When you walk through the narrow cobbled streets of Culross you really feel like time has stood still. Little houses, low unusual doorways, narrow closes and a real quietness about the place.
The 17th and 18th century appearance of this Royal Burgh has almost stayed unchanged for the last three centuries. The village’s name is pronounced Coo-riss.
I wouldn’t have known about Culross if it wasn’t for the TV series Outlander filming there. We visited this pretty little village in September 2016. It has been a favourite filming location for other movies too such as:
- Kidnapped (1971)
- The Little Vampire (2000)
- Kyun! Ho Gaya Na (2004)
- The 39 Steps (2008)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
When we arrived in Culross I was drawn to the pier first. We crossed over the railway line and stepped up on to the wooden walkway.
The tide was out, it was a calm day so it was safe to walk to the rocky pier.
The signpost on the pier by Historic Scotland was asking people to help rebuild the pier by placing stones on it. I was intrigued. It looks like I’ll need to bring a wheel barrow next time!
I was really compelled to walk out as far as I could, to the post. The further away I stepped, the more slippery the rocks were. I only had my trainers on my feet that day.
This village’s successful industries, from the 15th century, was salt panning and coal mining. This would have been a busy wee smokey place back in the days.
Looking across the Firth of Forth you can see the flames and smoke from the Grangemouth oil refinery. Longannet power station, where coal-fired electricity was generated, can be seen to the west. The power station closed in March 2016.
The rocky pier was looking rather colourful.
We came back to pier later when the tide was in and I walked back out again. It was quite therapeutic.
As we wandered through the cobbled streets of Culross I was aware of how quiet it was. I even lowered my voice when I was talking, like you would in a library. The houses were colourful, pretty and in really good condition. The National Trust for Scotland helped preserve many of these buildings as part of their Little Houses Improvement Scheme (LHIS). Over the years the Trust has repaired 38 houses in Culross.
As I was taking photos I started to feel as if I was invading people’s privacy. It wasn’t a movie set. Real people with real lives lived here. What a picturesque place to live though.
This house is The Study, build around 1610. It was used for filming Geillis Duncan’s house in Outlander.
If you’ve watched Outlander you’ll recognise the cross. This is where the poor young lad is nailed to the pillory! Geillis and Claire look out into the cobbled street from the window of The Study. The buildings in the cross were all painted a different colour for filming and then changed back.
The base of the cross dates from 1588 with the shaft being replaced in 1902. It’s topped with a unicorn which was a symbol of the burgh’s right to trade at the market square.
There’s also a nice wee gift shop in Mercat Cross if you fancy a browse and a souvenir to take home with you.
We continued walking uphill towards the church towering high in the skyline.
The village has many narrow closes with really cool names. I loved the Cat’s Close, but sadly never saw any Culross cats.
I did peek through the hole in this door, then I felt guilty … it was the door to someone’s back garden. It just looked so inviting, a door to a secret garden.
The abbey was founded on ancient holy land around 1217 by the Earl of Fife. The monks who lived here owned the coal-mining rights and found lots of wealth under the ground in this area.
We climbed up the ladder to explore the room above which used to be a dining hall.
After a wander round the peaceful abbey we walked up to the church. We didn’t go in as it looked like there was a service taking place. There’s also a nice wee tea room beside the abbey where you can get some refreshments.
Culross Palace was next to explore so we walked back down to the main street and found the visitor centre to get a ticket. We’re National Trust for Scotland members so we didn’t need to pay anything.
The lady in the shop mentioned that we could have taken part in the Culross tour which included visiting inside The Study. Sadly we didn’t have time for this as I wanted to visit Falkland too. We’re always rushing about trying to do everything in one day. I did get a photo with Jamie Fraser though! Well … kind of …
The bright yellow building looked more like a huge house to me than a Palace. It was built for Sir George Bruce, born around 1548 and a descendant of the family of King Robert the Bruce. It was recorded as a Palace because of a misinterpretation of the words ‘Palatial House’. It was never a royal house but King James VI did come and visit on occasion!
The Palace also has links with the Cochranes of Dundonald in Ayrshire. One of the Earls of Dundonald bought the Palace in 1921. He was descended from the original Sir George Bruce and it was thought that he bought it for sentimental reasons. He didn’t live there though and sold the palace on to the National Trust for Scotland in 1932.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the Palace. Instead we bought National Trust for Scotland’s book about Culross with photos and information on its history.
We watched a short video on the history of the village and Sir George Bruce. He pioneered many of the ideas in coal mining helping the village to prosper.
Inside the Palace was bigger than I thought. Large spacious rooms, panelled walls, fireplaces, painted ceilings and four-poster beds. I could have happily lived here, it felt cosy.
Yet again, inside the Palace was used for filming Outlander scenes. The filming company certainly made good use of this quaint little Scottish village. I love that.
There was an attic room where you could dress up in period costumes. I’ve always wanted to wear a period style dress, but there wasn’t anything there for me to try.
Exploring the palace garden was really pleasant. It has been reconstructed with features you would have seen in an early 17th century garden.
This might look familiar to Outlander fans. Claire and Geillis walked through here with Angus in tow … this was the Castle Leoch garden.
Fruit, herbs and vegetables are also grown here. Being September, many of the flowers were starting to fade but I saw lots of large perfect apples.
The garden has many levels taking you higher to the views over the village and across the Firth of Forth.
This bumble bee was loving the view, it sat there for ages!
I think this is a Hollyhock flower. The bees were having fun in the pollen!
I loved the walls and steps around the garden as it felt like walking round a maze. I could imagine how colourful it would be in the summer months.
We found this little gate and wandered in for a look. This is a hen haven! What a great place for them to live.
I could have stayed there for longer and would have enjoyed just sitting for a while quietly. I noticed a sign that gave you a phone number to call in case you were locked in after hours… it must have happened to someone!
The town house
The town house dates from 1626 with the clock, tower and front later. The wooden post represents the Tron, the original being close to this area. It was used to weigh the coal and salt that was mined from this wealthy Royal Burgh.
The ground floor of the Town House was a tollbooth or prison for people who didn’t pay their bills and witches were imprisoned in the attic. There was a scary looking rat in the prison room … or maybe it was a witch in disguise!
We spent quite a lot of time in Culross that day. The next stop was Falkland, via the Rumbling Bridge Gorge.
Rumbling bridge gorge
This was a quick visit, with a three-legged friend joining us along the way.
The water was rushing so fast and dangerous down the gorge. I love gorges, especially after my first experience visiting the Devil’s Pulpit. We saw a signpost saying that one of the bridges wasn’t safe to cross, so we had to be careful.
As I was exploring the woods and taking photos something ran past my legs. It was a wee dog and it was trying to push through the fence down into the gorge. I stopped it from going any further and then tried to find its owner.
The wee soul only had three legs and was running around following us for about 15 minutes. He/she seemed to be managing fine up and down steps on three legs. I expected its owner to be calling its name or be close by but there was nothing.
We couldn’t just leave it and couldn’t take it with us as we lived far away. So Alan walked to the nearest house to ask if they knew who it belonged to. The kind couple took the wee dog and said they would report it as missing. A three-legged dog was found in the area the recently and they thought it must have escaped again! I was kind of worried the dog’s owner had fallen into the gorge. I hope the wee dog found its owner again.
So the picturesque Falkland was next. Simply beautiful. Outlander was filmed here too and portrayed Inverness in 1945 after the Second World War. It was strange walking through the village with modern cars parked and driving through the streets. They seemed out of place.
We went to the Covenanter Hotel for dinner and enjoyed some nice food before driving back home. The hotel was used as the filming location for Mrs Baird’s bed and breakfast.
It was a brief visit to Falkland and sadly too late to visit the impressive Falkland Palace. I think we’d need a full day to explore, it’s huge!
West kirk ruins
We came back to Culross in October 2016 and visited the West Kirk ruins. I didn’t know this old Kirk was in Culross the first time I visited. It was the filming location for the Black Kirk in Outlander. Don’t eat the wood garlic!
We parked on the sea front and walked up towards the ruins via Mercat Cross, Tanhouse Brae then turned left into Erskine Brae passing the lockit well. This is a deep well that was thought to have been used by the followers of St Serf.
It’s ‘well’ signposted to get to the ruins with lovely new wooden signs!
The hanging gardens viewpoint is a must stop off. You can stand at the top of the Palace Gardens and admire the views.
You can walk round in a full circle and end up back down on to the main street, but we turned back to continue our uphill walk to the Kirk ruins.
These berries were so bright red! They looked like little red Christmas lights guiding us up the road.
It was wet and muddy, but I didn’t mind. I was well prepared with my walking boots and waterproof trousers.
Being a dreich day and getting soaked, we didn’t stay too long at the Kirk. The bright sunny photos with blue sky and puffy clouds I’d hoped to capture were not going to happen this day. Oh well, it was more atmospheric in the rain anyway.
I love walking round old ruins. This is a fairly new thing for me as in my younger years I would never have done anything like this. I wonder if when we get older we connect more to the old buildings and past lives around us? I certainly feel that I appreciate the natural world around me more than I ever did before.
The Kirk was like the Abbey in that it was quiet and peaceful. Nature had taken over the ruins and autumn colours were starting to join in. A beautiful place to rest in peace.
The electricity pylons in the area did spoil the view though with cables stretched across the sky, old meeting new.
I noticed another building hiding in the trees beside the Kirk. I was curious and ventured into the overgrown area to investigate. I looked through the railings and saw a headstone inside with the name Dalgleish on it. I think three headstones were in there.
It was life after people … nature had taken over and swamped the whole area. It was colourful autumn foliage but I felt sad that this late 19th century memorial was no longer maintained. I understand that this can happen though if family members move away or possibly not fit enough to clear it. It’s such a beautiful memorial place.
We walked back to the village enjoying the autumn colours.
We intended on visiting Dysart Harbour and Anstruther this day too, but the rain wouldn’t ease off. Anstruther in Fife was recommended to me on Visit Scotland’s Online Community Forum and was a must visit. Especially for fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar!
Instead, we headed back home and hoped for another visit on a nicer day. I haven’t explored much of the east coast of Scotland. I usually always explore the west. I think the east will be seeing more of us soon though!
Thanks for reading.