This week we visit move along the Fife coast from St Monans to visit a
town which it is claimed time has passed by - the Royal Burgh of
Culross. To wander through the narrow streets of the town is to
experience architecture from a time past - it is a fascinating example
of a 17th and 18th century Scottish town. The cobbled streets, lined
with little houses with red pantiled roofs, converge on the Mercat
Cross, the centre, in the past, for the burgh's traders. The Tron, where
export cargoes were weighed to assess their tax, and the Mercat Cross
were central to the burgh's trade in all goods.At the Tron, you can
still see the stone platform that supported the weighing beam.The
ochre-coloured walls of Culross Palace, built from 1592 for Sir George
Bruce, are topped with crow-stepped gables; overlooking its kitchen
garden and the Firth of Forth. A visit to the Palace, owned by The
National Trust for Scotland, is a must for any visitor to the town.
According to legend, in the 6th century the King of Lothian's exiled
daughter Thenew was washed ashore at Culross, then a religious community
founded by St Serf. Her son St Kentigern, or St Mungo, founded his own
religious site in Glasgow and has become the city's patron saint. The
remains of St Mungo's Chapel, built in 1503 on the site of his birth,
lie just to the east of Culross.Coal mining has a long history in the
area. The Cistercian monks of Culross Abbey, founded in 1217 by Malcolm,
Earl of Fife, were the first to mine coal her, and today nearby
Longannet Colliery was the last of Scotland's deep mine. In the Firth of
Forth near Culross, Preston Island has remains of 18th century coal
mines and salt pans.
From Culross harbour, called Sandhaven, ships took salt and coal to the
Low Countries and the Baltic throughout the 16th century. They brought
back the red pantiles which roof many of the town's houses. This trade
was prosperous, especially for men such as Sir George Bruce who owned
the salt pans and coal mines.The wealth led him to build Culross Palace.
'Palace' is actually a mistranslation of the Latin 'palatium' meaning
either the principal lodging or great hall.Like other Culross properties
the Palace was meticulously restored by The National Trust for Scotland.
The Trust also looks after the Town Hall and Bishop Leighton's Study
which you can also visit.
Culross has a unique claim to fame - for centuries it was the only place
in Scotland allowed to make iron girdles and this inspires this week's
recipe - Girdle Scones.
Ingredients : 1 lb flour; 1 teaspoonful salt; 1 teaspoonful bicarbonate
of soda ; 2 teaspoonfuls cream of tartar; milk to mix
Sift the dry ingredients and make into a soft dough with milk. Handle as
little as possible and try to have the dough just the right consistency
for cutting out. Turn on to a floured board, roll out and cut into
triangles. Fire on a moderately hot girdle.
Note : If using sour or buttermilk use one teaspoonful cream of tarter.