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Culross, © Susan Wallace

July 1 – Day of the Midges
Culross photo gallery

The Saturday traffic hasn't let up and although we've enjoyed our time in Dunfermline, we're glad to be away and moving on to Culross, a town where both Robin and Dana have visited in the past. Dana had told me during our weekly chats how much I would love Culross, as it has retained a medieval feel.

I had studied my map and was pleased to see that it was on the shore of the Firth of Forth, and had imagined a quaint fishing village. However, as we drive west, quaintness and history are the furthest things from my mind. I've averaged about four hours of sleep each night since we've arrived and it's finally caught up with me.

I am feeling more than a little rugged – nearing exhaustion – and can think of little else but food and rest to get me through the remainder of the day, and perhaps a half pint of lager to soften the rough edges. I'm so tired that I'm not even nervous about meeting Robin's friends; I only hope that I don't embarrass myself by falling asleep over our meal.

It's 6:00PM by the time we arrive in Culross. I am immediately enchanted by this town; it looks like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale with its narrow cobbled streets and stucco cottages with red tiled roofs. We pull directly into the car park of the Red Lion Inn where we will be meeting Robin's friends, Martin and Judy, for dinner. They live just down the road and Robin heads for the phone box to let them know that we've arrived while Dana and I smoke (cough) and look out on the Firth of Forth.

Seagulls screech and squawk overhead. The wind is brisk and invigorating (read: cold). Robin reappears saying that Martin and Judy's line is engaged, so we take a walk down the road to see the palace.

The palace at Culross

"Palace" is a mistranslation of the Latin palattium meaning either great hall or principal lodging, a more appropriate description of this unpretentious and unique house. Home to George Bruce of Carnock, the three storied buildings of mustard yellow stucco and bright red tiled roof are charming. The gates are closed and locked though, so we do our best to take pictures through the wrought iron.

There's a tour bus parked outside of the palace and dozens of tourists wandering in and out of a gift shop that must surely have kept its doors open for them. Dana and I sit on a low wall next to tubs of brightly colored flowers while Robin returns to the phone box to try Martin and Judy again. The gulls wheel overhead, wings outspread, carried by the wind. Their shrieking calls echo through the cobbled streets. The scent of the Forth is strong and salty.

Robin returns with news that the line is still engaged, so we decide to take a walk around the village. It's so odd to hear modern rock music pouring forth from these houses, when they look as if Hansel and Gretel should be walking out of the door. It's even more difficult to imagine driving and parking on these streets. Oh, there are two lanes, one heading in each direction, but often one or the other looks to be no more than a foot wide.

We head uphill to Market Square where we find the unicorn-topped mercat cross. This then, would have been the center of town of long ago. All of the buildings, which would have been merchants' shops back then are now private residences.

We've more than managed our "hill of the day" with our ramble around Crieff and now Culross. The steep alleyways of Culross are roughly cobbled, so we give our weary feet a rest by walking single file in the smooth carriage tracks as we head back downhill to the phone box. Robin finally connects with Judy, who is about to leave to take her son to the cinema.

Arrangements are made for us to go by their house for tea before dinner in an hour or so, which will give us time to see the abbey.

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