Culross is a very attractive village in Fife on the north bank of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. In the 16th and 17th centuries its merchants grew rich from coal, salt and limestone, trading especially with the Low Countries, and building themselves fine town houses. Those industries moved elsewhere in the 19th century, so Culross was preserved from later development, and in the 20th century was restored. It's prounced KOO-lross with just the faintest "l" sound.
The village is 8 miles west of Dunfermline and 11 miles east of Falkirk. By car from Edinburgh, follow M90 across the new Forth road bridge (no toll) then take exit 1C onto A985 west. From Glasgow follow M80 then M876 over Kincardine Bridge (no toll) then A985 east. From either end, stay on A985 until you see signs for Culross, near Valleyfield. It's within bicycle range of Edinburgh but cyclists must cross the river via the old road bridge A9000, then use B981 Ferry Toll Road to shortcut onto A985 west.
Stagecoach Bus 8 runs hourly daily from Dunfermline to Culross (20 min) and continues to Kincardine and Falkirk - except on Sunday when it continues to Alloa.
By train, head for Dunfermline then get the bus.
Walk, the village is small. Motorists please use the free car park at the west edge of the village, and don't clog up the narrow streets.
- The old town centre is picture-perfect. Much of it is 17th century Low Countries sytle, with crow-stepped gables, and red pantile roofs as Dutch roof tiles were used as ballast by ships returning from trading. You can tour the Palace and ruined Abbey; other fine buildings (not open as of 2020) are the Town House and the Study.
- 1 Culross Palace, Culross KY12 8JH. Apr-Sept daily 10:00-17:00, Oct daily 10:00-16:00. Built early 17th century by Sir George Bruce, using materials (and wealth) gathered from his European trade in timber, coal and salt. The interior is richly decorated in 17th / 18th C style, with a large porcelain collection, and the garden has been restored to that era. Now run by the National Trust for Scotland, it was never a royal palace but King James VI visited in 1617 and was intrigued by Sir George's ability to mine beneath the sea. (Excellent drainage was the secret.) The tour brought the king out of an air-shaft onto an islet, with his guards and courtiers mute in the distance across the water -"Treason!" he squealed. Adult £10.50, conc £7.50, NTS / NT free.
- 2 Culross Abbey, Kirk St KY12 8JF. Ruins of a Cistercian abbey and monastery founded in 1217: it fell derelict after the 16th C Reformation but wasn't smashed up as other abbeys were. It became the mausoleum for the Laird Sir George Bruce and family, then was incorporated into the parish church which is still in use. Free.
- 3 West Kirk is a ruin reached by walking down the lane west of the Abbey. (The lane is tarmac but if your car meets another, you'll be reversing for a mile; the last section is farm track.) Not much left of the Kirk except bosky stumps, you only come for the walk and the fun of finding it.
- 4 Dunimarle Castle, Culross KY12 8JN. Apr-Oct Th-Su 10:00-16:00. The original medieval castle is just a ruin. The adjacent 18th century mansion was re-opened for visits in 2019. Adult £7.
- 5 Preston Island became a peninsula of reclaimed land in the 19th C, with coal mines and salt production. The area has now been landscaped; stroll here for views over the Forth.
- Walk or cycle along the coast of the Firth of Forth. West from Culross the route goes upriver to Kincardine and Clackmannan; east it swings inland past Rosyth navy base then returns to the coast under the Forth bridges and continues all the way to St Andrews.
- Devilla Forest two miles northeast along A985 has walking and cycling trails.
- Bessie's Cafe, Main Street KY12 8JQ (Next to Palace), ☏ . Apr-Oct M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 09:00-17:00, Nov-Mar to 16:00 / 17:00. Friendly place for coffee and light bites.
- Biscuit Cafe, Sandhaven, Culross KY12 8JG (behind Palace). Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00. Cafe, pottery and gallery. Small place so at busy times it soon fills out or sells out.
- 1 The Red Lion Inn, Low Causeway KY12 8HN, ☏ . Food served daily 12:00-21:00. Good pub with high quality meals - consider booking your table. Sizzling steaks are a specialty. mains £12-£20.
- There's not much in the village as most visitors just day-trip: try Dunfermline for a much wider choice.
- 1 Saorsa House B&B, Low Causeway, Culross KY12 8HL, ☏ . Small welcoming B&B, dog-friendly.
- 2 Bramble Brae, Balgownie Mains Farm, Alloa KY12 8EL, ☏ . Self catering cottage let Friday to Friday, shorter breaks available in winter. Four bedrooms, sleeps 8. £1000 per week.
- Dunfermline in the 11th century became the royal residence and capital of Scotland. See the ruined Abbey, and the humble birthplace of tycoon philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
- Dollar has a walkway up a dramatic ravine to the ruins of Castle Campbell. The autumn colours here are glorious.
- Stirling, to continue the theme of towns unrelated to the currency they sound like, is a miniature Edinburgh, with its castle perched on a crag.