The charming village of Culross, on the Firth of Forth, dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. White and pale coloured cottages of harling or rubble stonework, stone window and door trim, red pantile roofs, dormer windows, gable ends and decorative finials date the architecture. Cobbled streets complete the picture.
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A legend is associated with the village. It seems the daughter of Loth, an ancient king, chose a Christian swineherd as her lover. Disowned by her royal father and cast adrift, she ended up in Culross, where she gave birth to a boy, supposedly the famous saint, Mungo.
In 1217 a Cistercian house was founded here. Today there are only scant remains of the abbey—the ruins of the nave, cellars and domestic buildings. The monks’ choir forms part of the present day parish church.
In the 16th century coal mining, salt panning and trade occupied the inhabitants. James VI endowed the village with royal burgh status in 1588. A replica of the original 1588 mercat cross stands outside the oldest house in the village, dated 1577 on the gable. Another house has a plate with the inscription "In this spot in 1832 nothing happened".
A stone and slate Town House, built in 1625, houses an exhibition on Culross. A clock tower and bell shaped roof were later added. The Study is an example of 17th century Scottish architecture. It was used by a bishop as a theological study centre. A painted ceiling and original panelling decorate the interior.
The village declined at the end of the 17th century, becoming a small backwater rural spot until the National Trust purchased the Palace in 1932.The Palace is neither a palace nor royal but is still considered one of Scotland’s finest domestic buildings. A prosperous merchant, George Bruce, who had interests in trade, built it between 1597 and 1611.
The Palace walls are pine panelled. Decorative tempera paintings adorn ceilings—among them more than 16 Biblical scenes. Dutch tiles decorate the floor, and furniture is of the 17th and 18th century. There are 21 fireplaces. Wander in the 17th century garden behind the palace.
The north wing is a separate building dating from 1611, commemorating Sir George’s knighthood. It has a stables, a byre and a hayloft on the ground floor. Apartments above are panelled and have ceiling and wall paintings.
Everywhere you turn in Culross, history makes its presence known in delightful picture postcard architectural views.
Culross is located on the Firth of Forth, off the A985, 7 miles (11.3km) west of Dunfermline.
Culross Palace and House
Tel. 01383 880 359
National Trust for Scotland
Photos copyright by Barbara Ballard