Falkland Palace

A more modest castle once stood on this site: the 12th-century Castle Falkland, home of Clan Macduff. However, the Stuart kings had other plans for Falkland.


Between 1501 and 1541, James IV and James V built a magnificent royal palace, commissioning French architects and craftsmen to re-create the Renaissance style in the heart of a tiny Fife village.

For almost 200 years, Falkland Palace was the pleasure ground of the Stuart monarchs, who came to Fife from Edinburgh to hunt wild boar and deer, practise falconry and play tennis; it was one of Mary, Queen of Scots’ favourite places.

Yet life at Falkland Palace wasn’t all fun and games. As is the case with many Scottish castles, it also has a darker history.

In 1401, Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany had imprisoned his nephew (David, Duke of Rothesay and heir to the throne) in the castle – he died a few months later in suspicious circumstances. The young James V was also imprisoned here for two years by the 6th Earl of Angus, until he escaped in 1528 disguised as a groom. Just 14 years later, following the catastrophic Scottish defeat by the English at the Battle of Solway Moss, James V died at Falkland Palace from an illness.

The palace was partially destroyed by fire after a visit by Cromwell’s troops, which is why the east range is in ruins. Thankfully, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, Keeper of Falkland Palace in the late 19th century, conserved and re-created many of the royal interiors, using the finest designers, craftsmen and artisans of the time – this is work that the Trust continues to this day.

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