Travel

Let’s go to Cu­par

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Contents | Photograph Of The Week -

ONCE a prom­i­nent royal burgh and the ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­tre of the King­dom of Fife, Cu­par re­mains the quin­tes­sen­tial county town. Nestling in the rolling hills of the Howe of Fife, sur­rounded by pretty vil­lages and just 10 miles from St An­drews, this char­ac­ter­ful town of 9,000 has a plethora of his­toric build­ings and an­cient streets and wynds to ex­plore.

It also has some great in­de­pen­dent shops, not to men­tion ex­cel­lent res­tau­rants on the doorstep, in­clud­ing the first in Scot­land to re­ceive a Miche­lin star.

The Fish Ket­tle in Lady­wynd was es­tab­lished more than 100 years ago and is still an ex­cel­lent fam­ily-run shop. The her­ring in dill is par­tic­u­larly good and you can or­der spe­cial re­quests. I’d also rec­om­mend the wide range of cheeses

His­toric high­lights Tra­di­tion­ally a mar­ket town, Cu­par grew up around the site of Cu­par Cas­tle, seat of the earls of Fife.

At the end of the 13th cen­tury the town was home to an as­sem­bly of three es­tates – clergy, no­bil­ity and burghs – or­gan­ised by Alexan­der III, a pre­de­ces­sor to the Scots Par­lia­ment.

The town, which sits on the banks of the river Eden, be­came wealthy and pow­er­ful over the cen­turies, with in­dus­tries as di­verse as farm­ing, brew­ing, malt­ing, dye­ing, tan­ning, weav­ing and book­bind­ing.

Nearby Glen­rothes took over the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Fife in 1975, but Cu­par is still a cen­tre for the teach­ing of agri­cul­ture, coun­try­side, en­vi­ron­men­tal and golf course man­age­ment, at Elm­wood Col­lege.

What to do

With its gates, ports and me­dieval closes, Cu­par makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing walk­ing tour.

The mer­cat cross dates back to 1683 and sits at the old cen­tre of the town be­tween Cross­gate and Bon­ny­gate. The an­cient mer­can­tile his­tory con­tin­ues at the same lo­ca­tion on the third Satur­day of ev­ery month with the pop­u­lar farmer’s mar­ket, which takes place from 9am till 1pm. Thirty stall­hold­ers of­fer a wide ar­ray of lo­cal meats, fish and dairy, fruit and vegeta­bles, home­bak­ing and crafts.

The im­pres­sive Pre­ston Lodge, built by the Laird of Air­drie, was erected in 1623 to a de­sign in­spired by Cul­ross Palace.

Nearby St Cather­ine’s Street is home to the Geor­gian Burgh Cham­bers and County Build­ings, and on Kirk­gate sits the Par­ish Church of Cu­par Old, the main struc­ture of which was built in 1745. The bell tower dates back to 1415.

If you need re­fresh­ments after all that ex­plor­ing, pop into the im­pos­ing Old Gaol on Sta­tion Road, which now op­er­ates as Watts Bar and Restau­rant (wattsofcu­par.com). Nearby Haugh Park has pic­nic ta­bles and an ex­ten­sive chil­dren’s play area.

Lo­cal vol­un­teer Guthrie Hut­ton helps run the nearby Mu­seum and Her­itage Cen­tre (cu­parher­itage.org), si­t­u­ated in the old rail­way sta­tion. “Cu­par has a huge his­tory, which I hope we re­flect in our ex­hibits,” he says. “If you want to visit this year you’ll need to be quick, how­ever, as our sea­son ends on Novem­ber 11.”

Where to eat

Food­ies may al­ready know that Cu­par punches well above its weight when it comes to qual­ity din­ing. Just off Bon­ny­gate is the de­light­ful Ostler’s Close Restau­rant (ostler­sclose.co.uk), run by Amanda and Jimmy Gra­ham, serv­ing sea­sonal Scot­tish pro­duce cooked with flair and at­ten­tion.

Just a few yards away is the Court­yard Restau­rant, run by Ger­man na­tive Her­mann Sch­midt (the­court­yard­cu­par.co.uk), which also fo­cuses on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, though the Bavar­ian flour­ishes – and beers – are ex­cel­lent.

Three miles out­side Cu­par in the vil­lage of Craigrothie is the Kin­gar­roch Inn (kingar­rochin­ngas­tropub.co.uk), a re­laxed gas­tro pub that has built a strong rep­u­ta­tion since open­ing three years ago. The Sun­day lunch alone is worth the trip.

The Peat Inn (peatinn.co.uk), run by Ge­of­frey Smed­dle, has a global rep­u­ta­tion as well as a Miche­lin star (it re­ceived Scot­land’s first in the mid1980s). A rare treat in­deed, it is seven miles away.

If it’s a lunch or af­ter­noon tea in town you’re after, Milly’s Kitchen is just the ticket, of­fer­ing a great se­lec­tion of soups, sand­wiches sal­ads and quiches (and some of the best scones and muffins for miles). The smoked sal­mon to go with the scram­bled eggs comes straight from St Mo­nans.

The Cen­tral Café, mean­while, does a mean fish sup­per.

Where to stay

Lux­ury: Just four miles out­side town is Craigsan­qhuar (craigsan­quhar.com), an 18th-cen­tury coun­try house ho­tel and es­tate set in 36 acres of gar­dens and

wood­land. Rooms from £121.

Com­fort­able: El­e­gant Fer­ry­muir Sta­bles B&B (fer­ry­muirsta­bles.co.uk) is housed in a beau­ti­ful 200-year-old block on the western out­skirts of Cu­par, but still within easy walk­ing dis­tance of the town cen­tre. From £49 per per­son, per night.

Cosy cot­tage: A pri­vate room in a fam­ily home in the town has a king­size bed and pri­vate bath­room. From £38 a night. See Airbnb.co.uk for de­tails.

Grand: His­toric Dair­sie Cas­tle pro­vides an un­usual and sur­pris­ingly in­ti­mate self-cater­ing hol­i­day home for large groups. Your fairy tale awaits. Sleeps 14. From £550 a night. On Airbnb.co.uk.

Where to shop

The town cen­tre has a par­tic­u­larly fine se­lec­tion of in­de­pen­dent shops, as lo­cal res­i­dent Winifred McEwen points out.

“The Fish Ket­tle in Lady­wynd was es­tab­lished more than 100 years ago and is still an ex­cel­lent fam­ily-run shop,” she says. “The her­ring in dill is par­tic­u­larly good and you can or­der spe­cial re­quests.

I’d also rec­om­mend the wide range of cheeses – Scot­tish, Bri­tish and Euro­pean – in­clud­ing a lo­cally-made ewe’s milk soft cheese. The staff are friendly and help­ful.

“Temp­ta­tions Bak­ery, on the same street, and the nearby Court­yard Book­shop, are both re­ally good. Pete’s Pic­tures is run by pic­ture framer and per­for­mance poet Pete Cura.

At The Sign Of The Pel­i­can, also in Lady­wynd, stocks an­tique Scot­tish fur­ni­ture and much more.

“Ar­ti­san butcher Minick pro­vides a ter­rific ser­vice as well as ex­cel­lent lo­cal meat, fruit and vegeta­bles.”

Few, mean­while, would ar­gue that the fudge dough­nuts from Fisher and Don­ald­son, on Cross­gate, are not spec­tac­u­lar – peo­ple come from all over Fife and beyond to buy them.

The hand­made choco­lates and pies at this 100-year-old in­sti­tu­tion are also quite won­der­ful. For gifts, arts and crafts, Maisie and Mac on St Cather­ine Street is a trea­sure trove.

Fa­mous faces

Pi­o­neer­ing pho­tog­ra­pher and sportswoman Lady Hen­ri­etta Gil­mour lived just out­side Cu­par for most of her life. Thought to be the first se­ri­ous fe­male pho­tog­ra­pher in Scot­land, she also opened up curl­ing to women. Born in Cu­par, Jane Stocks Greig moved to Aus­tralia as a teenager and trained as a doc­tor. She went on to rev­o­lu­tionise pub­lic health in the coun­try and was recog­nised in the Vic­to­ria Hon­our Roll of Women in 2007 and com­mem­o­rated with a stamp. Renowned, in­flu­en­tial folk singer and mu­si­cian Rab Noakes was brought up in the town and at­tended Bell Bax­ter High.

Things to do nearby

Orig­i­nally known as We­myss Hall, Hill of Tarvit, two miles south of Cu­par, was trans­formed by ar­chi­tect Robert Lorimer from a 17th-cen­tury pile to one of the most mod­ern and daz­zling Ed­war­dian homes of its time, com­plete with its own golf course, where you can still play with orig­i­nal hick­ory clubs. It is now run by the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land Take a walk on the wild side at the 55acre Scot­tish Deer Cen­tre (tsdc.co.uk), home to 13 species of deer as well as bears, lynx, ot­ters, a wolf pack and a va­ri­ety of rap­tors. There’s also in­door play and an ad­ven­ture park.

Fife Folk Mu­seum (fife­folk­mu­seum. org) in the nearby vil­lage of Ceres of­fers a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into how ru­ral life has shaped Fife for hun­dreds of years, with a fo­cus on crafts such as weav­ing and pot­tery.

Founded in 2014 by for­mer golf caddy Dou­glas Cle­ment, Kings­barns Dis­tillery (kings­barns­dis­tillery.com), 30 min­utes from Cu­par, takes vis­i­tors on a jour­ney from Fife-grown bar­ley to dram.

Singer-song­writer Rab Noakes was raised in Cu­par Pic­ture: Martin Shields

The nearby Scot­tish Deer Cen­tre is a great day out

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