Daytripper to Dunfermline and Jack 'O' Bryans
Updated: May 3, 2022
Dunfermline is known as ‘the auld grey toun’ but the Heritage Quarter and Pittencrieff Park are lush and green in what was the ancient capital of Scotland until the 17th century.
My friend Liz and I only dip our toes into one corner of the town when we visit. We run out of time, not things to do.
The morning is mostly spent at the Abbey and Palace. Queen Margaret founded the former which was originally a small church built to mark her marriage to Malcolm Canmore in 1070. An image of the nuptials is depicted in one of many stained-glass windows. See if you can spot the black spider in one of them too! Robert the Bruce is a direct descendent of the Queen and his tomb is inside the church alongside those of several other royals.
We spend the morning soaking up history which also necessitates a visit to the ‘pink hoose’, aka the A-Listed Abbotts’ House (only the gift shop is open at present) and to the new library and museum with its top floor views of the abbey, palace and three bridges across the Firth of Forth. The name ‘Robert the Bruce’, carved in stone on the roof of the abbey tower is set off by a saltire blue sky.
Lunch is booked at Jack 'O' Bryans next to Pittencrieff Park and a short walk to the high street allows us to admire the park entrance with its tree-lined avenue and bronze statue of Andrew Carnegie who gifted the 76 acres. Stop at the wrought iron gates and the restaurant is on your right.
The menu has a strong Iberian influence, not the first Spanish connection of the day. Abbey guide ‘Willie’ told us that morning of how Back Douglas took the heart of Robert the Bruce to the battle of Teba as part of the crusades. The Spanish town still celebrates this Scottish connection.
My Aubergine Fritter starter is complemented by smoked paprika, orange and honey molasses sauce under crisp, light tempura that dissolves to make way for the melting vegetable. My main of Iberian Fish Supper has ‘buttered sprats sprinkled across moist, pristine Cod.
Across the table, Liz enjoys Prawn Scampi with dots of saffron aioli and diced chorizo followed by a generous portion of Monkfish (how appropriate), the daily special. Rhubarb desserts (curd, dehydrated, gel) with raspberry marshmallow and blood orange sorbet mean we should really skip the handmade chocolates in the display cabinet; but the artistry arrests us and Liz notes their flavours, again, have “a smack of Spain”.
Alongside lunch we drink cocktails and wines full of summer florals and fruit and walk off our meal in the park where we inspect the medieval doocot, miss the remains of Malcolm Canmore’s tower and the free-roaming peacocks; gaze through the glass at the hothouse plants and admire the palace view from the mighty gorge that slices down the edge of Pittencrieff. We are blessed with sun, so the medieval European feel to our day is amplified.
As stated above we ran out of time. The hothouse and Carnegie Museum were closed by mid-afternoon so do check timings and plan any day trip rigidly. For us it just gives us a good excuse to return to enjoy more history, sightseeing and a visit to Jack 'O' Bryans is an absolute must for any self-respecting gastronome (S. Wilson).
Jack 'O' Bryans 5 Chalmers Street, Dunfermline, GB KY12 8AT - +44 1383 324720