I must admit that the last thing I expected to see walking through a quaintly historic Scottish village was a Chilean flag but that is exactly what I noticed in the middle of Culross. It was flying alongside it's Scottish counterpart beside a rather fine looking bust atop a plinth. Intrigued, I went to investigate and in doing so I learned a little about a quite remarkable historical figure who had spent most of his childhood in the village.
The gentleman in question rejoiced in the name and title Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald and the descriptive plaque on the plinth describes him as Naval Commander, International Statesman, Radical and Inventor. Some man then, so what is his story?
Cochrane left Culross as a young man and joined the Royal Navy where his exploits would be worthy of the fictional heroes Horatio Hornblower and more recently Jack Aubrey who are both said to be based upon him. He served in North America, fought a duel, avoided being captured by subterfuge, captured prize vessels and generally acted like some Hollywood blockbuster character. Deeply interested in politics, he entered Parliament as an MP in 1807 but was subsequently kicked out in what may have been a politically motivated trial over the "Great Stock Exchange Fraud".
Leaving the UK in disgrace in 1818, he took himself to Chile and soon took Chilean citizenship where he was promptly put in charge of the Chilean Navy in the war against the Spanish. His swashbuckling antics assisted greatly in the independence of Chile and Peru. He left the Chilean Navy in 1822 but by the following year he was in command of the Brazilian Navy, again fighting the Spanish. Leaving under something of a cloud over prize money he claimed he was owed, he next took himself to Greece where he busied himself trying to secure Greek independence from the Ottoman Turks.
Eventually returning to UK, he rejoined the Royal Navy and achieved the rank of Rear-Admiral of the UK, but he did not confine himself to naval matters. He was a keen inventor and had a patent for, amongst other things and along with the famous engineer Marc Isambard Brunel, the tunnelling shield which was used to construct the Thames Tunnel which is very close to where I now live.
Cochrane died in 1860 at he age of 84 following a second operation for kidney stones and was buried in Westminster Abbey where Chilean naval officers still lay a wreath annually. As I said at the start of this tip, a truly remarkable man and I think this is a fitting tribute to him in his childhood home.
As I mentioned in my introductory page for Culross, I visited on an off-season Tuesday which meant that the main historical buildings that are administered by the National Trust in Scotland but it was still a great experience just to wander about the streets looking at the old buildings and soaking in the atmosphere. Obviously, a little planning will mean you can visit places like the Palace, Study and Town House but regrettably circumstances were against me.
On your travels don't miss the excellent historic garden (pictured) behind the Palace which is open all the time and is very interesting. They are re-introducing a number of traditional varieties here and there are even free-range Scots Dumpy hens scratching about so don't forget to secure the gate!
Culross Palace is the grand name for the old Merchant's House, there are two houses both restored to their original colour of Mustard Yellow. The houses were built by Sir George Bruce in 1591 and 1611. Historic Scotland restored both buildings before handing them into the care of The National Trust for Scotland. We didn't see the museum as it was closed but the hanging gardens set out on a slope behind the houses was open. The garden has been laid out much as it would have been in the 17th. Century with its stepped terraces and wicker fencing. I loved wandering the little paths here all made out of sea shells crushed by the feet of many visitors and even in February the scent of lavender and thyme was delightful.
Opening times Easter to End September 9.00 - 17.00 last visit for museum 16.30 Monday - Sunday.
I loved wandering around the old cobbled streets in the old town of Culross. The houses date from 1577 the date of the oldest building among many in this quaint place with steet names to conjure with such as Cat's Close and Tanner's Brae. The Study built in 1610 was used by the Bishop Leighton of Dunblane as his private study on his occassional diocesan visits to the town. This particular building is the only one you can visit inside, it is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public from Easter to end of September. The rest of the lovely houses are all privately owned, all are unique and have lots of details from the towns past etched upon them.
The Townhouse was the meeting place of the Town Council who met in the rooms of the first floor of the building up until reorganisation of Fife council in 1975. The lower rooms were used as a prison in very early days. The Townhouse is built in a flemish style and was constructed in 1625. Today it is in the care of The National Trust for Scotland who use it as a visitors centre for the town. Inside you can view an exhibition and video of the towns history as well as details on the trust itself.
Opening times Easter to end September 9.00- 17.00 entrance free you can pick up a leaflet here giving details of the trusts other properties in the town
Culross Abbey was founded by Malcolm Earl of Fife for a Cistercian community of Monks in 1217. The first monks arrived from Kinloss Abbey with Sir Hugh a prior of Kinloss who became the Abbey's first Abbot. After the reformation the cloisters were abandoned, the monastic choir and transepts became Culross's Parish Church in 1633 it has remained a Parish Church with alterations in 1824 and restoration work in 1905. All that remains of the Abbey proper are the south wall of the choir of lay brothers. An interesting place to walk around the ruined Abbey Cloister is now in the care of Historic Scotland. Open Easter to September Price £2.00 adult £1.00 child = we were there much earlier and the gates were open so we had a free visit