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Walking with History in Fife

Plan a historic adventure in Fife

Pre-lockdown our towns and countryside were largely taken for granted, yes? Subsequent restrictions focused minds nearer to home - time for exercise walks in local neighbourhoods and probably noticing some interesting features that subconsciously we knew were there but really hadn’t paid much attention to. The old ruin, manor house, tower, church, castle, that unusual hole in the rock on the beach, the old rusty iron hook that projects from a rock, an old milestone embossed with strange names, quiet country paths rediscovered or a farm name-board that has ‘always been there’. A name likely to be that of an old district, feudal barony or estate originating from times gone by and the country path a medieval route pre-dating any roads we use now that linked the old districts. Why are they there, what were they used for, who put them there, who lived here, when?

Fife is literally full of visible relics from life during bygone centuries - reminders that feed inquisitive minds and encourage internet enquiries and new-found knowledge that can be imparted to equally inquisitive visitors. Visitors love it when locals point out a nearby 'must see' feature with a story to explore that otherwise would be off their radar.

‘The Kingdom of Fife’ where the Kings of Scotland in medieval times built castles – Malcolm Canmore (1058 – 1093) at Dunfermline, King Alexander III at Kinghorn , James I and the Stewart Dynasty – Dunfermline, Falkland. Seven Scottish Kings including Robert the Bruce are buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

The fertile lands of Fife therefore attracted Scottish noblemen, royal subjects and people of influence who acquired the land by royal charter close-by the monarch’s residence. Interestingly for us modern day explorers these ruinous medieval remains of castles and houses are ideal subjects for reference when planning countryside walks where we can stop and wonder at the once eloquent abodes of these nobles.

Walking in the Heartlands of Fife near Kirkcaldy for example, there is a fascinating area towards Kinghorn. A pleasant route to follow with views of the quiet surrounding rural countryside is the unclassified road known locally as the Jawbanes Road from behind the Invertiel railway bridge.

Within approximately a mile a series of bends in the road are encountered and a little way from the last bend a ruined castle can be seen sitting proud to the right of the road (north), on a grassy slope. Piteadie Castle, a traditional fortified tower house of the period was the residence of some prominent people who lived during the late medieval period into the 17th century. Situated in a well-kept private land setting, it can be seen clearly from the road. The building is, however, in a dangerously ruinous state and entry is not recommended. It is said that the Valance family built the castle in the early 1500s and in 1564, it was owned by the Kirkaldys of Grange who had been given the lands by Royal Charter and occupied a castle that stood at the current Grange Farm.

The Kirkaldy family were key royal subjects well entangled with events associated with the reformation of the church and various political skirmishes and movements at the time. Later the castle fell into a series of ownerships with the Boswells of Glassmount and Balmuto in 1637 and the Calderwoods in 1671, moving to the Sinclair family before being abandoned in favour of a later building now occupying the land to the north.

There are obvious signs that the building was modified during its life and apparently some of the fortification was removed (walls thinned down) to increase floor areas with the entrance relocated in favour of the addition of windows facing south. The main three storey tower had traditional baronial ‘turrets’ above the currently visible corbels on the northeast and southwest corners and the remains of the two storey cap house is still visible – at ground level there is a vaulted roofed cellar. Unrestricted views over the adjoining rural lands towards the River Forth and out to the Isle of May suggest the site was strategically chosen, although nearby Grange and Glassmount have similar views and are within sight of Piteadie.

Today we can walk through these former baronial lands owned and ruled by prominent gentry who were instrumental in forming the Scotland we live in today. Nearby Historic sites of Grange, Glassmount, Seafield, Invertiel, Kilrie, Tyrie, Balwearie, Balmuto are all names known to modern day locals, were residences of influential families of the time.

Plan your own historic adventure, routes for walks/cycling and running along mainly country tracks and quiet rural roads will take you through a bonnie part of Fife around these historic locations that played a significant role in history – and on the way enjoy panoramic views and perhaps encounter some wildlife; explore local.

To route plan a cycle or walk refer to the OS Explorer or Landranger Map series that locate these sites and the nearby paths and roads from where they can be viewed.

More detailed historic information can be obtained here and the circular route incorporating Jawbanes Road and the Fife Coastal Path can be found here.

Thanks to Fife Explorer for this blog.

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