"Falkland Palace" Falkland by maclean
Falkland Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 26 photos
Falkland Palace, and the village of Falkland that grew to its south, lie in the shadow of the distinctively shaped East Lomond. North of the Palace the landscape opens out into the broad Howe of Fife, the valley of the River Eden. In medieval times this was a largely wooded area, renowned for the quality of the hunting it offered. Today the hunting forests have long gone, but the imposing south front of Falkland Palace continues to tower over Falkland's main street, dominating views to the south from the village almost as much as East Lomond continues to dominate views to its north.
Although technically still a Crown property, Falkland Palace has been in the keepership of the Crichton Stuart family since its acquisition by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in 1887. In 1952 the National Trust for Scotland was appointed Deputy Keeper of the Palace, and they now care for and maintain the Palace and its extensive gardens.
Many Scottish castles were transformed over time into grand residences as the need for defence was replaced by the need for comfort and the need to impress. In some cases the same building was converted and reconverted as tastes and needs changed. In at least one case, Aberdour Castle, each successive generation of building was built a little to the east of what had preceded it, with the earliest parts simply abandoned over time, though still standing in ruined state.
Today's visitor to Falkland Palace finds a great deal to see. The accommodation on view in the South Range is some of the most impressive and atmospheric you will find anywhere. This includes the beautifully panelled keeper's quarters immediately to the east of the Gatehouse, the Old Library, the recreated King's and Queen's Rooms in the restored Cross House beside the ruined East Range, and the Bakehouse. But the undoubted highlight of any visit has to be the Chapel Royal, occupying the east end of the South Range. This is simply breathtaking, as is the remarkable Tapestry Corridor next to it.
But the tour of the Palace itself is only part of what makes a visit such an interesting experience. Extensive gardens run to the south of the Palace, complete with glasshouses, and Falkland is also home to Britain's oldest Royal Tennis Court, built in 1539.
In 1402 the 24 year old Prince David, heir to the throne, died while being held prisoner by his uncle at Falkland Palace: he was probably starved to death. The Duke of Albany then forced Robert III's younger son, James, to flee Scotland and (probably) arranged for his capture by English pirates: the Duke certainly obstructed negotiations for James' subsequent return to Scotland from his captivity at the English court. As a result Robert, Duke of Albany, retained his post as Governor and Regent of Scotland until his death in 1420.
Well, not quite. The East Range was largely destroyed by an accidental fire during a stay by Cromwell's troops in 1654. And the remainder of the Palace had been allowed to become derelict and overgrown by the 1800s. In an early echo of many modern conservation debates, Sir Walter Scott wrote in 1829: "Some part of the interior has been made what is called habitable, that is a half-dozen of bad rooms have been gotten out of it. Am clear in my own mind that a ruin should be protected, but never repaired."
But John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, who purchased the Keepership and the Palace in 1887, thought differently. He set out to restore and, where necessary, rebuild the Palace so that it regained the glory it has seen in James V's time. Work had been completed on the Gatehouse, the South Range and the Cross House when the 3rd Marquess died at the age of 53 in 1900. His plans for the East Range remained unrealised, and his successors and the National Trust for Scotland have since sought to preserve the Palace in the condition he left it in, though with the addition of furnishings for the recreated King's Room and Queen's Room.
I return to this hotel quite regularly as it is not far from Edinburgh but a thousand miles away from the city... more travel advice
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