Glenrothes is a large town in Fife, with a population in 2016 of 38,510. It's a post-War "New Town" with uninspiring architecture and not normally a town people visit. It does have great views of the Lomond Hills from the town centre, Riverside Park and the Rothes Halls. Also if you flew into Edinburgh Airport late in the day and were facing a long journey northeast, the local hotels offer a good stop-over.
The star attraction is Falkland Palace ten miles north, where Scottish monarchs came for hunting and amusement, but grisly deeds were also done. A similar fate is deserved by anyone who lures their partner to Glenrothes by proposing a romantic weekend in a Scottish glen.
Scotland's housing was in poor condition after the Second World War, so four "New Towns" were built rapidly on greenfield sites: East Kilbride from 1947, Glenrothes from 1948, Cumbernauld from 1955 and Livingston from 1962. A fifth was grafted onto the existing town of Irvine, while Stonehouse in Lanarkshire never got built. Glenrothes like the others was governed by a development corporation, until 1995 when its powers and duties transferred to Fife Council. It was intended to house the miners of the Fife coalfields, but these were already in decline. New industry developed, athough in 1963 / 64 the town's eagerness to attract this made it the dupe of a colossal scam, the Cadco pig factory. Glenrothes today has a mix of public sector employment (such as council and police headquarters), service industry and manufacturing.
Edinburgh (EDI IATA) is the nearest airport, with excellent flight connections. Take the direct bus 747 to Inverkeithing for trains or to Halbeath for buses towards Glenrothes. Fife Airport at the west edge of town is just for private aviation.
As with Livingston, the planners of Glenrothes sited it clear of the railways, those dirty inefficient outdated things. The future was road transport: the car and road-building industries enjoyed cosy relations with politics, and eventually Dr Beeching wielded his axe against the rail network.
1 Glenrothes with Thornton is mid-point of the Fife Loop train service, so from Edinburgh you can go either way round, with trains every 15 min to 19:00 then hourly to 23:00. They run from Edinburgh via Haymarket (for airport and trains from Glasgow), Dalmeny (for South Queensferry) and across the Forth Bridge to North Queensferry and Inverkeithing. From there they either run inland via Rosyth, Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath, or along the coast via Aberdour, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy. Either way takes an hour, for a walk-up single fare of £10. "With Thornton" possibly derives from a Pictish term for "not particularly close" - it's three miles south of town, see below for Bus 39.
2 Markinch is not on the loop line, but has hourly trains from Edinburgh via Haymarket, Inverkeithing and Kirkcaldy, taking 50 min and continuing to Cupar, Leuchars (for St Andrews), Dundee, Carnoustie and Arbroath. Trains to Perth also stop here every hour or two but those for Aberdeen thunder through non-stop. Markinch is two miles east of town centre but on the Glenrothes - Leven bus route.
3 Glenrothes Bus Station is the bus hub for central Fife.
Stagecoach Bus X54 / 59 runs every 30 min from Edinburgh via Halbeath (for airport bus), taking 80 min to Glenrothes; then X54 continues to Dundee and X59 to St Andrews.
Bus X37 runs every 30 min from Kirkcaldy and takes 30 min. Bus 39 is a slower hourly route serving Glenrothes with Thornton railway station, and Bus 32 an even slower route via Cardenen.
Buses 43 and X4 run from Leven via Markinch railway station, so the service is every 30 min. Bus 44 also runs from Leven but not via Markinch.
Bus 362 runs hourly from Perth via Bridge of Earn, Abernethy, Newburgh, Auchtermuchty, Falkland (for palace) and Cadham (for hospital).
By road from the south follow M90 across the Forth onto A92 east. Cyclists must use the old Forth Road Bridge, and will have a better ride by following the coast road.
The town sprawls over several miles, but the buses to Kirkcaldy and Leven criss-cross it and serve the two railway stations.
- New Town architecture: Glenrothes is one of the better examples of a Scottish New Town, with low rise buildings and lots of green space; it doesn't have the slabby blocks of flats or alienating highways of others. Still, an acquired taste.
- 1 Balbirnie Stone Circle at the north end of the golf course had to be shifted from its original site when the A92 was widened in 1970, though its Neolithic burial chambers (circa 2000 BC) were lost.
- Balfarg Henge on the opposite side of A92 is a larger stone circle and ditch, which has become the centrepiece of a modern housing estate.
- 2 Balgonie Castle, Markinch KY7 6HQ. The keep is 14th century and has been restored, so later additions are the worse ruined. They've tried to promote it as a paranormal experience but in 2021 it's closed, even to poltergeist.
- 3 Falkland Palace, Falkland KY15 7BY, ☏ . May-Oct W-Su 11:00-17:00. This is a fun palace with a dark history, built in the 12th century but taking its present Renaissance style from 1500. It was primarily a hunting lodge, and all sorts of royal amusements and spectacles were staged here. Yet the 15th century Duke of Rothesay was starved to death in it, the young James V was held hostage but escaped, and raiders tried to break in and capture James VI. Nevertheless Mary of Queen of Scots and other Stuart nobles enjoyed staying here. It was less visited once the monarchy moved to England, and a fire during Cromwellian occupation wrecked it. The south wing remains standing, with the royal chapel, the east wing is ruined. The main attraction, apart from the MQoS associations, are the extensive gardens. These also contain the "real tennis" court of 1539 - "real" as in royal, the ancestor of lawn tennis, and the world's oldest tennis court still in use. Adult £13, conc £9, NTS / NT free.
- Falkland village is attractive and was repaired along with the palace in the 19th century. Maspie Den is a pleasant wal west.
- 4 Lomond Hills start just west of Falkland and end abruptly above Loch Leven; you can drive up to Craigmead. Don't mistake these hiills for Ben Lomond, 80 miles west as the crow flies.
- Rothes Halls in Kingdom Shopping Centre is the main performing arts venue, with concerts, comedy, drama and panto.
- Cinema: Kino Cinema are also in the shopping centre. They've another cinema in Leven.
- Golf courses are at Glenrothes GC, Leslie GC, Balbirnie Park and Thornton GC. There's another at Falkland, and lots more on the coast around Kirkcaldy and Leven.
- Football: this large town doesn't have a pro soccer club. Head to Kirkcaldy to watch Raith Rovers in the Championship, the games' second tier. Local newcomers are Kelty Hearts FC, who ony turned professional in 2017 but now play in League One, the third tier.
- Highland Games are held in June at Markinch (John Dixon Park, next is on Sun 5 June 2022) and in July at Thornton (Memorial Park, next is on Sat 2 July 2022).
- Kingdom Shopping Centre is north side of the bus station. There's a retail park a block north across Queensway, with Morrison's, Asda and Aldi.
- Just the usual fast food takeaways in town centre. You'll do better in the pubs or hotels, see below.
- Town centre has Golden Acorn (a Spoons, see Sleep) and Phoenix. Further out are Pinkerton's, Otters Head, The Woodside and Coopers Bar.
- Inchdairnie Distillery on Whitecraigs Rd makes whisky, but it's not expected to go on sale until 2029. And don't go looking for Glenrothes Distillery hereabouts - that's many miles north near Elgin.
- Golden Acorn, Kingdom Shopping Centre KY7 5NA, ☏ . Wetherspoons pub with rooms in town centre. Parking available. B&B double £60.
- 1 Premier Inn, Beaufort Drive, Bankhead Roundabout KY7 4UJ (jcn A92 and B921), ☏ . Good reliable budget chain offering, with Brewer's Fayre restaurant. It doesn't have aircon. Double (room only) £50.
- Travelodge is another budget chain, east side of Bankhead Roundabout.
- Banner House Hotel, 1 High St, Markinch KY7 6DQ (next to Markinch railway station), ☏ . Relaxing small hotel with good food. B&B double £50.
- Laurel Bank Hotel, Balbirnie St, Markinch KY7 6DB (100 yards north of station and Banner House), ☏ . Friendly comfy small hotel. B&B double £50.
- 2 Balbirnie House, Markinch KY7 6NE, ☏ . Plush mansion rebuilt in 1817 and converted into a hotel in 1990. Co-located with the golf club. B&B double £200.
- Balbirnie Park Caravan Site, Markinch KY7 6NP, ☏ . Clean well-run site open Apr-Oct. Mainly for tourers but also has a few camping pitches. Pitch & two adults £20.
- 3 Gilvenbank Hotel, Huntsman's Rd KY7 6NL, ☏ . Smart place, often caters for weddings. B&B double £60.
- 4 Balgeddie House Hotel (Best Western), Balgeddie Way KY7 3QA, ☏ . Pleasant edge of town hotel and spa. B&B double £70.
Glenrothes and its approach highway A92 have 4G from all UK carriers. As of Oct 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- Anstruther is the main fishing village along the attractive East Neuk coast. Boat trips visit the Isle of May.
- St Andrews has Scotland's oldest university and a well-preserved ancient centre.
- Kinross is by Loch Leven, with the island castle that Mary Queen of Scots escaped from.
- Dunfermline was Scotland's medieval capital, with seven monarchs buried in its Abbey.
- Twentieth century New Towns: to contrast and compare, visit Livingston, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Irvine.