Road Trip To Falkirk and Fife: Pt 10 – Kirkcaldy, Fife

We arrived in the large town of Kirkcaldy, and found a parking space directly outside the Town House, and set out to explore…

Kirkcaldy:

Status: Fife, Town, Scotland

Date: 13/03/2014

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Town House, Provost’s Lamps, Kirkcaldy Galleries, Museum & Art Gallery, Library, Memorial Gardens, World War I Memorial, World War II Memorial etc

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The Town House is an instant landmark in the town, and is a good example of Scandinavian Architecture adapted for Britain. Construction took longer than expected, as it started in 1939, when World War II started. It wasn’t until 1950 that construction continued, and it was finished by 1956.

The original Town House was located on High Street, and demolished in 1935, as the decision to make a new, grander Town House had been made that year. Three villa’s stood on the site of the current building and had to be demolished to make way for it. The Town House is an incredible building and is a stand out feature in Kirkcaldy. The outstanding architecture helps Fife to have a completely different cultural identity to the rest of the Scotland, with the varied buildings in Dunfermline, the Forth Bridges, and the amazing coastline all contributing.

Across the top of the building the flags of most of the European Countries are flying, including the Scandinavian Countries and Belgium.

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Moving away from the Town House, we made our way up the street, and past the Adam Smith Theatre, named in honour of Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) who was born in the town. He went on two right two books, one of which is considered the birth of modern economics. His work was considered controversial, but is widely recognised today.

The Theatre was built in 1889, in memorial to the author. It overlooks the Memorial Gardens across the street, and contains a grand auditorium with 475 seats and three function rooms. Musicals, dance, contemporary theatre and much more is performed in the Theatre, and it’s stone façade is a grand addition to the traditional buildings spread all around the town centre.

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Crossing the road, we arrived in the aforementioned Memorial Gardens, which is marked by a beautiful old sundial. Looking past it, you can see the vast War Memorial. The gardens opened in 1923, as a gift from John Nairn, a local linoleum manufacturer. The main memorial you can see directly in front of the sundial is the World War I memorial which as part of the original park when it opened. There are 1,012 names listed, and after World War II a second memorial was added, off to the right from the original. This has a further 452 names.

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Behind the War Memorials is another grand stone building, split into two halves. The left half is the Museum and Art Gallery, which opened in 1925. Now renamed as the Kirkcaldy Galleries, the building contains a gallery of paintings by various notable Scottish Artists, including William McTaggart (1835 – 1910) and S. J. Peploe (1871 – 1935), as well as other temporary exhibits. The Museum section has many artefacts around Fife, including from it’s rich coal mining history. Another well mentioned section is about Linoleum, well known as a floor covering as Kirkcaldy was once the worlds largest producer of the product

The second half of the building (out of shot on the left of the Museum/Art Gallery) is the Library, also included as part of the Kirkcaldy Galleries. On both halves of the building the original names are carved into the stone, as you can see above where it says “Museum and Art Gallery” above the doorway. By the time we arrived in the town it was too late to actually go inside but the collections sound fascinating and its worth a look on a future trip. You can also find a cafe and a Tourist Information Office here, as well as a stylish Pavilion/Band Stand at the other end of the gardens.

Visit the Kirkcaldy Galleries site and plan your own visit.

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The Memorial Gardens are immaculate, with the grass well trimmed and the flowerbeds neatly ordered in an array of different colours intertwined to create beautiful patterns. It’s a fitting tribute to the two world wars, and sits at the heart of the town. It is one of the best examples of town centre gardens we have encountered in a long time.

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Looking down the road, the tower spire of St Bryce Kirk graced the skyline. This impressive building is the second to be built for the Kirkcaldy Free Church. In 1843 there was a revolt in the Church of Scotland, as originally the Gentry chose the church ministers, so a free church was established to let the congregation choose.

The first church built was where the Marks & Spencers Store on Tolbooth Street currently stands, and you can find a plaque on the side of the building to recognise this. The amount of people using the church kept expanding and a new church was needed to cope, so in 1876 a fund raising campaign was launched, and the current building was constructed. The spire is 200 feet high, to look like a Cathedral, and the main materials used were Sandstone (from Fordell Quarry on the coast), Hard Stone (from Gallatown Quarry) and Yellow Pine for the ceiling. It opened in 1881, and more recently has undergone another change. It was decided this enormous building is slightly too big for its intended function, so a divide has been put in, making the upper half of the church an Auditorium for conferences and concerts, along with offices and a coffee bar downstairs, alongside the main area of worship.

Next to the church, is the towns Victorian Police Station from 1900, which still survives today in all its splendour.  It was designed by architect William Williamson (1871 – 1952) who would seem to have designed half the town going off his record, so fantastically well done! See how much he did here.

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Moving down the left hand side of the Town House (when coming from the front) is the largest cluster of Lamp Posts I have ever seen in such a small space. However, they are not just any old lampposts. They are six of the seven Provost’s lamps, each representing a former burgh in the Kirkcaldy District. They represent:

Kirkcaldy, Burntisland, Buckhaven, Kinghorn, Leven and Methil. The seventh, for Leslie, isn’t present. Originally the seven lamps stood outside the house of the senior councillors in the corrosponding districts, but these were abolished in 1975 so they were moved to the centre of the district, Kirkcaldy.

We have seen similar things before, including one outside the Town Hall in Lanark. I quite like the idea of the people in charge getting a special lamppost, it’s a nice little touch. Moving through from here, past the Bus Station directly behind the Town House, we made it to the shopping zone.

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The shopping heart of Kirkcaldy lies between the Town House and the Sea Front, with a pedestrianised shopping street, linked up to the Mercat and Postings Shopping Centres. The entrance to the Mercat Shopping Centre car park is near the sea front on the other side of the pedestrianised section. There are a few notable buildings in the area, as a lot of the shops are in lovely old buildings set in stone.

We made it down here looking for a way to cut through to the sea front, and after a little while of exploring, we made it down to the sea wall itself…

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Kirkcaldy has a great place on the Fife Coast looking out over the North Sea, and back round to Edinburgh over the Firth of Forth. This contains a variety of Islands, and a handful of these are easily visible from the town. If you move a bit further around the coast back towards Dunfermline to Kinghorn and Burntisland the view gets even better. The promenade was being renovated when we were there, but when it’s finished it will make for a great walk down the sea wall.

Fife is renowned for it’s incredible landscape, both on land and off, and to go with the great general views in the towns and villages out to sea, it is quite unique for one other reason. The Forth Road and Rail bridges link Edinburgh to Fife, and if you keep going to the other side of Fife, the Tay Road and Rail bridges then link to Dundee, meaning Fife contains 4 of the most amazing bridges in the country, and I have been over both rail bridges on the train, and what you can see is just incredible.

Kirkcaldy is a great little town, with its outstanding architecture making it a memorable visit. The local train station is on the Fife Circle Line and leads round to Dunfermline and Edinburgh, as well as East Coast Trains running through Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy bound for Dundee and Aberdeen. Edinburgh Airport is the closest internal and international, just 26 miles away.

We had spent most of our day trip out in Fife, so it was fitting that our final stop would give us one last look at the Kingdom of Fife…

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