Culross is an impeccably preserved 17th century village, complete with cobbled streets and colorful facades. A Royal Burgh in the Kingdom of Fife, Culross was once a bustling port nestled on the Firth of Forth. Even on an overcast and drizzly winter’s day like the one we visited on, there is a palpable magic in this historic town.
We hadn’t set foot in the town square for more than five minutes before we were stopped by an elder local. He proceeded to spend the next half hour telling us the history of the town, from the witch trials of the 17th century to the residents of notable lineage that still reside in the burgh. There’s nothing like a bit of Scottish hospitality to make you feel right at home in a place like this.
Culross sits 31 miles from Glasgow and 22 from Edinburgh, best reached by car. It’s the perfect stop for a few hours while exploring the region, or even to stay the night (who knows, maybe you’ll see the ghost of the kilted highlander that wanders the local hotel – or so we’ve been warned). And of course, you may recognize the scenery from Outlander, where it doubles as Crainsmuir and various other sets!
Visit Culross Abbey
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the burgh is Culross Abbey. Here you can wander through the ruins of a Cistercian monastery dating back to the 13th century. Legend has it that Culross was founded in the 6th century by Saint Serf, and that it was the birthplace of Saint Mungo – the patron saint of Glasgow. The abbey became a parish church following the Reformation. The functioning church is free to visit and open year round, as are the ruins free to explore.
Explore Culross Palace
In the heart of the village sits Culross Palace, difficult to miss due to its bright ochre hue. This merchant’s house was built in the early 17th century by Sir George Bruce, Laird of Carnock. Now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, visitors can explore the original woodwork and interiors. The palace even boasts it’s own organic garden, where visitors can purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Learn the History of Culross Townhouse
With a belfry overlooking the main square on the water, Culross Townhouse is another landmark open to visitors. What was once the legal and commercial centre of the village offers a step back in time. Explore the council chamber room or the old debtors’ cell. The local we met told us all about how the witches were held upstairs during their trials – if you’re in to destinations with a chilling past, this place has certainly seen it’s fair share of ghosts!
When we visited, local photographer Graham’s work was on exhibition inside. He spoke to us of his experience with working on Outlander and has beautiful prints of the village and surrounding landmarks. So if you are looking for a wee souvenir, I recommend popping in to check out his work!
Wander Through Mercat Cross
Just up the hill from the town square is mercat cross, or the old market cross. It’s perhaps the most recognizable spot in the village, particularly for Outlander fans who may recognize Geillis Duncan’s house or where Jamie and Clare rescued a boy from the pillory. Be sure to check out Bessie’s Cafe or Biscuit Cafe nearby for a spot of tea.
Stroll Up Tanhouse Brae
Follow Tanhouse Brae up from Mercat Cross to reach the Abbe. Admire the colorful harled homes with their tiled roofs and wooden shutters as you wander through town.
End Your Day with a Pint at the Red Lion
There’s nothing better than ending your day seated near the fire in a pub surrounded by locals, with a pint in hand. The Red Lion Inn was a cozy spot for lunch that made us feel right at home in Culross before moving on to the next town.
What’s your favorite village in Fife?