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5 Nov 2021

Royal Burgh of Culross – entertaining through the ages


[EL speaking]
Hello, I’m Elaine Longmuir and I’m the Visitor Services Manager here at Culross Palace.

So this is the house of a wealthy businessman, Sir George Bruce. Now Sir George Bruce made his money in coal mining and salt panning. He was a very wealthy man, and that’s how we see this house as it is today. That’s what’s so special about this house: it actually tells you so many stories, about the people that lived in this house and used this house.

So, Sir George Bruce, a wealthy businessman who lived in Culross, he had a large family estate up in a place called Carnac in Fife, and this was his business home.

[GB speaking]
I am Sir George Bruce, knighted by His Majesty James VI who became James I of England and Scotland. And he knighted me, I think, principally because of the money I was earning him, but I like to think he was a friend.

Now of course at that time, nobody, but nobody, drank the water. It was polluted, it caused all kinds of diseases. So we took to drinking small ale, and small ale was produced in the brewery just beside us here.

But as a gentleman, and my friends, we would never drink small ale. We drank Bordeaux claret, which was imported from France to Leith, across the river, and the claret cart came all the way along here, and they would come in chests, in barrels, and it was somebody’s job to bottle them.

Bottles at that time were various, the neck size was very unknown. You never knew what size it would be, so once you’d opened the bottle, it was usual to finish it.

Claret was the drink for the wealthy, and I drank a lot of this and it was stored in the wine cellar downstairs. We have a very adequate wine cellar. It was always full of claret.

[EL speaking]
Preserving fruits from the garden and orchard by making them into refreshing drinks or tonics was considered a suitable occupation for ladies, and there are a number of personal recipe books by wealthy ladies that give numerous recipes for distilling drinks.

Culross Palace garden would have had a wealth of fruit to use, due to its sheltered, south-facing location. Our very own Bessie Barr, who owned and ran an ale house – in what is now known as Bessie’s Café – did just that with ale.

Culross Palace really is so unique, and we’re so lucky to see it as it is today. From the painted chambers at the top of the building, right the way down to the wine cellar in the basement, there really is something here for everyone that will spark your imagination.

Our partner Naked Wines helps us explore the pleasure-seeking past of this picturesque village with its ochre-coloured palace and cobbled streets, with tales of claret imported from France and tonics made from the fruits of the spectacular palace gardens.
A view looking through the curved archway into Castle Fraser courtyard, with the castle at the far end. The courtyard appears to be gravelled with rows of outbuildings running either side.
Enjoy 12 delicious bottles of wine from the world’s best independent winemakers for just £47.88 – saving £75. Even better, Naked Wines will donate 20% of proceeds back to the Trust for every case purchased.
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