We had a near-perfect spring day here yesterday in bonny Fife, with sparkling sunshine and crisp breeze. I woke up to a perfect view of Inchkeith and could see up and down the Firth of Forth to the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. Since you never know how long the good weather will last in Scotland, I headed down to the beach and met my uncles for a walk.
I’m in Kinghorn—a small town in Fife on the East coast of Scotland. Kinghorn’s a wee place – population about 2,800. Kinghorn is a Royal Burgh, a right granted back in 1285 by Alexander III, which allowed the town to hold a market and mint coins. Poor Alexander III was good to Kinghorn, and stayed here often. It was en route see his wife, Queen Yolande, in Kinghorn on the coast road from Burntisland that he fell off his horse, down the cliff to his death, ending the Canmore dynasty. I suppose this event gave Edward Longshanks reason to believe he could annex Scotland…enter William Wallace and Braveheart, but I digress.
According to the Kinghorn Historical Society guidebooks, there have been two castles in Kinghorn, though neither remains. The first was likely near Pettycur Beach—near where I am staying—and was possibly a ruin even in Queen Mary’s time. The later castle was in the town center was built in 1543, but besieged by Kinghorn’s most famous son (as far as I am aware) William Kirkcaldy of Grange. Kirkcaldy played a large role in Mary Stuart’s story.
Since Mary Stuart did not return to Scotland until 1561, she would not have stayed at either castle in Kinghorn. She did stay three miles away in Burntisland, and might have traveled the coast road (currently the A921) en route to St. Andrews. She also visited Inchkeith, one of several islands dotting the Forth, in 1564 and she would have been ferried over from Kinghorn Beach.
Kinghorn is perhaps not as picturesque as some of the towns like Crieff and Crail further up the coast, but it is my mum’s hometown and as close to a hometown as I get. Last night, gathered with my Donnelly family we spent hours laughing about going into the freezing cold Forth at Kinghorn Beach. I actually offered $50 to anyone who would go in the sea right there, then – it was high tide and there’s a beach at my doorstep, quite literally. For a moment, my younger brother wavered and I could see he was tempted, but the water is a chilly 9 degrees C (50 degrees F), which actually sounds warmer than I remember it (I remembered turning blue with cold).
You can tell I love Kinghorn, love walking around its quiet street with the wind in my face, tinged with salt and the smell of a coal fire in the air on a chilly night. I am going to allow myself a tiny bit of historic license and Stuart or one of the Maries will spend some time here.