Are you looking for a unique city trip and countryside escape in Scotland? Look no further than Dunfermline and West Fife! This guide with things to do in Dunfermline and ideas for day trips around West Fife contains everything you need to know to explore the ancient capital of Scotland and the beating heart of Scotland’s Industrial Revolution.
This blog post was commissioned by Dunfermline & West Fife Local Tourism Association and Fife Tourism Partnership.
This post contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission. Find out more here. All opinions are my own.
Dunfermline has been a stronghold of power, commerce and culture since the 11th century and officially became Scotland’s latest city in 2022.
Just a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh, Dunfermline offers a great escape, whether you’re looking for historic sites and cultural heritage, outdoor adventures and natural beauty spots, or a little bit of indulgence in delicious food and drink.
Dunfermline and the wider region of West Fife have it all.
I recently spent 3 days exploring the region by public transport and came home with a suitcase full of unique experiences and memories. Who said you needed a car to explore Scotland?!
This guide to Dunfermline and West Fife contains:
- A practical travel guide with information about transport links, places to stay and vegan-friendly eateries in the city and countryside,
- A list of things to do in Dunfermline, and
- A few ideas for day trips in West Fife that are easy to do on public transport.
So without further ado, let’s explore Dunfermline and Fife.
Dunfermline & West Fife Travel Guide
Getting to Dunfermline
Dunfermline lies just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is very easy to visit Dunfermline on a day trip or quick break from Scotland’s main cities.
By public transport
Catch the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Dunfermline City. The journey takes about 35 minutes and trains run every half hour or so.
Take the bus from Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station to Dunfermline Bus Station. The journey takes just over an hour and there are two buses per hour.
Of course, you can also drive to Dunfermline, but with so many excellent transport links to choose from, why would you?
From Edinburgh, take the M90 north over the New Queensferry Crossing. The drive from Edinburgh to Dunfermline takes about 40 minutes.
From Glasgow, take the M80 towards Stirling, follow signs for the Kincardine Bridge and once across, head for Dunfermline. The drive from Glasgow to Dunfermline takes about an hour.
From further afield
Dunfermline and West Fife are really easy to get to if you travel to Scotland from further afield.
Dunfermline is just a 40-minute drive from Edinburgh airport, and trains coming from Aberdeen or London stop in Inverkeithing, a historic town with great onward connections by train to Dunfermline and other West Fife villages. This includes the Caledonian Sleeper Train coming north from London.
Dunfermline & West Fife on your Scotland itinerary
It’s easy to incorporate Dunfermline and West Fife into your wider Scotland itinerary. Dunfermline makes for a great day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh. But it’s also a great getaway if you only have a few days to explore and don’t want to travel too far.
If you’re catching a flight from Edinburgh airport, Dunfermline is the perfect place to spend your final or last new nights in Scotland.
Listen to ‘Yours to Explore‘ – my travel podcast about Dunfermline and West Fife.
Getting around West Fife
Fife is very well-connected by public transport and it is easy to navigate the region by bus and by train. If you base yourself in Dunfermline you have easy access to regional buses and trains in all directions.
Stagecoach operates a great network of local buses that can take you to villages south and west of Dunfermline, like Culross, Charlestown or Limekilns. You can use Google Maps and Traveline to look up connections.
The best bus ticket to get around is a West Fife Day Rider which allows you to hop on and off all Stagecoach buses in the area for a 24-hour period
In addition to the train line connecting Dunfermline with Edinburgh, there are also trains that run along the coast west of Dunfermline and connect coastal towns such as Dalgety Bay, Aberdour and Burntisland. Inverkeithing is a main hub for trains around the area as that’s where several train lines cross.
There are no day tickets available for the trains, so you’ll have to buy separate single or return tickets for each journey. I recommend using the Scotrail app to look up connections and to buy mobile tickets.
If you need a taxi, there are always some available outside the bus station.
Where to stay in Dunfermline
Dunfermline is the perfect home base for a few days to explore the city and surrounding region of West Fife. It’s easy to get to (see above) and offers transport links in all directions.
I stayed at Garvock House Hotel, an elegant hotel in a restored garden villa in an elevated position overlooking historic Dunfermline. The house is over 200 years old and even though it has been renovated to meet modern standards, it still has many of its original features like the oak-panelled dining room.
There are only 26 rooms. The hotel has a bar and restaurant, is dog-friendly, and a popular venue for small weddings.
From Garvock House Hotel it’s a 20-minute walk to the city centre of Dunfermline, including the Heritage Quarter and the bus station, or a 15-minute walk to the train station Dunfermline City.
Vegan-friendly places to eat in Dunfermline
The best place to find vegan food in Dunfermline is 269 Vegan, a fully plant-based cafe just off the High Street. The cafe is bright and airy with large picture windows and lots of greenery to freshen up the space. On the menu, you’ll find breakfast, brunch and lunch favourites, as well as a range of delicious cakes and home baking.
When it comes to vegan-friendly restaurants in Scotland, it’s hard to beat Indian cuisine. Dhoom Streatery is a contemporary Indian restaurant. Every six months the chefs travel to a different part of India and create a taster menu based on their culinary experiences. I recommend treating yourself to the 10-course taster menu and a smoky cocktail flight – vegan options are available.
If you’re looking for vegan Japanese cuisine, ask for the vegan menu at Koku-Shi.
Vegan-friendly places to eat in West Fife
Heading to Culross? Ask for the vegan menu at The Red Lion, the only remaining pub in the village. You’ll find several options for starters, mains and desserts and generous portions. I recommend booking a table – even for lunch – since it’s the only pub here.
If you follow my advice and walk the Fife Coastal Path to Limekilns, treat yourself to a meal at The Bruce Arms. They don’t have a huge range available, but they can do several vegan options for mains.
Planning to visit the beach in Aberdour? Take a seat at The Cafe at Number 16. They have vegan options available – including cakes! You can also order food for takeaway, although that recudes your choice to soup and a sandwich.
I also saw vegan options available at the Michelin-listed Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry.
Things to do in Dunfermline
Explore the Heritage Quarter
Much of Dunfermline’s medieval city centre was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1624, but the original layout is still the same today. The Heritage Quarter at the heart of the city gives you a great idea of what Dunfermline might have looked like hundreds of years ago.
Start on the High Street where you can find the medieval Mercat Cross. It marks the place where merchants would have held markets for centuries. Still today, the High Street is bustling with shops.
At the bottom of the High Street, you can’t miss the French Gothic Baronial tower of the City Chambers. It was opened in 1879, but some of the decorative stone carvings were taken from much older royal buildings.
One of the most striking buildings in Dunfermline’s Heritage Quarter is the pink Abbot House. It is the oldest house in Dunfermline and dates back to the 16th century. Today, you can find a lovely shop filled with local designs and a cosy cafe. Behind Abbot House, lies a lush garden with beautiful views of Dunfermline Abbey.
Dunfermline Abbey & Palace
In 1069 AD Kind Malcolm III married his queen Margaret here in Dunfermline. She founded a small church and was later sainted. Their son David I established a monastery and built a magnificent Romanesque church. Ever since, Dunfermline has been a significant site of pilgrimage.
The nave of the Old Abbey Church still stands today and is connected to the New Abbey Church by a gateway (see below). Notice the skillfully carved stone columns and the cathedral-like hall.
Next to the Old Abbey Church lies the Royal Palace. it was initially a guesthouse for the monastery, but used as a royal residence from the 13th century onwards. Eventually, the palace fell into disrepair and is now maintained by Historic Scotland. Unfortunately, the palace is currently closed to the public.
The New Abbey Church of Dunfermline
Walk through the gates connecting the Old and New Abbey Church, and you’ll find a completely different house of worship.
The New Abbey Church was built in the 19th century to replace a derelict part of the old church, and still has an active congregation. Inside the church, you can find the colourful Tiffany’s stain glass window, which Andrew Carnegie gifted to the city, as well as the grave of King Robert the Bruce.
The legendary Scottish king who led Scotland during the First War of Independence (14th century), died in Dumbarton and was buried here in Dunfermline. His white marble tomb was destroyed during the Reformation, but his remains are still believed to rest beneath the church’s pulpit.
Don’t miss the impressive stone tower of the church which reads ‘King Robert The Bruce’ across its four sides.
Did you know that King Robert the Bruce’s heart was interred at Melrose Abbey? Check out my Melrose travel guide for tips on visiting this area!
Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum
The famous American businessman Andrew Carnegie was once the wealthiest man in America – but did you know he was originally from Dunfermline?
Born in modest circumstances, he grew up in Dunfermline until his family emigrated to Pittburgh, Pennsylvania. He quickly made a name for himself, made some fortunate investments in the growing railway industry and founded a steel company that would make him billions.
What’s unique about Carnegie is that he gave away 90% of his personal wealth to fund philanthropic pursuits. In particular, he built many libraries and funded technological education.
The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Dunfermline tells the story of Carnegie from rags to riches. You can see the cottage where he was born, learn about his business fortune and the legacy he’s left behind.
This is one of those things to do in Dunfermline that allows you to understand the significance of the city on the global stage.
Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries
Even though he made his wealth in the United States, Andrew Carnegie did not forget about his hometown. He endowed many gifts upon the people of Dunfermline, including the first Carnegie Library which opened in 1883.
Today, the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries still incorporates that historic library, but has been expanded with a modern extension that made space for an exhibition about Dunfermline’s history, galleries and event spaces.
Here, you can see the earliest oil painting of Dunfermline, the famous Todd car, examples of linen and silks woven in this region and more.
Particularly nice are the big picture-windows that perfectly frame the surrounding architecture – the buildings turn into art on the walls. A great place to relax and enjoy the views is The Granary cafe.
One of the greatest gifts Carnegie made to Dunfermline, is Pittencrieff Park. Carnegie bought the land in 1902 and gifted it to the city the year after.
The park, also known locally as ‘The Glen’, is a fantastic green space in the city centre of Dunfermline.
Don’t miss the Andrew Carnegie statue, the Japanese pagoda and plant collection by the waterfall, and the aviary – home of the famous peacocks in Pittencrieff Park!
The park and the peacocks are a must-see in Dunfermline.
Day trips from Dunfermline – Things to do in West Fife
With so many transport links from Dunfermline to nearby beauty spots, it makes sense to use Dunfermline as a home base and go from there. Here are 5 ideas for day trips and things to do in West Fife.
Culross is a picturesque village on the Firth of Forth. It is best known for its chocolate box cottages, cobbled streets and the golden-coloured Culross Palace.
The palace was built by Sir George Bruce, who made his wealth with innovative mining techniques below the seabed. He brought prosperity to the village. Today it is owned by the National Trust for Scotland who have restored the palace and many other buildings in Culross.
Today, Culross is particularly popular among Outlander fans. Scenes of the hit-show based on the books by Diana Gabaldon were shot at Culross Palace, its hanging gardens and at the Mercat Cross at the heart of the village.
Entrance to the Palace is free for members of the National Trust for Scotland. You can join here.
Don’t miss a walk up to the historic Culross Abbey and a meal at the village’s only remaining alehouse, The Red Lion.
Getting from Dunfermline to Culross: Take the Stagecoach bus 8A for Alloa from Dunfermline Bus Station. The journey takes about half an hour. The best ticket to get is the West Fife Day Rider which includes all bus journeys in the region for 24 hours.
Charlestown & Limekilns
During the Industrial Revolution, West Fife became a centre of industrial activity. The region was dotted with coal mines and lime kilns well into the 20th century.
The limekilns in Charlestown were once the most productive in the country, producing one third of all lime in Scotland. The kilns fell into disrepair after the lime industry dwindled, but were restored in the 1950s.
Today, you can explore some of the structure and get a sense of the scale of the fireplaces and passageways between chambers.
Charlestown is essentially a planned village that was built by the owner of the lime kilns for his workers. Notice the red pantile roofs? These are very characteristic for Fife and other mining regions in Scotland. They were used as cheap cargo to weigh down empty coal ships returning to Scotland from the Netherlands.
From the kilns by the harbour, walk a mile along the coast to Limekilns and treat yourself to a meal at The Bruce Arms.
Getting from Dunfermline to Charlestown: Take the Stagecoach bus 6 from Dunfermline Bus Station to Charlestown or Limekilns. The journey takes about 15 minutes. The best ticket to get is the West Fife Day Rider which includes all bus journeys in the region for 24 hours.
Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is a long-distance trail that leads 120 km from Kincardine to Newburgh, all along the coast of Fife. Many villages on the trail are well-connected by bus or train which makes it easy to hike just a section of the trail on a day out.
Here are two route suggestions:
- Walk from Culross to Limekilns: This section of the Fife Coastal Path is about 7 miles long and well connected by bus. There is a mile-long stretch on the main road near Crombie, but you can skip it by taking the bus from Crombie to Charlestown which runs once an hour.
Don’t miss the grave of Lilias Adie which you can see on the beach of Torryburn at low tide. In 1704, she was accused of being a witch, but died in custody before her trial. She was buried below the tide line, presumably to prevent her from rising from the dead, and her grave was marked with a stone slab. Find out more about witch persecution in Fife here.
- Walk from Dalgety Bay to Burntisland: This section of the Fife Coastal Path is about 8 miles long and well connected by train. A highlight on this trail is without a doubt Hawkcraig Point and Silver Sands beach in Aberdour – see below.
Aberdour is a charming seaside town east of Dunfermline. It is best known for its castle and beaches.
Aberdour Castle is one of Scotland’s oldest castles, with the original towerhouse dating back to the the 1100s. It has been expanded significantly since then and the main structure standing today dates from the 16th century. Don’t miss a walk around the gardens and a visit to the historic Doocot, which once offered space for 600 pigeons.
Aberdour is another popular Outlander film location in Fife!
Near the castle, pay a visit to St Fillan’s Church – thought to be Scotland’s oldest church that was built in 1123.
From there, follow the signpost for Silver Sands beach, a beautiful golden sandy beach with views across to Edinburgh. There is a cafe here, public toilets and even showers, making it a popular place for a dip in the sea.
Finally, follow the coastal path around Hawkcraig Point and enjoy the views up and down the Firth of Firth. You can even spot the Forth Bridges to the west and the Isle of May on the eastern horizon.
Getting to Aberdour: Take the train from Dunfermline City to Inverkeithing and change there for a train along the coastal line to Aberdour. The journey takes about 30 minutes and you can purchase train tickets via the Scotrail app.
North Queensferry was once a bustling centre of activity for the ferry across the Firth of Forth – that is until the Forth Bridge was opened. The depth of the water on the northern side of the estuary meant that the ferries would dock here overnight. But ever since the arrival of the railway bridge, the village has become much quieter. Of course it has lost none of its charm!
The views of the Forth Bridge from North Queensferry are among the best. The bridge itself was completed in 1890 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit the small museum at the pier below the bridge to learn not just about the construction of the bridge but also the history of the ferry. Climb the historic light tower next to the pier for even better views and watch the trains roll over the iconic red steel bridge.
If you’d like to hire a local guide to take you on a walk along the Fife Bridges Trail and tell you loads about the local history, look no further than Andrew Simpson, aka. The Lucky Sporran Tour Guide!
Getting to North Queensferry: Take the train from Dunfermline City to North Queensferry station.
The Forth Bridges Trail: You can also stay on the train and go one more stop to Dalmeny. From here, walk to the waterfront in South Queensferry, across the Forth Road Bridge, and back to North Queensferry. The Forth Bridges Trail is about 5 miles long – plan to spend at least 2 hours walking.
Listen to ‘Icons of the Kingdom‘ – my travel podcast about a winter trip to Fife.
And just like that you’ve explored the best parts of Dunfermline and West Fife, saw beautiful historic architecture, immersed yourself in the cultural heritage of this region and experienced the beauty of the coast of Fife.
I hope this guide to things to do in Dunfermline and West Fife inspires you to plan a trip to the region yourself!
PS: You can find even more things to do in Dunfermline and West Fife in this free e-book.