Monday, 11 February 2008

Dunfermline - the nearly town

The other week we had a day out in Dunfermline. It wasn't the best of weather - cold, windy, raw; a day for staying inside with the heating on and a cup of tea to hand. But there we were, so we looked around.

Dunfermline's centre has a few old, interesting buildings remaining, laid out on a medieaval street plan. The mercat cross; the abbot's house; Pittencrieff house; and of course the modest abbey and its outbuildings, where the body of Robert Bruce is buried. Then there are the Carneigie buildings - the library, the hall, the park, Carneigie's birthplace, and the contemporary town hall. And for me the highlight, as completely unknown - the vestigal remains of the castle, pre-Norman, pre-abbey, above a steep, impregnable bend of the Tower Burn, the dun-ferm-linn - the castle on the crooked waterfall.

Yet something didn't quite gel, perhaps because I could sense the potential. Perhaps the few remaining old buildings miss their contemporaries, burnt in the great fire of 1624; they seemed isolated and disjointed. Perhaps there are a few too many stores you can see on any high street in Britain, a feeling too of a need for a good scrub up. Perhaps it was just the grey weather. But a few more buildings like abbot house, a few less generic stores on High St, a lick of paint: and Dunfermline would be challenging St Andrews or Culross.

It's certainly worth a visit, especially as part of a tour of the local area. But as it is, it is nearly - but not quite - a tourist town to visit in its own right.

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