Our visit to the Royal Kingdom of Fife, began at the Abbey which was founded by Queen Margaret of Scotland and was established as a great Benedictine abbey by her son, David I in 1128. It is the final resting place of some of Scotland’s greatest medieval monarchs.
The superb nave of the 12th century abbey, built in the Romanesque style, is today the vestibule of the new church, built in 1821. Surrounding the Abbey are the impressive ruins of the Benedictine Abbey and Royal Palace.
Our guide began by taking us to St Margaret’s shrine, at the east gable of the abbey where we learnt something of the history of Saint Margaret; how and why she came to be in Scotland and what happened to her after her death. Our guide then told us something of the thousand-year history of the abbey built by David the first on the site of the much smaller original church. She then helped us visualise how the adjacent palace, where Charles I was born, might have appeared in earlier times. Finally, we finished with a guided tour of the parish church, itself two hundred years old and the burial place of Robert the Bruce.
Gavin then took some of the party to St Margaret’s cave which is nearby.
After lunch we visited the cottage, built in the 1770’s, where Andrew Carnegie was born. After an introductory talk about Andrew Carnegie, and the Dunfermline of his time, members were able to explore his three hundred-year old home and the museum.
The museum, tells the story of Carnegie in America and his transition from a bobbin boy to a capitalist who became the richest man in the world, but was also a great philanthropist who gave away a great part of his wealth before he died. He believed that “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced”.
The final visit of the day was to Inverkeithing which is often overlooked in favour of the more famous Fife towns of St Andrews and Dunfermline.
Inverkeithing was granted Royal Burgh status by King David I in the 12th century.
Gavin began by telling us about the battle of Inverkeithing/Pitreavie whilst we over looked the site of part of the action. This was a crucial battle during the War of Three Kingdoms.
Margaret then told us about the 14th century Hospitium of the Grey Friars and Helen explained a bit about a nearby medieval house and the Town Hall of 1770 with its Jail Court and Debtors’ Prison, Finally Gavin told us about the Fordell Lodgings of 1671.
Fife Council and Fife Historic Buildings Trust are currently developing applications to Historic Environment Scotland under the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme and to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Townscape Heritage programme which it is hoped will the result in a five-year project to improve Inverkeithing’s historic town centre and conservation area – in particular the A listed Town House and Hospitium to showcase Inverkeithing’s forgotten mediaeval history.
All in all, another terrific day out due in no small part to the work of Margaret and her committee – aided and abetted by the weather once again cooperating.
Article and Photographs by Alan Gifford