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Cupar: A History

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Howe Of Fife



Cupar Parish Church






















Hill Of Tarvit

Scotstarvit Tower

Fife Folk Museum
CeresThe Provost





Cupar Mercat Cross







Falkand Palace


Lindores Abbey

Abdie Church

North East Fife

The relaxing rural scenery of North East Fife provides variety from the historic splendour of St.Andrews and the picturesque harbours of the East Neuk of Fife. A Royal Palace in Falkland, a Folk Museum in Ceres, a National Trust Mansion House near Cupar and much more….

Cupar and Ceres Area

Cupar flourished as the County Town of Fife up to 1975, when local government reorganisation took place and today it has local offices as part of Fife County. The town of Cupar is one of the oldest burghs in Scotland and although the earliest known charter dates back to 1382, it was certainly a prominent burgh long before then. Cupar has always benefited from its central location in the Howe of Fife as the converging roads from Falkland, St.Andrews, Dundee and Edinburgh made Cupar the natural place for the Thanes of Fife to build their castles over one thousand years ago. Records date back to 1239 confirming Cupar as the Seat of Justice and the early Sheriff Courts were held on the Moat Hill.This connection with the law give rise to the old proverb 'He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar'. The old Parish Church in the Kirkgate was originally built in 1415 and only the tower and spire retained when it was rebuilt in 1785. In the Parish grave yard lie the heads of two Covenenters and a hand of the infamous Hackston of Rathillet. In 1679 when the Archbishop James Sharp was dragged from his coach on Magus Muir and murdered by the Covenanters, Hackston of Rathillet sat impassively on his horse watching the gory proceedings. For his involvement in this murder he was cruelly executed in Edinburgh in 1680.

In Cupar any hangings would normally take place at the Fluthers, and the last public hanging was held on the 5th July 1852. Religious strife has often played a major role in Scottish history and at the time of the Reformation two opposing armies faced each other on Cupar Muir. The army of the Lords of the Congregation who supported John Knox and the Reformers gathered to challenge the Queen Regent's army who were intending to march on to St.Andrews. The challenge proved effective and a treaty was signed on the nearby Hill of Tarvit. The Mercat Cross once stood on this hill but it was returned to its proper place outside the Town Hall to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897.

To the north of Cupar a 95ft high column known as the Mount, commemorates Sir John Hope of Rankeilour, the 4th Earl of Hopetoun. The Mount was also the birthplace of the famous David Lyndsay who served at the courts of James IV and James V. He is best known for his satirical play 'The Three Estates' which was first acted in Cupar in June 1535. In the build up to the Reformation the play was well received as it poked ridicule at the role of the Church. Cupar was naturally the centre for many industries which benfited in the late 1880s from the rail link between Dundee and Edinburgh.

In 1926 Scotland's only sugar beet factory was built outside Cupar. It closed down in the 1970s and the agricultural market near the station closed in early 1994 thus ending Cupar's role as the main market town in Fife stretching back at least seven hundred years. Even though the importance of Cupar has diminished in recent years the town still offers many excellent leisure facilities including, golf, rugby, cricket, football, swimming, tennis,and bowls for locals and visitors. Scotstarvit Tower stands high high above the Howe of Fife commanding an excellent view to the Lomond Hills. This 16th century keep was bought in 1611 by Sir John Scott of Scotstarvit who was acknowledged as a great expert in cartography. In 1654 he published the first maps of all the counties and islands of Scotland. The tower was abandoned in 1696 and was eventually owned by the Wemyss family who owned Wemyss Hall- now named the Hill of Tarvit Mansion House. The original 17th century Wemyss Hall was designed by architect Sir William Bruc. In 1906 the wealthy Dundee jute owner Frederick Bower Sharp commissioned archiect Sir Robert Lorimer to redesign the house for his private collection of European paintings, Flemish tapestries, Chinese porcelains and French and Regency furniture. Lorimer also designed the layout of the gardens, with a walled garden to the north and terraces falling away to the south.

In 1949 the Hill of Tarvit Mansion House was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland who continue to welcome the public to view this impressive art and antique collection. North East Fife is mainly an agricultural area and the Fife Folk Museum at CERES has an excellent collection of old farming implements, tools and costumes which are a record of the way of life, in days gone by. The Museum is located in the 17th century Weigh House and adjacent cottages which stand beside the humped back stone bridge that Archbishop James Sharp crossed on his last journey to Magus Muir in 1679. The village green is an attractive setting for the annual Highland Games which are the oldest free games in Scotland. The memorial by the bridge commemorates the men of Ceres who marched to Bannockburn to support Robert the Bruce in his battle with King Edward's army in 1314.

Places to Visit

Hill of Tarvit Mansion House
The mansion house is reached off the A916 road near Ceres. The house originally was built on the site known as Wemysshall and this was remodelled in 1906 by one of Scotland's greatest architects, Sir Robert Lorimer. Splendid furnishings and fittings as well as lovely gardens and grounds

Scotstarvit Tower
An L-shaped, 5 storey building built between 1550 and 1579. In 1611, it was acquired by Sir John Scott- scholar, author, geographer and map maker- whose book "The Staggering State of Scot's Statesmen" accused many well-known Scottish politicians of fraud and trickery. The keys for the tower are available from Hill of Tarvit Mansion House nearby.

Fife Folk Museum
The Museum is situated in and around the 17th century Tolbooth- Weigh House of Ceres, a charming and picturesque village a few miles south-east of Cupar. The collection illustrates the domestic, economic and social life of bygone days in Fife with special emphasis on agriculture and its ancillary trades.

'The Provost'
In the main centre of the village of Ceres sits 'The Provost', a three foot high stone-carved figure set in a twelve-foot pillared structure. Discovered overgrown and forgotten in the grounds of a nearby house, this little stone gentleman (said to have been sculpted in the 17th century to represent a former church provost) resumed a position of importance in village life in 1939.

Working Pottery
Situated in the village of Ceres the Pottery specialises in the style of the traditional Wemyss Ware and is noted for the quality of the painting and the beauty of the colours.

Dura Den and Kemback
Like a small Highland Glen set in the heart of Fife's peaceful scenery, Dura Den, a few miles east of Ceres, runs dramatically through a narrow cleft of countryside bounded by wooded hillside and curiously moulded sandstone cliffs. Adding to the scenic interest is a tributary of the River Eden- the Ceres Burn- which accompanies the road through its winding passage.

The Cross, Cupar
At the head of the Crossgate in Cupar stands the monument which symbolises the ancient right of the Burgh community, reaffirmed by grant of King Robert 1 in 1327, to hold a market for the surrounding area. A Royal Burgh for at least six centuries, Cupar was the former county town of Fife and is still the local administrative centre of the area. Because of the Tolbooth and the Law courts of former years it used to be said that, "He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar" .That is if anyone was going to Cupar it was because they had been summoned by Law. It is now a busy shopping and social centre with many active clubs in the town.

Cupar Parish Church
Original building erected in 1415 with changes in 1620. The old kirkyard contains the Martyr's Tomb in memory of the covenanters executed in 1680.

Douglas Bader Gardens
Situated in Duffus Park, Cupar. The gardens are designed for use principally by the disabled. Raised beds at different levels are blended in with rock gardens, waterfalls sheltered seating and an aviary.

Hopetoun Monument
On Mount Hill, about 3 miles north of Cupar, is the conspicuous 100 ft. column erected in 1824 to the memory of Sir John Hope, the famous soldier who fought in the battle of Corunna.

David Crichton Statue
At the top of the hill near the Cupar railway station is the imposing statue of David Maitland Makgill Crichton. Born in 1881 he was a famous free Church man and a radical politician. When the Edinburgh and Northern Railway company only planned a level crossing for the use of townfolk, he fought for a safer more convenient bridge.

Dairsie Church and Bridge
Lying just south of the neat and tidy village of Dairsie is the old Dairsie Church, the exterior of which remains much as it was when first built by Archbishop John Spottiswoode in 1621. Adjacent to the church is the renovated Dairsie Castle now privately restored. Below the church is the narrow triple-arched Dairsie Bridge under which flows the River Eden on its way towards its estuary at Guardbridge. Around 460 years old, this quaint stone-built bridge carries the crest of the man who ordered its building , Archbishop James Beaton.

Collessie Church
Completed in 1839, Collesie Church is a T-shaped turreted building overlooking the fertile Howe of Fife, a favourite area of King James V who often wandered around this district in disguise, partly in order to find out what his subjects really thought of him.

The Royal Palace of Falkland
Towering high in the heart of Falkland and providing a magnificent centre-piece to this old-worlde village, stands the remarkable and impressive Royal Palace of Falkland, a country residence in the 16th and 17th century of the Stuart Kings and Queens. The Palace was built between 1501 and 1541 by James IV and James V and has many magnificent features. The lovely Gardens contain the original Royal Tennis Court built in 1539.

Strathmiglo Tolbooth Steeple
Strathmiglo was an important religious centre in the days of the Celtic Church and it became a Burgh of Barony in 1605. Standing prominently in the village is Tolbooth Steeple which was erected in 1734 and which bears a distinct resemblance to the Tower House and spire in nearby Auchtermuchty. The handsome, 70ft. steeple was built in five stages and a sundial and armorial panel can be seen on the second stage. It is topped by an octagonal spire.

Laing Museum
On the main street in the town of Newburgh situated on the banks of the River Tay. Has a varied temporary exhibition programme and a historical reference library. Recent exhibitions include "The Picts in Fife". Discovering the pictish sites in the ancient Kingdom of Fife..

Lindores Abbey
Ruins of Abbey of what was once an impressive building on the outskirts of Newburgh, founded in 1178 for the monks of the Tyronensian order.

Abdie Church
On the west side of Lindores Loch sits the very old small picturesque church of Abdie with interesting stones and setting.

The Lomond Hills
The gentle Lomond Hills, the highest of which - West Lomond stands at 1713 ft. are very dear to the people of Fife. The area offers lovely walks, picnic area and marvellous views. Hang gliders can be seen on warm summer days catching the thermals.

Birnie Loch Nature Reserve
Off the B937Ladybank road near Collessie. A wetland made up of open water and a large marsh with easy flat walks. Birnie Loch is good for many species of ducks while nearby Gaddon loch is more open quieter and excels in wading birds.

Rankeillor Park
2 miles west of Cupar on the A91. Incorporating the Scottish Deer Centre with, deer herds, ranger led tours, falconry displays and exhibitions.

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