The county of Fife consists of a long peninsula bounded on the south by the Firth of Forth and on the north by the Firth of Tay. It is steeped in history, and for that reason is sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Fife. James II, who ruled from 1437 to 1460,once called it a ‘fringe of gold on a beggar’s mantle’, meaning that, in his day, it had prosperous coastal towns and a barren interior. During the Cold War years, Fife was where Scotland would be governed from in the event of a nuclear attack. The underground Secret Bunker, as it is now known, was located on a farm near St Andrews.
Dunfermline, still an important town, was Scotland’s capital before Edinburgh took over, and on the coast there were small prosperous seaports that traded with Europe. You can still see the European influence today. Some of the older buildings in the coastal towns have a distinctly Low Countries feel to them, and some houses have red pantiles - brought in as ballast from the Netherlands and the Baltic countries - instead of slates. These ports, with names such as Crail, Pittenweemand Anstruther, are still there, though now they rely on tourism rather than trade.
Of all the towns on the county’s east coast the most famous is surely St Andrews. Seen from a distance, it shimmers with spires and towers, and is crammed with ancient buildings and historical associations.
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