Walking the streets of Culross you could be forgiven for believing yourself to be an unwitting time traveller.
In a remarkable display of historic conservation headed by the National Trust for Scotland, this late Medieval town remains much the same as it was in the 17th century. Visiting Culross (pronounced “coo-russ”) is an immersive experience, where nearly every street, building and cobble evoke a time long since past. It is therefore utterly unique as a heritage site in Scotland. The now quiet town was once a booming commercial hub endowed with the status of a Royal Burgh, granting it international trading rights and putting it in the same rank as vastly larger centres such as Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Massive quantities of coal and salt were produced here, drawn from the world’s first off-shore coal mine stretching under the waters of the Firth of Forth.
During the late 16th through 17th centuries it is said that as many as 170 ships would be anchored off of Culross’ coast at any given time. Much of the town’s success was due to Sir George Bruce, an industrialist who developed the highly innovative mine and constructed the Palace, the latter of which remains the most impressive singular structure in the town.
During the 16th and 17th centuries up to 170 ships would be anchored off of Culross’ coast at any given time.
The mine was engulfed by a horrible storm in 1625 and proved impossible to recover, and the economic boom was over by 1750. Lately, however, a new industry has hit town – filmmaking. Culross played the role of Norway for the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, and required little alteration as a set for the Jacobite-era television drama Outlander. Culross boasts a striking legend as well. The tale goes that a 6th century king based at Traprain Law in East Lothian cast his daughter, Thenaw, over a cliffside upon learning that she was pregnant by a man he disapproved of. Thenaw survived and drifted to Culross on a rickety boat where she was rescued by local monks. Her son, named Kentigern by the monks, grew up to be St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow and one of Scotland’s most beloved religious figures. Thenaw was also canonised as St Enoch. With its unmistakable charm and rich past, Culross has been reborn as one of Scotland’s most illustrative historic sites.
Culross is eight miles west of Dunfermline on the north shore of the Firth of Forth.
The village has a great pub, the Red Lion, and small shops for groceries and gifts.
A half day is enough for most visitors to tour several of the buildings, walk up to the parish church, and wander the seashell-strewn alleys and wynds.
Attractions close in November, re-opening in April.
- Spelled “Culross”, pronounced “coo-russ”
- Unique heritage site
- Once a Royal Burgh with international trading rights
- Home to the world’s first off-shore coal mine
- US show Outlander filmed here