, little spaniels resting under the table.
Bessie’s offers a nice selection of teas, coffees, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. And, as I mentioned above, the Palace gardens supplies them, providing an extra special aspect to your lunch or later afternoon break.
The last place I want to mention that you must visit while in Culross is the Abbey. It is located high on the hill and is managed by Historic Scotland; it’s open year-round, and the entrance to the ruins is free (more information can be found here). The Abbey ruins date back to the 1200s. Next door is the parish church that is still in use. Notably, Sir George Bruce (mentioned earlier) is buried there.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed our short adventure back in time. However, you really must visit Culross if you want to experience a full and proper 17th century exploration. I hope this article has helped to demonstrate how Scotland is full of these magical, historic places. It is a land for adventurers for sure.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!