The quaint Culross is the most picturesque village in Scotland, with steep cobbled streets, white-harled houses, red-roofed historic buildings, and gabled architecture. Amongst this pretty backdrop sits lemon-yellow Culross Palace, standing out like a beam of sunshine.
For obvious reasons, Culross Palace is a popular film and television location, with the stead and surrounding garden well maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. But despite its name and popularity, it’s not a palace, and royalty has never lived there.
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History of Culross Palace
Culross was a vibrant and thriving port in the 1500s, so much so that it brought great wealth to one laird and wealthy merchant, namely Sir George Bruce, the Laird of Carnock.
Once his fortune was made, Sir George began construction on his domestic buildings in 1597 with the south wing and completed the north wing in 1611, the same year he was knighted, as a prime example of seventeenth-century architecture in the domestic sector.
The north wing includes a stable, hayloft, and byre on the ground floor with richly decorated apartments above.
Sir George collected various goods from his travels as a merchant to contribute to constructing his signature house, specifically red pantiles, Dutch floor tiles and glass, and Baltic pine. The exterior boasts crow-stepped gables, and the interiors are exquisite, with murals and painted ceilings.
It was never technically a royal residence, but James VI visited Culross Palace in 1617. These days, the palace is in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland as a museum, which has had the gorgeous original painted woodwork restored once in 1932. From there, Historic Environment Scotland restored the paintings in the 1990s.
Things to Remember About Culross Palace
Visitors to Culross Palace, Fife, should remember these facts when planning to stop by.
Culross Palace Opening Times
During the summer months from April to September, Culross Palace and gardens are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm with last entry at 4 pm. In October, they’re open daily from 10 am to 4 pm with last entry at 3 pm. From 1 November 2023 to 8 March 2024, Culross Palace will be closed and then reopen on 9 March for the 2024 summer season.
Culross Palace Entry Fees
An adult ticket costs £10.50, while a concession ticket costs £7.50. Family tickets are from £18 to £24.50.
A ticket for garden entry alone is £4.50.
As Culross Palace has uneven surfaces, small spaces, and spiral staircases, it’s unsuitable for visitors in wheelchairs. The garden, however, may be more manageable for them.
Entry at Culross Palace is limited to 8 people every 15 minutes to avoid overloading the wooden beams of the old house.
Culross Palace and Garden isn’t dog-friendly, but assistance dogs are permitted.
How to Get There
Ways to Get There Using a Car
From Edinburgh, travel along the M90 north, cross Queensferry Crossing, and leave at junction 1. Then, take the A985.
From Glasgow, take the M80 north and then the M876. Cross the Kincardine Bridge, then turn onto the A985.
Ways to Get There Using Public Transportation
There are two bus stops very close to Culross Palace. The Palace stop is only 1 minute walk away, and the Low Causeway stop is a 4-minute walk. Several bus lines travel here, including the QA14 and QA18 buses. There are no direct trains to Culross, nor are there any stations nearby.
Attractions at Culross Palace
Most rooms are decorated with original 17th- and 18th-century furniture to keep the authenticity of Culross Palace alive. To add to the mood, music plays gently in the rooms, mannequins are positioned, and electric fires glow from faux candles for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Visit the Beautiful Gardens
Basking in the afternoon sun on a hillside are the Culross Palace gardens, restored to a 16th-century design. Beds of traditional flowers, fruits, and herbs lead you on a scented journey along trails of crushed cockle shells past an old ‘doocot’ that end with seated areas among the botanical finery offering unparalleled views of the Firth of Forth.
The entire experience is completed by the cosy, rustic sounds of clucking by the resident Scots Dumpy hens scratching about the garden.
Step into the Laird’s Room
Sir George Bruce’s private apartments are in the house’s west wing, adorned with dark wood panelling and outfitted with oak furniture. It’s smaller and relatively simple compared to real palace bedrooms, but you could tell from the quality of everything that this was no commoner’s chamber.
Leading from the Laird’s Room is a vital room with stone vaults designed to keep Sir George’s essential documents from a fire. These documents likely included royal charters, which were just as valuable as money.
See the Painted Chamber
The Painted Chamber in Culross Palace is the cherry on the cake of this artisanal town house. Its painted ceilings are remarkable, with gorgeous depictions of Biblical scenes gracing the wooden panels. Each scene has a Latin maxim written above it, and below is a rhyming couplet.
Try not to walk into the furniture while staring upwards!
Tips and Advice to Have a Fulfilling Trip
- Sit back and enjoy the educational video at the beginning of the guided tours (daily at 10:30 am and 3:15 pm) detailing the fascinating industrial history of Culross and the Palace.
- Visit in spring or summer to get the most out of the garden, which is a highlight when it’s flowering.
- Stopping by the Royal Burgh is a must, seeing as Culross has been a religious centre since the 6th century, with Culross Abbey at its pinnacle. The founder of Glasgow, St Mungo, was born here, which is only the beginning of this fascinating piece of Scottish history.
- Stop by the National Trust for Scotland shop in Culross Palace and book a walking tour of Culross’ narrow, cobbled streets. You’ll be able to visit The Study near the Market Cross (or Mercat Cross, as the Scottish call them) and The Town House, also called the Tolbooth
- As you tour the house, take a closer over the fireplaces, and you might see witch marks – lightly carved circular symbols that supposedly guarded against witches entering the house through chimneys.
Interesting Facts about Culross Palace
The warm mustard yellow of Culross Palace is a bit of a flashy standout in one of Scotland’s most picturesque villages. The reason for covering a house in “king’s gold,” namely a mixture of yellow ochre and limewash, was to indicate wealth and status.
Sir George Bruce, the owner of Culross Palace, was explicitly a coal mining merchant as he discovered an ingenious way of extracting coal from beneath the sea bed. His Moat Pit was the first of its kind, cementing Bruce’s wealth.
Sir George Bruce was also a descendant of Robert the Bruce.
The Village of Culross is a popular filming location for the TV series “Outlander,” where it serves as Cranesmuir, a fictional town. Culross Palace has also been the site of many scenes across the seasons, functioning variously as a Jacobite meeting place, a parlour, and a castle herb garden.