Dunfermline is a few miles north of the famous Forth Bridge and sits at the western edge of Fife. An ancient seat of Scotland, today it is largely bypassed by visitors and has become something of a dormitory to Edinburgh.
Phone code: +44 (0)1383
Dunfermline's Rich History
A mere 5 km inland, just off the M90, the town of Dunfermline is steeped in history. It was once the capital of Scotland, from the 11th century to the Union of Crowns in 1603, and its great abbey and royal palace still dominate the skyline.
Until the late 19th century, Dunfermline was one of Scotland's most important linen producers and a major coal-mining centre. Those traditional industries have long since gone but the town still thrives economically and has grown considerably in size.
In the 11th century, Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, offered hospitality in his tower in Dunfermline to the English heir to the throne, Edgar Atheling and his family, on their flight from William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest. Edgar's sister, Princess Margaret, a devout Catholic and later 'Saint Margaret', married the King in 1067, and was largely responsible for introducing the religious ideas of the Catholic Church into Scotland. Horrified by the lax ways of the Celtic Church, she began to build a new church which was founded in 1072.
Local Sights & Activities for DunfermlineSightseeing
Visitor guide to sightseeing in Dunfermline - the ancient capital of Scotland. Includes information on the Dunfermline Abbey, Royal Palace, Abbot House and The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, to name a few.
Dunfermline Abbey stands on the site of the Benedictine Priory, built by Queen Margaret in the late 11th century. When she endowed the priory, she set up a shrine, with a relic of the 'True Cross' and encouraged pilgrims to come from miles away to venerate it. Her son, David I, raised the priory to the rank of abbey and began building the new abbey church in 1128, on the foundations of Margaret's church. These foundations were rediscovered in modern times and can now be seen through a grating in the floor.
Frequently sacked and burned over the centuries, today's building is a combination of different tastes and styles. Much of the present abbey was built long after King David's death but the superb Norman nave, with its massive pillars, is still there to be admired. The Norman decorations above the west doorway are rare examples of such work in Scotland. The north porch, northwest tower, west front and massive buttresses are all the work of William Shaw, Master of works to Anne of Denmark in the 16th century. The other part of the abbey church was added in the 19th century and today serves as the parish church.
Close to the east gable of the parish church are the foundations of the shrine of St Margaret where she and her husband are buried. But they were not the only royal persons to be buried in the abbey. Six Scottish kings also lie there, with the grave of Robert the Bruce beneath the pulpit. He was buried in the abbey in 1329 but over the years the exact position of his grave became uncertain. Then, in 1818, when the foundation of the new church was being prepared, Bruce's tomb was rediscovered, the skeleton covered in a shroud of gold and the breast bone severed where his heart had been removed in order to take it to the Holy Land, in accordance with his wishes. Unfortunately, it never made it and now lies in Melrose Abbey.
In 1889, Robert the Bruce's descendent, the Earl of Elgin, gifted a memorial brass to mark the tomb. To celebrate the historic find, an over-enthusiastic architect designed the vast inscription round the top of the square tower, which no-one can fail to notice.
The Abbey church stands adjacent to the ruined monastery building and the Royal Palace, which are linked by a pend or alleyway. The palace, built when Malcolm and Margaret married, has fallen into ruins, but what little remains still hints at its undoubted magnificence. For centuries, it was a favourite residence of the Kings of Scotland. David II, James I and Charles I were all born here, the latter being the last monarch to be born in Scotland. Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830; Oct-Mar Mon-Wed & Sat 0930-1630, Thu 0930-1230, Sun 1400-1630. Disabled access. Tel. 739026.
The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum
Dunfermline may have been the home to many Scottish monarchs, but its most famous son was born in more modest surroundings. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the son of a humble linen weaver, emigrated to the USA and made a fortune in steel. One of the great philanthropists, he gave away £350 mn for the benefit of mankind and was particularly generous to his home town, giving it Pittencrief park, public baths, a library and an annual Festival of Music and Arts. The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum is the small cottage in Moodie Street where Carnegie was born. The rooms are furnished as they were in his lifetime and the millionaire himself sits at the his desk in his study. Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 1100-1700, Sun 1400-1700. Groups in winter by appointment only.Tel. 724302.
The beautiful and lavishly endowed Pittencrief Park, known locally as 'the Glen', is opposite the west door of the Abbey. Inside the park is Pittencrief House Museum, built in 1610 and also bought by Carnegie for the people of Dunfermline. It features displays of local history, costumes and an art gallery. The glasshouses (free entry) are filled with tropical plants and flowers, and the art deco pavilion has a restaurant. Here also stands the ruin of Malcolm's Tower, where King Malcolm and his bride lived before the building of the palace. Dunfermline – which means 'fort by the crooked pool' – takes its name from the tower's location. Museum open Apr-Sep daily 1100-1700; Oct-Mar daily 1100-1600. Free. Tel. 722935.
In the Maygate is the Abbot House, which was the home of Robert Pitcairn, the post-Reformation Abbot of the Abbey. The house is one of the oldest in Scotland, possibly 14th century, and was restored in 1963. There's a café serving snacks and light lunches. All year daily 1000-1700. £3, £2 concession, children free (if accompanied by an adult. Tel. 733266.
Saint Margaret's Cave
Incongruously housed in the stone building in Chalmers street car park is the entrance to Saint Margaret's Cave. The saintly queen often retired here for moments of secret devotion. Her husband, suspicious of her frequent visits to the cave, followed and discovered her kneeling in prayer. Overjoyed that his suspicions were groundless, he had the cave fitted up for her as a place of devotion. Easter to end-Sep daily 1100-1600. Free.
Dunfermline Museum is at Viewfield Terrace, south of the East Port. The Victorian villa has displays concentrating on local history, including the weaving and damask linen industries, for which the town was famous and which greatly contributed to Fife's economic well-being. All year, Mon-Fri. Free. Phone 24 hrs in advance for admission; Tel. 313838.
Knockhill Racing Circuit
Four miles north of the town centre, just off the A823, is Knockhill Racing Circuit, Tel. 723337, Scotland's national motorsport centre, which stages major car and motorbike racing events (as well as rally, race and 4x4 driving courses) between April and October, usually on Sunday. £5-20 depending on the event, children under 16 free, OAP/concession half price.
The 19th-century Town House in Bridge Street was designed in the French and Scottish Gothic style, said to be very fashionable at the time. Among its interesting features are the gargoyles and grotesques, depicting the heads of King Robert the Bruce, King Malcolm, Queen Margaret and Queen Elizabeth.
Dunfermline Hotels & Accommodation
see our complete list of Hotels In Dunfermline
Pitbauchlie House Hotel, Aberdour Rd, Tel. 722282, Fax. 620738. 50 rooms with bathroom, set in landscaped gardens, only a few mins from the M90, with recommended restaurant. Very good.Late Rooms Availability for Pitbauchlie House Hotel in Dunfermline
Garvock House Hotel, St John's Dr, Transy, Tel. 621067, Fax. 621168, 12 rooms with bathroom, elegant country house in woodland setting, short break deals available. Excellent.
Boutique hotel in cente of Dunfermline with 17 rooms and luxury facilities opening 2005 including themed nightclub and excellent facilities. Perfect for a funky weekend break more details about 29 Bruce Street
Davaar House Hotel, 126 Grieve St, Tel. 721886, Fax. 623633. 10 en suite rooms, within walking distance of the town centre and bus and rail stations, good restaurant. Very good.
A few miles west of Dunfermline, at Crossford, is Keavil House Hotel, Tel. 736258, Fax. 621600, 40 en suite rooms, excellent accommodation and restaurant, leisure club. Pitreavie Guest House, 3 Aberdour Rd, Tel/Fax. 724244. 6 rooms with 2 shared bathrooms, B&B.
There are several banks with ATMs in the High St. The Post Office is in Pilmuir St, near the bus station.
Great tips to eating and sleeping in Dunfermline, in Fife. Includes links to hotels with rating and style and other useful information.
Eating out in Dunfermline
Aside from the usual array of hotels, ethnic restaurants and fish and chip shops, there's the Town House, 48 East Port, Tel. 432382, open 1200-2130 Sun-Thu, till 2230 Fri/Sat. Mid-range à la carte, cheap 2-course business lunch.
Near the abbey in Guildhall St is Somewhere Else, a pub serving good value home-made soup, sandwiches and Belhaven beer.
Travel Directions to Dunfermline
Guide to transport in Dunfermline in Fife. Includes information on trains and buses with timings. Dunfermline being the ancient seat of Scotland is a great place to move on to the different parts of country.
Trains from Edinburgh connect with Dunfermline. The train station is a 15-min walk southeast of the centre, halfway down St Margaret's Drive. There's an hourly bus service from Edinburgh, and services every 2 hrs from Glasgow, Perth and Dundee. The bus station is in the Kingsgate Centre, on the north side of town, Tel. 621249. Tourist Information Centre is at 13/15 Maygate (next to the Abbot House). Tel. 720999. Mon-Sat 0930-1730, Sun 1100-1600; closed on Sun, Oct-Mar.
Buses run frequently to Stirling, Edinburgh (30 mins), Dundee (1 hrs) and Kirkcaldy (30 mins). Scottish Citylink, runs buses hourly to Edinburgh and Perth. Train to Edinburgh every hour (30 mins).