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In Praise of our Parks ; Part Six


By david


Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland.

This municipal park, in my home County, is a family favourite, as it has something for us all. For me, it contains all the “ingredients” I have written about in former blogs under this “umbrella” (wish I’d had mine with me today, as I finished up caught in a rainstorm of monsoon-like proportion). I learned so much more about this place, today, and my circular route actually took me on a “time travel” through many centuries (hope I’ve arrived back in the right place!).

The “Laird’s Garden”, with Dunfermline Abbey (11thC) beyond

Note the clouds!

Pittencrieff Park, also known as Dunfermline Glen, because of the natural ravine which cuts through it, is, like most parks, part of a former private estate. Pittencrieff House (17thC) still stands here, and is now a small museum dedicated to displays on the history of the park, and its wildlife.

Pittencrieff House

In 1902, steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), born here, bought the park and title “Laird of Pittencrieff”. The following year, the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust was formed, and Carnegie’s “instructions” included the following well-known directive for his plan for a “recreation park for the people”.

It had to “…bring into the monotonous lives of the toiling masses of Dunfermline more of sweetness and light; to give to them – especially the young – some charm, some happiness, some elevating condition of life which residence elsewhere would have denied.”

Upper Storey of Playpark officially opened by HM The Queen on 1st July 2003, to commemorate the Centenary of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust

The “archway” entrances to this playpark bear the phrase “All is Well Since All Grows Better”.

Pittencrieff Park was a latecomer in the creation of public parks. The story goes that Carnegie remembered his childhood, when he was forbidden to clamber the walls of the (then) private estate to pick fruit from the trees.

Carnegie Statue, Pittencrieff Park

Today, Carnegie’s statue gazes back towards the High Street of his birthplace, framed by the Louise Carnegie gates, erected in 1929 as a testimonial to his American wife, Louise Whitfield (1857-1946).

Louise Carnegie Gates and High St., Dunfermline

I thought that the above photo would look nicer in monochrome, for a change, especially as I happened to capture an old van passing by.

The main garden areas in the park occupy the site of the former kitchen garden belonging to Pittencreiff House, and are known as the “Laird’s Garden”.

Traditional Victorian-style Bedding Displays (informal herbaceous borders to the right)

The gardens are bounded on the north by a series of interconnected glasshouses, known collectively as the “Floral Halls”.

As you can see, the sky was VERY black by this time, but the rain held off until I was away at the end of the park, out in the open, and too far from any shelter.

Floral Halls

I always take far too many photos in here!

The park has always had a Tearoom and restaurant. The original was replaced in the late 1920s and early ’30s by the present Peacock Pavilion, which has some fine Art Deco interior desgin.

Peacock Pavilion Facade

Unfortunately, the Pavilion is only open now for functions, and does not have a restaurant.

Pavilion, side view

Outside the pavilion stand two very interesting features. The first is the old telephone kiosk from the restaurant. Apparently, customers complained so frequently about the noise that it generated, so it was banished outdoors.

Telephone Kiosk, late 1920s

As you can see, someone else has had the same “time travel” idea. At least he/she/they had the kiosk’s original purpose correctly identified. The kiosk now houses an electric generator, which powers an ice cream kiosk nearby.

The other feature is a Peace Pole, “planted” to commemorate a visit to the park and city by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2004.

“May Peace Prevail on Earth” is inscribed on each side, in four languages – English, Gaelic and (I guess) Tibetan and Sanskrit (will have to find out).

This Peace Pole is unusual, being carved in stone, rather than more traditional wood.

My route back to the carpark took me on a scenic walk through the ravine by the Lynn Burn.

The footpath then took me uphill, below the Abbey and ruined palace. The Abbey is the burial place of 8 Scottish Kings, 7 Queens and several Princes and Princesses. The most famous, perhaps, is Robert the Bruce (although his heart is interred in Melrose Abbey in the Borders.

Dunfermline Abbey, viewed from the Glen Walk, Pittencrieff Park

The palace (not pictured) was the birthplace of King Charles II in 1600.

Back at the carpark, still dripping wet, I remembered one final thing. When our parents used to bring us to “The Glen”, we used to visit a small cavern known as St. Margaret’s Cave. This has for centuries been associated with Queen Margaret (1046-1093), wife of Malcolm 111 “Canmore”, King of Scots, who defeated and killed Macbeth in battle. His fortress has always thought to have stood in what is now the park grounds. Queen Margaret is the only member of Scottish Royalty ever to have been canonized and elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, on account of her charitable works with the poor, etc. The cave was where, it is said, she said all her prayers.

When this carpark came to the planning stage it caused an outcry, as it would have obliterated the cave (the carpark is on top of what was a continuation of the ravine I had just walked along, and where the little cave was once in the open, in the park grounds). The cave had been a place of pilgrimage for centuries, and should, of course, be saved.

It was! The tiny building in the photo above, left of centre, is the entrance to a man-made tunnel, with hundreds of steps leading downward and diagonally, far beneath the carpark. The drip drip of water (was that coming from my sodden clothes, I wondered?), the low lighting, and recorded medieval Gregorian chants, not to mention the vases of fresh lilies, etc., placed at intervals, added to the atmosphere as I descended. Finally, I arrived in that little cave, very much different to how I remembered it.

Statuette of St. Margaret, St, Margaret’s Cave

As I drove home, in my 21stC car, heading towards home and an instant hot shower and dry clothes, I remembered another fact. Andrew and Louise Carnegie had only one child, a daughter. What did they call her? – Margaret, of course!

How long was I gone, on my walk in the park/journey through time? – A mere three hours!


More blog posts by david

Previous post: My Favourite Plant at this Time of Year.

Next post: "Big Tree Country" - Part 8



great blog David.

more photos of the floral halls pleaseeee. it looks lovely.

13 Aug, 2009


Brilliant, David!
It took me back to when I went to Queen Anne High, just up the road! I used to go down to the park at lunchtime, but I didn't know about the cave!!
It's changed a lot in hmmphty years!
It's more beautiful than I remember, but I was 14 at the time!!
Thanks for getting the pics of the peace poles!
As usual, the photography (&narrative) - fabulous!!

13 Aug, 2009


Oh dear, Sandra, I'd never be done uploading pics, lol! but have kept them all. I did upload a few pics last year, and mention this place in a previous "park" blog. Quickest way to find them is to type "Floral Halls" in the GOY Google search box at top right corner of the page, and you'll get them all in a jiffy (Thank Goodness for tags). I will, no doubt, add some into my gallery here and there, with titles for ID (to show that they are not in my garden). :-)

Mp - You're very welcome to the pics of the Peace Pole. Have these, and more, to show you later. You went to Queen Anne High? This world gets smaller every day! Hope I didn't bore anyone silly with the narrative! :-)

13 Aug, 2009


Well I wasn't bored!
Yep, from 14-15, & it was a great school, I loved Dunfermline, but my dad decided to send me to boarding school! I was NOT amused at that!
We lived 3 miles from Saline, on the old Crieff road.
That's where I got into gardens! We grew a lot of our own food & kept chooks!

13 Aug, 2009


Well, that adds a new dimension to "bored"/"board".

Now, I am visitng Saline every fortnight or so at the mo. A work colleague lives near there, and has just had a massive extension added to their cottage. The whole place is being re-rooofed, and she almost begged me to take away the old broken slates from the roofs. I have areas of bark chippings in my garden, which all the local cats use as a toilet (must say, though, that I love cats and don't blame them). But, have put down membrane on top of the bark, and begun covering with the slate, which myself and the kids hammer to smaller pieces whilst still in the bags. We're lovin' it, get rid of our frustrations, solve the toilet problem, and save a fortune on the slate, which looks gr8 when wet with all the rain we're having. :-)

13 Aug, 2009


I was worse than bored! I hated it!!
Slate sounds lovely! I saw a garden recently that had purple slate in the hard landscaping & it looked amazing!

13 Aug, 2009


looks like a nice place to visit~love the colours in the flower beds!

13 Aug, 2009


I love those colours, too, Arlene! Even though our Council annual bedding displays remain traditional, the colours always uplift me as I pass by!

Mp - Yes, slate takes on a purple hue when wet, when I think about it. may be good in your garden?

13 Aug, 2009


Maybe......., I could do away with the lumpy lawn!
The slate I mean was purple when it was dry! It was really different!
But that would be good for the path at least! I want it to be a snake maybe (Cobra)!

13 Aug, 2009


Enjoyable blog with beautiful pictures, David :)

14 Aug, 2009


lovely pictures made me wish I was could come and visit(but living down on the South Coast thats just not going to happen!!) - so thank you for your tour its lovely.

14 Aug, 2009


Thanks, David - your 'tours' are always a joy, and so interesting. :-)

14 Aug, 2009


Thanks i enjoyed your tour.

14 Aug, 2009


Thanks David, enjoyed the tour and your photos. :o)

14 Aug, 2009


What a beautiful resource for the local people - some of these Edwardian and Victorian philanthropists left us a wonderful legacy with these parks and gardens.

14 Aug, 2009


Many Thanks for all the nice comments. I wish you could all visit this "treasure".

My "tour" blogs are my way of recording, for myself, many of the places I visit on days out, etc. It helps me keep my pics and notes "organised". My "destinations" always seem to have a connection with plants, gardens, and with history. I wonder why?. Glad that you enjoy reading them. :-)

14 Aug, 2009


:~)))))) David!
I agree Wagger, I used to escape to that particular park as often as I could when I was a kid!

14 Aug, 2009

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