Culross

A few weeks ago I took my delightful assistant to the pretty village of Culross (pronounced Coo-ross) in Fife.

To my mind, there is such a thing as taking too many photographs, and it’s something I suffer from quite a bit. The problem for me is that when I get home and download them, if I’ve taken too many I feel overwhelmed, and if I want to write a post I just don’t know where to begin and which pictures to choose.

Since the visit to Culross my camera has given up the ghost and I can’t say I blame it. The place is so ridiculously picturesque that it’s impossible not to snap a new view with every step. Since we spent several hours there, I came home with literally hundreds of pictures. You’ll be relieved to hear that I’m not going to post them all, and will attempt to limit myself to a reasonable number.

One of the big attractions of the village is Culross Palace, which dates from 1597. It’s in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, which means that the delightful assistant and I got in for free (we’re both members). This is the entrance to the palace:

It’s one of these attractions where you just wander around at your own pace, reading information sheets about each area, and there are guides in several of the rooms who can answer any questions you might have. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for me, in this instance) you’re not allowed to take photos inside. Most of it was quite dark with small windows letting in little light even on a sunny day.

There are several unusual features of Culross Palace, but I think chief amongst these are the tiered garden at the back of the buildings, and the fact that both palace and garden are situated in a village that seems to be frozen in time.

The garden slopes upwards at quite a steep angle and is laid out on a number of terraces. Here are some of the steps leading between terraces:

Part of the garden is occupied by chickens, which delighted me. In fact, afterwards when we were discussing our favourite things about the day I chose the chickens as one of my highlights. I don’t know why it is, but I’m always very taken with chickens on a day out.

We spent a long time in the garden, enjoying the chickens and some beautifully scented stripy roses:

Of course, before all this we had to bolster our energies with refreshments. I’m doing this the wrong way round (you see, I’m all confused by the number of pictures, and too distracted to do anything about it in this post), but here’s where we took them:

I think it was the first time I’d ever seen teacups hanging in windows on strings. I think it was also the first time I’d seen Iron Goddess of Mercy tea on the menu.

The tea was an oolong from Taiwan, and with a name like that I felt unable to resist. The glamorous assistant opted for coffee and we both had fruit scones with jam and butter. My tea came in one of those nice heavy black Japanese teapots:

Those sheets of paper at the left of the teacup comprise the impressive tea menu. There were some exotic varieties with interesting information about each one and it was tricky to choose. I will obviously need to return and try some of the others in due course.

Nextdoor to the tearoom was a pottery and gift shop with some interesting tea things:

Beyond the confines of the tearoom, pottery and palace, Culross has much to offer the visitor. Just wandering through the little streets, some of them cobbled, offers a variety of beautiful buildings and a sense of the history of the place.

So many householders seemed to be taking pride in the appearance of their houses, with flowers galore, in baskets, tubs and gardens:

Even those with apparently nowhere to display flowers had tied flowerpots to the walls:

In addition to all these privately owned flowers, there was botanical abundance to be found in the Culross Old School Yard Community Garden which, with considerable dedication and hard work, had gone from being a wasteland to this:

With a wildflower meadow and a seat to enjoy it from:

On our way back to the car, via more delightful little winding streets:

we passed this 17th century house that had been made into an electricity substation, with a vintage motor parked outside it to please the tourists. This was a shot I considered entering as my ‘white’ photo in the recent Capture the Colour competition:

Two last photos, if you haven’t already wandered off (my apologies for the length of this post and the number of photos in it), the first showing a series of crow-stepped gables with pantiled roofs (pantiles were imported into Scotland from the Netherlands centuries ago as ballast in ships and traded for other goods):

and one last flowery picture of a yellow foxglove from the Culross Palace garden. Flowers were a big part of our visit, and I’d like my next visit to be at a different time of year, to discover what other treats Culross has up its sleeve and along its winding streets:

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Categories: Architecture, Culross, Fife, Gardens, Photography, Scotland, Tea, Teacup, Tearooms, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

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52 thoughts on “Culross

  1. I am utterly and completely charmed, Lorna. Everything about this place, from the tearoom to the funky teacups, to the foxgloves and cobbled streets, is fabulous. I want to go! This is a wonderful post, and you have exactly the right amount of beautiful photos.
    (I think your beast was still a better choice for white, by the way. ;-) )

    • How nice of you Robin, thank you! I’m sure Culross would please you even more in the flesh than in the post, it really is stuffed full of delights. I agree about the white beast, I’m glad I went for that one, and I still got to air this one too, so hurrah! :-)

  2. Beautiful place! Thank you for bringing this lovely post with awesome pics!!

  3. Wow – so much to see! I’d never heard much about Culross before. I just love the houses and streets, and the gardens are beautiful! The photo of the cobbled street (under the arty teacup) could be taken in the Mediterranean. I never knew that about the pantiles – does that explain why so many of Fife’s coastal villages have these red tiled roofs? Sorry to hear about your camera – hope you manage to find a good replacement.

    • If you ever have the time to nip over to Culross Jo I think you’d like it. It’s got lots of history, although maybe not very ancient. ;-)

      You’re right that there is a lot to see, I was amazed by the extent of it. I knew there were some old buildings but I had no idea there were so many and that so much of it was that pretty. You’re right about the red roofs around Fife, and also East Lothian, all brought in from trading ships in the Netherlands, so I believe.

      Thank you for commiserating about the camera. I’m not sure what to do about getting a new one. At the moment I’m using both my phone and my mum’s camera but I should get my own camera really. Trouble is, the choice is highly confusing!

      • Very interesting! I’m pretty sure I’d love the Palace, too. I don’t know what to advise about your camera – I would be just as confused. If it’s any help, I have a small Lumix (Panasonic) compact which is great, and small enough to fit in a handbag.

        • Thanks Jo, mine is a little Panasonic Lumix too and I agree that the size is great for carrying around. It’s been pretty good all round so maybe something very similar would be the best replacement. I’m tempted to go for a big chunky SLR with the option of manual use, but the problem there is that it looks a bit obvious if you whip it out in a tearoom to photograph a scone. I get into enough trouble taking pictures inside cafes without drawing more attention to myself. I think that’s me decided then, thank you for sorting me out!

  4. Think we’d better get a coach trip booked to this one, Lorna. I’ve even picked out the house I’m going to buy when I get there! (the one on the slope- I’m sure the current owners won’t mind)

    • Haha, I thought a similar thing, there are a number of wonderful little houses it would be lovely to have. The old buildings were restored under the National Trust’s Little Houses Improvement Scheme, so that they could then be sold on and preserved in great condition.

  5. I could spend quite a few happy hours at Culross, Lorna! Your pictures are wonderful (sorry about the camera!) and give us a great sense of the place. I especially like the crumbling terrace garden – terribly romantic. And I can sympathize with you on feeling overwhelmed sometimes by piles of photos. Occasionally I just have to walk away from the computer to clear my head and start over fresh.

    • Thanks Annie, that terraced garden is something special, we spent an hour or so wandering around it enjoying all the plants and the atmosphere (and the chickens). I sometimes ask myself why I’m taking so many photos, but then you don’t always know which ones will look best in a larger size on the computer screen till you get home and look through them. Walking away and clearing your head sounds like very good advice to me!

  6. Incredibly beautiful and so well captured. You are a very good photographer Lorna. Uh, pass me that fruit scone, eh.

    • Very kind of you to say so Mike, but Culross serves it all up on a plate, it’s quite uncannily picturesque. I take it you’d like a nice big cup of coffee to go with your scone? :-)

  7. Oh my, what an adorable place. I would love to visit there sometime. You captured it very well with your camera and I can imagine it was difficult to decide which ones to share. I am already thinking of an adventure my Amanda character could have in this charming village.

    • Amanda would love it in Culross, Darlene! She could have all manner of adventures in those little streets and inside the palace and garden. There’s an abbey too that we didn’t have time to visit, up on top of a hill. I think Culross would be a great setting for a book like that. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Tea rooms are as diverse as people in their appearances, and I love to see how each one is decorated. The large windows, clean wood, and dangling tea cups are really nice touches. What a delightful environment in which to enjoy a fruity scone and an exotic hot cuppa. I can see why you couldn’t resist snapping so many pictures, is there even a dark corner of Culross that isn’t utterly picturesque? Perhaps your camera didn’t so much die, maybe it just decided that its work was finished upon taking so many glorious photos. :0) –Lucinda

    • Yes, you might have put your finger on it there, Lucinda, my camera has told me that its work here is done, and I’m very grateful to it for its service. You’re so right about tearooms, every one is unique and it’s always fascinating to see how they make use of their space and what sort of special touches they add. There are some bits of Culross that aren’t quite so quaint with more modern council housing, but even then I noticed that the gardens were well tended and there were tubs of flowers all over the place.

  9. Furrylittlegnome has never heard of Culross until now, and it looks so quaint and charming. Love the photos!

  10. Culross was on my list of places to visit when we were in Scotland but alas we didn’t get there. Next time. The closest we got was Dunfermline which is nowhere near as quaint as Culross.

    • I had been meaning to visit for ages too, Heather (sorry, initially thought this comment was from someone else, if you get an original comment with the wrong name on it!), but it was worth the wait and hopefully when you’re over again you’ll get the chance. Dunfermline has its charms, but it’s very different from Culross, as you say. I feel I should have warned people that the one thing letting the place down, if you see it that way, is the BP oil refinery at Grangemouth just across the water. The billowing chimneys and industrialisation seem very at odds with the old-fashioned village, but if you don’t look over that way you can imagine you’ve gone back in time. Then again, if you’re interested in human progress you might appreciate the juxtaposition.

  11. Hi Lorna, such a pleasant outing you has and believe me, I know what you meant about excess pictures. I’m the kinda girl who might have twelve shots of a single bowl of soup and it’s a kinda wacky thing I do when deciding in photos for the blog.

    As for your expedition I think the palace is most lovely. The tiered garden is a favourite of mine and I’m a sucker for a peaceful garden bench in the centre of a meadow. Gorgeous pics, gorgeous chickens and beautiful post.

    • Thank you Alice, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in taking multiple pictures of bowls of soup! You always choose excellent pictures from your stock.

      I would like to revisit that garden, it really was lovely, and that bench was a very peaceful and calming place to sit. It’s great when wildflowers are encouraged and you see such diversity – of wildlife, as well as plants. Glad you liked the chickens. :-)

  12. Oh how I know all about you excessive picture problem :) I know it well…
    That being said, I so enjoyed all your photos and loved seeing a spot so far from me which I can dream of visiting one day. We hope to vacation there in a the next few years so I’ll have to keep this all on my list of “to-dos”!xx

  13. What a gorgeous, gorgeous town! And your photos do it absolute justice. Thanks for sharing Lorna, would never have know this place existed :-)

  14. looks like it was gorgeous day – but the arty tea-ware looks like it would have been clumsy to use

  15. love your photos!!!

  16. What a delightful place to visit. And I have one of those iron Japanese pots. I love it, but I don’t use it enough. I’m going to use it this week!

  17. I’m playing catch-up after a series of very busy weeks. I love the Culross pictures!!!! I have one or two framed photos of my own from Culross hanging in our schoolroom. However, we only spent about 45 minutes walking about the town when we went. I have just listed this as a place we must visit next fall. I love the color of the Palace.

    Am so pleased with my teabook which arrived safely with my friend in July!!! I hope we are able to visit several of the tearooms when we are over!

    • Thanks Heather, I’m sure your photos of Culross make lovely framed pictures, it’s such a pretty place. I’m delighted that you got the book okay, thanks for letting me know, and I hope you can visit some of the tearooms when you’re here. :-)

  18. Your pictures of Culross are beautiful. I especially liked the garden terraces and funky pottery.

  19. What a charming town…love the tea shop. Hope you enjoyed your Oolong. I have read the name before but not yet tried that one. Your “white photo” could be a winner :-) (loved it). I truly enjoyed reading your post, it reminded me of our trip to Scotland and England 11 years ago. You have the most charming towns.

    • Thank you Linda, I had heard of that tearoom and wanted to try it, and it didn’t disappoint. Glad you liked the white picture, I was quite keen on that car. There are so many pretty places in the world, it’s just a shame life is so short! Thank goodness for other people’s blogs that take us all over the globe. :-)

  20. What a brilliant place! It looks as though one could spend months discovering the architectural curiosities. I really like the photo of the stepped gable ends.

    And ther Community Garden is a real gem. Hats off to the folk who created it for the general enjoyment of everyone.

    • I agree, it certainly deserves a revisit Finn, and I’m sure you’re right that one could spend much longer looking around more closely, there is a lot to see if you’re interested in the details.

      I love to see these sorts of community gardens, there was no graffiti as far as I could see and I think that’s quite often the case when members of the community work together to make something nice. Not always of course, but often. The wildflower area was a particular delight.

  21. Wow, I really had no idea that Culross (ta for the pronunciation guide) had so much! And you had the perfect weather for a visit. I love the stepped garden with chickens, and your photo of the rooves. Sorry your camera has conked out. I think most of us bloggers can identify with the ‘too many photos’ problem, and also the strange looks from people as you take photos!

    • We were very lucky with the weather Christine, that’s true. There were some torrential showers but inbetween those the sky was blue and the sun was warm, it was pretty glorious! I didn’t realise Culross was quite so full of treasures until I went to see it for myself. I haven’t had a camera for a few days now and I’m really starting to miss it! I must get a replacement. My mobile phone has quite a good camera but it doesn’t have all the different settings. I’m always pleased when I see other people taking photos of food in cafes, it makes me feel less of a freak!

  22. I really like the pictures of the doors you included. They somehow remind me of doors I saw in Italy! And all your pictures are beautiful, too :)

  23. Sandy

    Lorna, I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. See the nomination at anotherlovelyday.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/one-lovely-blog-award. Congratulations!
    ~ Sandy

  24. Eleenie

    I liked the photos a lot, such a picturesque place.

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