Last week, it was announced that various towns around the British Isles, and even as far afield as the Falkland Islands, would become cities as part of the Jubilee celebrations.
This means that Scotland is no longer the country of seven cities – we’ve gained an eighth!
Dunfermline is a well-deserved choice, given that it was actually previously the capital of Scotland between some time in the 11th century and 1437, when the capital was moved to Edinburgh.
Until a couple of years ago, I actually knew nothing about Dunfermline and to be honest hadn’t even thought about visiting. Now that I live ten minutes away, I’ve naturally been drawn to it a few times, enjoying a visit to the abbey, several lovely walks around the park, shopping trips on the lively high street, and of course, many, many trips to Tim Hortons. (In case you’re new here – I’m obsessed, partly because I lived in Canada for a while! Disclaimer: I did not move to Canada purely for Tim Hortons, honest.)
The truth is, Dunfermline is actually a lovely wee town (now city!), which may come as a surprise given how underrated it is as a destination.
Fife as a whole is also very underrated – I’ve written about the coastal towns and villages here!
I chose not to write about Dunfermline at all in that post, as it was to focus on – clue in the name – the towns along the coast, and it turned out there were enough of those to stuff a blog post full. However, that’s not to say it wasn’t worth including in places to visit in Fife; far from it!
Now that Dunfermline is officially becoming a city, it seems like the perfect time to let you all know what it has to offer.
Many of Scotland’s kings and queens were laid to rest at Dunfermline Abbey, making it a must-see on any visit to Dunfermline. The most famous of these is Robert The Bruce, and you can see his tomb inside the abbey church.
The church is actually free to get into so you can pay tribute without a ticket, and it’s also free to walk around the kirkyard and the outside of the abbey – you just need to pay to go inside.
Fun fact: Queen Margaret was taken to Dunfermline Abbey for burial by boat across the Firth Of Forth – with the two towns either side now being North Queensferry and South Queensferry.
Another of my absolute highlights of Dunfermline, always, is taking a wander around its delightful city centre park.
Pittencrieff is pleasant in itself – but there are a few surprises, including a steam train and peacocks!
The train isn’t running, it’s just there by the path to have a look at. Totally random!
Unfortunately I still haven’t seen any peacocks in the park, but there’s actually a peacock sanctuary which is at the other end of the park so I suspect perhaps they may all be around there. Just an educated guess.
However, peacocks or no peacocks, it’s a really enjoyable park with a play area, a woodland section and even a tiny Japanese garden (which is mostly just a pagoda).
Side note: there’s actually a “proper” Japanese garden nearby in Dollar!
Carnegie Library & Galleries
Next to the abbey, the library & galleries is home to a free museum about the past kings and queens, industry in the area, transport and much more.
We actually visited this museum back in 2019, so there may have been some changes since then, but I remember being really impressed as we had just popped in and didn’t expect there to be much there – most importantly, it’s FREE!
I haven’t actually been inside Abbot House and it’s currently closed for renovation – but it’s still great even from the outside. You can’t miss the pink building by the abbey.
Abbot House is the oldest building in Dunfermline, and it wasn’t always pink – it was painted in the 1990’s, although it’s thought it may have been the original colour. Who knows? Either way, it suits it now!
Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum
I have to admit, I’ve not been here at all – it’s rare that I write about anything I haven’t visited personally, but I feel I have to include it as Andrew Carnegie is one of Dunfermline’s most famous residents.
Carnegie was born here with a modest upbringing, before emigrating to the USA and becoming, at the time, the world’s richest man. He’s known as one of the biggest philanthropists of all time, building thousands of legacies (literally) in the form of venues and libraries. The most famous of these is probably Carnegie Hall in New York City. I had no idea he was from Dunfermline!
There is a large statue of Carnegie in Pittencrieff Park, so even if you don’t visit the museum, there are reminders of him and his work around the city. The statue is actually how I learned about his Scottish history! “What? Carnegie as in Carnegie Hall?” I’d said.
However, I’ve just learned that the birthplace museum is completely free, which means I’m definitely visiting the next time we’re in Dunfermline, and I’ll report back and update this post once I have!
St Margaret’s Cave
I only found out about this on Saturday – 87 steps leading underground to a cave where St Margaret used to pray on her visits to Dunfermline. Since her death, the cave became a pilgrimage.
Definitely a unique thing to do in Dunfermline, although strangely not the only cave like this in Fife – there’s another one in Pittenweem, St Fillans Cave.
Enjoy some great food & drink
We are still exploring Dunfermline’s best offerings, but we’ve been out a handful of times and have found some fantastic options.
Lunch – Bob & Berts
Need coffee, breakfast or lunch? Bob & Berts on the high street is a popular option and when we went in this weekend, we loved it! I grabbed some French toast with my much-needed cup of tea, although I was tempted by every single cake and pastry in the cabinet.
I didn’t realise Bob & Berts is actually a chain – they mostly seem to be in Northern Ireland with a smattering of branches in Scotland and England, but not in any major cities, I’ve noticed from their list.
Dinner – 1703
We’ve been for lunch at 1703, but I’d probably recommend it for dinner and drinks as it’s got more of an evening vibe with a bar. Either way, we loved it! The food was great and the service excellent – we had a lovely chat with our server. Plus it’s inside a church and done up really spectacularly. Definitely one we’ll go back to.
We haven’t been “out out” in Dunfermline, but there are plenty of pubs to choose from around the high street – one that caught my eye on our recent visit was the dubiously named “Creepy Wee Bar”, right next to the abbey. It’s one for next time as it looks like our sort of thing, and definitely seems like something a bit different to your bog standard Wetherspoons-style pubs!
(If you want something a bit more traditional that isn’t Wetherspoons, The Old Inn next door to the “creepy bar” looks like a great pub, too.)
I will refrain from recommending Tim Hortons………………………….. or will I?
Overall, Dunfermline’s centre is really compact so it’s easy to do in a day from Edinburgh.
It’s also an excellent spot to base yourself in if you want to explore more of Fife, which I highly recommend!
From coastal fishing villages to historic towns and even Outlander locations, Fife has loads to offer while being overlooked by the hordes of crowds that hit up Scotland’s more popular locations. It’s definitely an area that deserves more attention – and Dunfermline might just help with that.