Coordinates: 56°06′39″N 3°10′03″W / 56.11073°N 3.16737°W / 56.11073; -3.16737

Scottish Gaelic: Cair Chaladain[1]
Scots: Kirkcaldy,[2]
The Lang Toun[3]
Kirkcaldy collage2.jpg
Top: A view of Kirkcaldy to the south-west, Left: Town House Clock Tower, Middle top: Merchant's House on High Street, Middle bottom: Maggie's Centre Fife, Right: Old Kirk Tower, Bottom: Looking across to the Beveridge Park pond
Kirkcaldy is located in Fife

 Kirkcaldy shown within Fife
Area  6.9 sq mi (18 km2)
Population 48,630 [4]
    - Density  1,669 /sq mi (644 /km2)
OS grid reference NT275915
    - Edinburgh  11 miles (18 km) S 
    - London  341 miles (549 km) SSE 
Council area Fife
Lieutenancy area Fife
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district KY1, KY2
Dialling code 01592
Police Fife
Fire Fife
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
Scottish Parliament Kirkcaldy
Mid Scotland and Fife
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Kirkcaldy (Listeni/kərˈkɔːdi/ kər-kaw-dee; Scots: Kirkcaldy, Scottish Gaelic: Cair Chaladain) is a town and former royal burgh in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. The town lies on a shallow bay on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth; 9.3 miles (15 km) SSE of Glenrothes, 11.8 miles (19 km) ENE of Dunfermline, 44.4 miles (71 km) WSW of Dundee and 18.6 miles (30 km) NNE of Edinburgh. The name of the town is believed to come from the Pictish words Caer and Caled and may translate as "place of the hard fort" or "place of Caled's fort". Kirkcaldy had an estimated population of 48,630 in 2008, making it the biggest settlement in Fife. Kirkcaldy has long been nicknamed the Lang Toun (About this sound listen ; Scots for "long town") in reference to the 0.9 miles (1.4 km) main street of the early town, first recorded on early maps of the 16th and 17th centuries. The street later reached a length of nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) connecting the burgh to its neighbouring settlements of Linktown, Pathhead, Sinclairtown and Gallatown. These neighbouring settlements were later incorporated into the town in 1876, when the boundaries were extended.

The town was first recorded around 1075, when Malcolm III granted the shire of Kirkcaladunt to the church of Dunfermline (later Dunfermline Abbey) Under King Robert I, the status of Kirkcaldy went from being a township to a burgh depedent on Dunfermline Abbey in 1327. The passing of feu-ferme status in 1451 meant the town became semi-independent from Dunfermline Abbey. Full independence was achieved via a charter for royal burgh status granted by Charles I in 1644.

Early industries in the town included the production of textiles, nailmaking and salt panning. The production of floorcloth in the early 19th century contributed to the manufacture of linoleum in the town. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Kirkcaldy was a prosperous centre and world producer of linoleum. New housing estates were built north-west of the town and the redevelopment of older areas such as Gallatown, Sinclairtown and Pathhead took place in the 1950s and 1960s. This was followed by a redevelopment of the town centre which started in the 1960s, lasting right into the 1970s. The population of the town was expected to reach between 55,000 and 70,000, but this did not happen as the production of linoleum, the town's main industry at the time, waned in the middle of the 1960s.

Today, the town is a major service centre for the central Fife area. Kirkcaldy is home to an art gallery and museum, an ice rink, three large public parks (Beveridge, Dunnikier, and Ravenscraig), two golf courses, a swimming pool, major shopping facilities, and the yearly Links Market, which stretches almost a mile along the Esplanade—Europe's longest street fair. Adam Smith College has two campuses in town (St Brycedale and Priory). Employment is now dominated by the service sector; the biggest employer is MGT (a call centre). Other big employers in the town include Victoria Hospital, Forbo-Nairn (floor coverings), Kingdom Bakeries (food and drink), and Kingdom Homes Ltd (residential and nursing homes).




The name Kirkcaldy means "place of the hard fort" or "place of Caled's fort". It is derived from the Pictish caer meaning "fort", caled, which is Pictish "hard" or a personal name, and –in, a suffix meaning "place of". Caled may describe the fort itself or be an epithet for a local "hard" ruler.[2] An interpretation of the last element as din (again meaning "fort", but from Gaelic) rather than –in is incorrect.[2] The Old Statistical Account states a derivation from culdee, which has been repeated in later publications,[3][5] but is also incorrect.[2]

Early history

The discovery of eleven Bronze Age cist burials which date from 2,500 BC and 500 BC, may represent the earliest known funerary tradition in the area.[3][6] The appearance of natural terraces extending away from the sandy bay as well as the close proximity of the East Burn to the north and West (Tiel) Burn to the south, perhaps made this an attractive site for these burial plots and as a focal point in the landscape.[6] Four Bronze Age burials dating from around 4000 BC have also been found around the site of the unmarked Bogely or Dysart Standing Stone to the east of the A92 road.[3][6] Despite the relative absence of Roman sites within the county of Fife, there is evidence of a Roman camp at Carberry Farm on the outskirts of the town, although nothing upstanding remains.[6]

One of the earliest events associated with the town was the Battle of Raith in 596 AD. The battle, which is believed to have taken place, to the west of the town, was fought between the Angles and an alliance of Scots, Picts and Britons led by King Áedán mac Gabráin of Dál Riata.[3][7]

Medieval history

The earliest documented reference to Kirkcaldy occurred in 1075, during the reign of Malcolm III, King of Scotland (1058-1093), when the king granted the shire of Kirkcaladunt, along with other gifts, to the church of Dunfermline.[8][9] The residents were expected to pay dues and taxes for the general upkeep of the church.[3] Two charters, later confirmed by his son, David I, as Kircalethin in 1128 and Kirkcaladunit in 1130, do not indicate the location of town or shire.[5][8] A charter which followed in 1182, describing the town as a villa was the only evidence it was considered a town in the twelfth century.[5]

While Scotland was under occupation between 1296 and 1306, the Abbot of Dunfermline appealed to King Edward I for a weekly market and annual fair for Kirkcaldy in 1304.[9][10] During these discussions, the town which had been given to the Abbey by David I, may have been referred to as one of the most ancient of burghs.[5][9] This status as a burgh dependent on Dunfermline Abbey was later confirmed in 1327, during the reign of Robert I, King of Scotland (1306-1329). Prior to the King’s charter, Kirkcaldy was still recognised as a township.[5][8]

However, the burgh was soon given the right to trade across the regality of Dunfermline in a special charter by David II, King of Scotland (1329-1371). This charter allowed the burgesses of Kirkcaldy to purchase and sell goods to the burgesses of the three other regality burghs – Queensferry, Dunfermline and Musselburgh, whom belonged to the Abbey.[5][11] By 1451, Kirkcaldy was awarded feu-ferme status. The routine administration of the burgh and its fiscal polices, became the responsibility for the bailies and council on condition that an annual payment of 33s 4d was made to the Abbot of Dunfermline.[3][8]

Sixteenth to eighteenth centuries

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the town became an important trading port.[10] The town had many advantages, one being its location on the east coast, which led to trading contacts with the Low Countries, the Baltic region, England, and Northern France.[5] The feu-ferme charter of 1451 between the Abbot of Dunfermline and the burgesses of Kirkcaldy also mentioned a small but functioning harbour. Although, it is unknown when this harbour was established and whether or not it was always located at the mouth of the East Burn.[5][9][12] According to treasurer's accounts of the early 16th century, timber imported via the harbour—possibly from the Baltic countries—was used at Falkland Palace and Edinburgh Castle, as well as in shipbuilding.[5] Raw materials such as hides, wool, skins, herring, salmon, coal and salt were exports of the town, until well into the seventeenth century.[5][13]

Remains of the common moor now known as Volunteers' Green

A charter issued by Charles I granting royal burgh status in 1644 led to the full independence of the town. As a gesture, the king gave 8.12 acres (32,900 m2) of common moor suitable for dying and bleaching of linen, drying of clothes, recreation and perpetuity to the town.[14]

The town suffered a setback, during the political crises of the seventeenth century. The National Covenant was subscribed in the town in 1638 to prevent the introduction of bishops, episocopacy and patronage in the presbyterian church, under the reign of Charles I.[15] The appointment of General Leslie, an elder of the Kirkcaldy presbytery, as commander of the Scots Army may have encouraged local support.[15] All freemen and burgesses were trained in drilling and the use of arms in order to defend their faith.[14] In the Covenanting Wars, the town is believed to have lost as many as 480 men.[15] Many trading vessels were also either destroyed or stolen and the town's treasure was seized by General Monck in 1651 after being sent to Dundee for safekeeping.[10][15] The town was invaded, burned and looted by Highland Jacobites during the Jacobite Rising of 1715.[10]

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, manufacturing began to prosper, transforming the economy of the town.[13][15] During this period, Kirkcaldy was described by Daniel Defoe as a larger, more populous, and better built town than...any on this coast.[15] Handloom weaving, which had been introduced in 1672, flourished between 1733 and 1743; the output of linen increased from 177,000 to 316,000 yards.[10][15] Cotton spinning started in 1784 and within eight years, employed 110 men, women and children in the town.[10][16] The spinning of cotton supplied the local industries of coal mining and salt panning and boosted trade with the Baltic region and the Low Countries.[15] By the nineteenth century, whaling also became important to the town. Between 1813 and 1866, sixteen whalers sailed from both Kirkcaldy and nearby Burntisland.[17] The first Kirkcaldy whaling ship, The Earl Percy, sailed north to the Davis Strait and the last whaler based in the town, The Brilliant, was sold in 1866 to Peterhead, bringing an end to the industry.[17] The revival of shipbuilding in the late 1770s was also of some significance to the town, when up to thirty-eight vessels were built between 1778 and 1793.[17] Construction of a new turnpike road from Pettycur to Newport-on-Tay via Cupar in 1790, while improving only one piece of Fife's isolated road system, brought a huge increase in traffic along the High Street and helped to strengthen Kirkcaldy's position in Fife.[10][15]

Modern history

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the main industries in the town were flax spinning and linen weaving.[18] In 1831 Kirkcaldy was described as 'the most thriving town on the north coast of the Firth of Forth', which reflected its range of public facilities such as banks, schools, church, and libraries, and its widened and repaved streets.[15] The arrival of the Kirkcaldy and District Railway—later to become part of the North British Railway— to the town in 1847 led to an increasingly industrialised townscape.[15][19] The connection of the railway to the harbour in 1849 benefited older industries of the town, in particular the coal industry.[15] A new wet dock and pier were built between 1843 and 1846 at a cost of £43,000 (£3,085,000 as of 2011) [20] to cope with increasing demand for imports of flax, timber and hemp and exports of coal, salt and linen.[21][22] Subsequent demand for linoleum and coal resulted in a further expansion of the harbour and reconstruction of the East Pier to allow space for a new dock between 1906 and 1908 at a cost of £140,000 (£10,840,000 as of 2011).[20][22][23] In 1847 the canvas manufacturer, Michael Nairn, inspired by a trip to Bristol, opened a factory in Pathhead for the production of floorcloth 'according to the most approved methods then practised'.[15][24] He took out a licence on Frederick Walton's patent for linoleum.[10] When the patent expired in 1876, the process for linoleum was adopted by Nairn and other floorcloth manufacturers in 1877.[24] Floorcloth and linoleum were being made in seven factories in the town by 1883, employing 1,300.[15] The manufacturing of linen was also prospering in the 1860s, with eighteen factories employing 3,887 by 1867.[15]

The expansion of the town resulted in the boundaries of the royal burgh being extended in 1876. The town absorbed its neighbouring settlements of Linktown, in the parish of Abbotshall; Invertiel in the parish of Kinghorn and the Pathhead, Sinclairtown and Gallatown in the parish of Dysart.[25] These once-separate communities which had effectively merged into the town, were once forbidden from selling their goods in Kirkcaldy at the mercat cross, according to the old guild rights.[25][26]

In 1922–1923 a sea wall and esplanade were constructed, funded by the Unemployment Grants Commission and built by unemployed men living in the town.[27][28] Prior to the construction of the sea wall, the sea would wash along the shore, which was known as the Sands Road.[27]

New housing estates built to the north-west of the town and older areas of Sinclairtown, Gallatown and Linktown were redeveloped in the 1950s and 1960s.[29] This was followed by the redevelopment of the town centre in the 1960s, lasting right until the 1970s, which saw the destruction of much of the old High Street.[15][30] There was speculation that the town could grow to a population of 55,000 to 60,000 by 1970.[29] This never materialised, as a decline in the linoleum industry in the mid-1960s meant a decrease in population from a peak of 53,750 in 1961 to 47,962 in 1981.[10][29]

Today, Kirkcaldy remains a busy town for the surrounding areas. The town is home to a Museum and Art Gallery; three public parks and shopping facilities in the town centre.[7] The town also hosts the annual Links Market commonly known as Europe's longest street fair. The production of linoleum still continues to this day, despite being on a vastly reduced scale and now in Swiss ownership.[7] The company which later became 'Forbo-Nairn', diversified into the production of vinyl floor tiles and speciality, marmoleum since 1994.[31][32] Kirkcaldy Harbour which closed in 1992 is to re-open to cargo ships for the first time in 20 years.[33] The project between Carr's Flour Mills, the parent of Hutchison's, Forth Ports (owners of the harbour) and Transport Scotland, will allow Carr's to bring in wheat to the harbour and remove a quarter of their lorries from the roads every year.


During the middle of the 15th century, the passing of feu-ferme status meant the town was able to deal with its own administrative issues and fiscal policies for the first time.[5] The first mention of a town council was made around 1582. The head courts of the burghs would meet either in the common muir (now known as Volunteers' Green) or the Tolbooth on Tolbooth Street, particularly in the summer months.[5][34] When Kirkcaldy was awarded royal burgh status in 1644, the duties of the provost were initially completed by bailies, councillors, and magistrates.[14] The first Lord Provost, Robert Whyt, was elected to the post around 1658.[26] The burgh was one of four in Scotland to use two coat of arms, introduced in 1673. One bears the motto Vilgilando Munio ("I Stand by Watching"), and the other displays the figure of St Bryce, Kirkcaldy's patron saint.[35]

Kirkcaldy enjoyed royal burgh status until this rank was abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 in favour of a three-tier system of regions and districts.[7] The royal burgh merged into Kirkcaldy District, which was one of three districts within the Fife region. The district council was abolished in 1996 under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994[36] when the region became a unitary council area. The new unitary Fife Council adopted the areas of the former districts as council management areas and created area committees to represent each.

Kirkcaldy Town House

Today, Kirkcaldy is represented by several tiers of elected government. Kirkcaldy North Community Council and Kirkcaldy West Community Council together form the lowest tier of governance, whose statutory role is to communicate local opinion to the local and central government.[37] Fife Council, based in Glenrothes, the unitary local authority for Kirkcaldy, is the executive, deliberative, and legislative body responsible for local governance.[38] Kirkcaldy Town House is the main administrative headquarters for the Kirkcaldy area within the local authority.[39] Forth House on Abbotshall Road is the main planning and building control headquarters in Central Fife.[40] The main Fife library and museum headquarters are on East Fergus Place.[41] The Kirkcaldy area also supports three multi-member wards, with eleven councillors sitting on the committee of Fife Council.[42] The Scottish Parliament is responsible for devolved matters such as education, health, and justice, while reserved matters are dealt with by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[38]

The first Member of Parliament to be elected to the House of Commons from Kirkcaldy was Colonel Abercrombie in 1710.[43] The town had joined with Dysart, Fife, Kinghorn, and Burntisland to form the constituency of Dysart Burghs in 1707, with each of the four burghs being entitled to a vote.[43][44] Prior to the Act of Union, Kirkcaldy sent a Member of Parliament to the Scottish Parliament, which would usually meet in Edinburgh.[44] Under the Reform Act of 1832, the constituency of Kirkcaldy Burghs was introduced, with Robert Ferguson of Raith elected as Member of Parliament.[45] Today, Kirkcaldy forms part of the county constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, electing one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by the first past the post system. Gordon Brown of the Labour Party is the Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.[46] Before the constituency's creation in 2005, Kirkcaldy lay in the Kirkcaldy constituency, represented by Lewis Moonie. For the purposes of the Scottish Parliament, Kirkcaldy forms part of the Kirkcaldy constituency. The Kirkcaldy Scottish Parliament (or Holyrood) constituency, created in 1999, is one of nine within the Mid Scotland and Fife electoral region. Each constituency elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament by the first past the post system of election, and the region elects seven additional members to produce a form of proportional representation.[47] The seat was won at the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections by David Torrance for the Scottish National Party (SNP).[48][49] Following a review of the review of Scottish Parliament constituency boundaries, the Kirkcaldy constituency was extended along the coast, taking in the Buckhaven, Methil, and Wemyss Villages ward, ahead of the 2011 elections.[50]

At European Union level, Kirkcaldy is part of the pan-Scotland European Parliament constituency, which elects seven Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.[51] Scotland returns two Labour MEPs, two SNP MEPs, one Conservative and Unionist MEP, and one Liberal Democrat MEP to the European Parliament.[51]


View of Kirkcaldy Bay seen from the beach near Invertiel

Kirkcaldy is a linear settlement along a sandy cove between the Tiel (West) Burn to the north and the East Burn to the south, on a bay facing southeast onto the Firth of Forth at 56°6′40.28″N 3°9′59.7″W / 56.1111889°N 3.166583°W / 56.1111889; -3.166583 (56.111°, −3.166°).[7][52] The town lies 9.3 miles (15 km) SSE of Glenrothes[53], 11.8 miles (19 km) ENE of Dunfermline[54], 44.4 miles (71 km) WSW of Dundee[55] and 18.6 miles (30 km) NNE of Edinburgh.[56] The town adopted its nickname of the lang toun from the 0.9 miles (1.4 km) single street, recorded on early maps of the 16th and 17th centuries.[15][57] The street would eventually reach a length of nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) linking the burgh to its neighbouring suburbs of Linktown, Pathhead, Sinclairtown and Gallatown.[57][31]

Areas in and around the town centre, at 50 feet (15 m) above sea level, contain clay, sand, and gravel.[58] Most of Pathhead, Ravenscraig Park, and older parts of Dysart, at 100 feet (30 m), contain sandy gravel and shaly soil. The highest piece of ground, at 500 feet (150 m), is west of the Raith Estate; the soil contains hard volcanic ash. To the north of the estate (Sauchenbush and south-east Chapel) are dolerite rock outcrops.[58] The steep rise of the 25-foot (7.6 m) raised beach to the west of the High Street, over a distance of less than 150m, (a result of sea level changes 5–10,000 years ago) is thought to have had a significant constricting influence on the town's layout in the mediaeval period.[52][59]

The centre of medieval Kirkcaldy may have been located at the corner of Kirk Wynd and the High Street.[60] This would have been the site of the town's Mercat cross and focus point of the burgh.[61] The linear market was important not only to the town itself but the nearby hinterland.[61] The main thoroughfare was either paved or cobbled, with flags covering small burns running down the hill towards the sea across the High Street.[15] Running back from the High Street were burgage plots or rigs of the residents. The narrow strips of lands were at the front and to the rear of houses of the burgesses. For houses on the sea side of the High Street these plots may have served as beaching grounds for individual tenements. The plots on the other side of the High Street rose steeply to the terracing of the Lomond foothills.[15] A back lane running behind the plots from Kirk Wynd went to the west end of the High Street in a southerly direction.[15] This lane would in time be developed as Hill Street. At the top of Kirk Wynd, one of the most important of the small closes and wynds which entered the High Street, was the Parish Church of St Bryce (Old Kirk), a dominant landmark overlooking the small settlement.[15]

The small burns that are tributary to the East Burn contributed to the draining of the lands of Dunnikier Estate. The burn emerges from a deep-set culvert to flow under the Victoria Viaduct, down a deep gorge, through the site of Hutchison's Flour Mills before running parallel to the harbour wall and into the sea.[60] From the mid-19th century, the Hutchison's buildings became a significant landmark adjacent to the burn.[60] The flour millers chose this area for the railway connection which linked the main station to the harbour, rather than for the need to use the burn to power the mills.[60] The West (or Tiel) Burn, was also important, providing power for textile mills.[60] This burn flowed out of the Raith Estate lands where scenically and recreationally it was used to create Raith Lake (with its tributary, the Dronachy Burn) and add difficulty to Balwearie Golf Course. The mill owners in Linktown made use of the burn, before it too flowed into the sea.[60]

Ravenscraig flats

As the town expanded to the north, the shape of the settlement has become more triangular.[7][52][62] The first development plan in the town, after the Second World War, focused on creating new private sector housing to the north and west. Much of this land was suitable, since there were no man-made or natural barriers in the way. Older areas in the town, such as Gallatown, Sinclairtown, Pathhead, and Linktown, would later be redeveloped under the plan.[29][63] The construction of the first multi-storey flats began with Viewforth to the south-west (built in 1958) and Ravenscraig to the east (built between 1963–1964).[64]

In the early 1980s, a local plan replaced the first development plan under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 and Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. This new plan highlighted potential development sites for local authorities, private organisations, and individuals, while looking at the availability and best use of greenfield sites around the town. Brownfield land within Kirkcaldy was also considered.[65] New housing developments were created to the south-west and north-west of the town.[66] The 1980s Local Plan included upgrades to many roads within and surrounding the town. The Thornton by-pass (Glenrothes–Kirkcaldy Road) was completed in 1980 and the East Fife Regional Road (A92) in 1990 – the latter which led to the town being connected to the motorway system, which brought viable growth and new development.[67][68] Another local plan, developed in the early 1990s, was intended to create new employment opportunities in the north of the town and called for the creation of a variety of housing types. A major objective was to improve the state of residential areas by promoting suitable development land within the town. The majority of new housing was created by private developers in the south-east (Seafield) and north-west (Chapel Farm site).[69] The plan allowed out-of-town shopping facilities, which were located adjacent to the new A92 junction at Chapel.[69] The Kirkcaldy Area Local Plan, which was adopted in March 2003, focused on investment in the town centre, the development of employment opportunities at Kingslaw to the north-west, and restrained out-of-town developments.[70] A Mid-Fife Local Plan, which is to replace the Kirkcaldy Area Local Plan, has identified development land for approximately 2,500 houses to the east and 1,200 houses to the south-west over the next fifteen years. There are also proposals to redevelop brownfield sites, to provide additional employment, and to build a new railway and bus interchange to the east.[71]


Kirkcaldy compared
2001 UK Census Kirkcaldy[72] Fife[73] Scotland
Total Population 46,912 349,429 5,062,011
Foreign Born 1.01% 1.18% 1.10%
Over 75 Years Old 8.57% 7.46% 7.09%
Unemployed 5.68% 3.97% 4.0%

According to the Census in 2001, the census locality of Kirkcaldy has a total resident population of 46,912.[72] There are 21,365 households in Kirkcaldy, 18.8% were married couples living together, 35.5% were one-person households, 7.9% were co-habiting couples and 10.1% were lone parents.[74] An estimate taken in 2008, revealed that the town had a population of 48,630.[4]

The median age of males and females living in Kirkcaldy was 37 and 41 years respectively, compared to 37 and 39 years for the whole of Scotland.[72] The age group from 30 to 44 forms the largest portion of the population (22%).[72]

The place of birth of the town's residents was 96.52% United Kingdom (including 87.15% from Scotland), 0.28% Republic of Ireland, 1.18% from other European Union countries, and 1.86% from elsewhere in the world.[72] The economic activity of residents aged 16–74 was 40.13% in full-time employment, 12.17% in part-time employment, 4.79% self-employed, 5.68% unemployed, 2.57% students with jobs, 3.06% students without jobs, 15.70% retired, 5.51% looking after home or family, 6.68% permanently sick or disabled, and 3.71% economically inactive for other reasons.[75] Compared with the average demography of Scotland, Kirkcaldy has low proportions of people born outside the United Kingdom, and has higher proportions for people over 75 years old.[72]

Population Change

As more information on the town started to gather, a better understanding on the size of the townscape was made, towards the end of the sixteenth century.[15] The first estimate of the parish in 1639 was between 3,000 and 3,200 and around 3,400 by 1691. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was a decline in the population.[15] A census by Webster's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland in 1755, recorded an estimate of 2,296 in the parish.[15]

Population growth in Kirkcaldy Parish since 1801
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 1981 1991 2001
Population 3,248 3,747 4,452 5,034 5,275 5,719 6,100 7,003 8,528 9,994 14,175 45,410 45,915 46,019 50,519 53,750 47,962 47,274 46,912


Coal mining and salt panning were early industries in the town which date back to the early sixteenth century.[15] In 1573, Kirkcaldy had 28 salt pans, second to Musselburgh and Prestonpans who both had 31 salt pans.[15] Dunnikier Colliery was built on farmland owned by the Oswald family from 1881 onwards. The Pannie Pit, which formed part of the colliery, had deep workings stretching to the north beneath Dunnikier House and to the south around the harbour.[13]

Early manufacturing in the town and in neighbouring Pathhead consisted of coarse cloth and nail making. The latter of which went to the Royal Master of Works for repairs at Holyrood Palace until the seventeenth century.[15] Linen weaving, which started in 1672, became important to the town, with yarn being imported from Hamburg and Bremen.[13] The pottery industry of the town, which was originally established in 1714 as an offshoot of the Linktown Brick and Tile Works, was centred around Linktown, Gallatown and Sinclairtown.[78] Of these factories, The Fife Pottery, built by Andrew and Archibald Grey in 1817, produced Wemyss Ware, which was named after the family who owned Wemyss Castle.[79]

The production of heavy canvas was started in 1828 by the canvas manufacturer Michael Nairn at a small factory.[24] Influenced by a visit to Bristol, Nairn started to make floorcloth at his new factory at Pathhead in 1847, where his company pioneered the use of ovens to create hot air to season the floorcloth and reduce production times.[80] When the patent belonging to Frederick Walton expired, Nairn's were able to manufacture linoleum from 1877 onwards.[81] Other factories producing floorcloth and later linoleum were established by former employees of Michael Nairn.[24]

Today, the service sector is the dominant employer in the Kirkcaldy area, with some jobs in financial and business services, construction, and retail distribution, making a total of over 20,000 jobs.[82] Major employers in the town include MGT (call centre), Forbo Nairn (linoleum), Adam Smith College, ESA McIntosh (school furniture manufacturer), Paramount Care, and Kingdom Bakeries (food and drink).[82] The principal industrial and business estates include Mitchleston, Randolph, Hayfield, and John Smith Business Park.[82] In October 2011, Kirkcaldy Harbour re-opened to cargo ships for the first time in more than 20 years.[83] The project is a partnership between Forth Ports Ltd (the owners of the harbour), Hutchison's parent company of Carr's Flour Mills, and Transport Scotland, who provided a freight facilities grant of over £800,000. The work included new silos and conveyors in place to allow fast delivery from coastal ships.[83]

Kirkcaldy's High Street

Kirkcaldy's town centre, which serves a large catchment area of around 130,000 residents within a 20 minute drive, is the largest in Fife in terms of floor space.[84][85] Eligible businesses voted in favour of a BID (Business Improvement District) scheme for the town centre in 2010.[86] The High Street which runs parallel to the Esplanade is home to the Mercat Shopping Centre and Postings Shopping Centre.[85] A regeneration programme to upgrade the High Street between Port Brae and Kirk Wynd started in 2008. The second phase, between Kirk Wynd and Charlotte Street started in July 2010 and was completed in October 2011. The work included resurfacing roads and pavements, upgrading street furniture and lighting and the creation of a public Wi-Fi network.[87] As part of the re-opening ceremony of the High Street, new coloured floodlights will highlight the street's historic buildings.[87] A separate project will create a 'green corridor' for the use of pedestrians and cyclists that will link the main railway station and bus station with the High Street. Work started in May 2011 and is scheduled for completion by the middle of October 2011.[88] The budget for the entire project is £4 million, £2 million of which was provided through the Scottish Government's Town Centre Regeneration Fund.[89]

City Site Estates, owners of the Mercat Shopping Centre, have plans for a 250,000 sq ft (23,000 m2) extension and the creation of a new waterfront.[90] Plans call for a 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) split-level supermarket containing 450 underground car park spaces. A swimming pool, hotel, bowling alley, civic square, and five-screen cinema would also part of the complex. A proposal calls for the reduction of the Esplanade to one lane to allow for a new glazed entrance to the expanded mall.[90][91] The recent approval of a rival retail development elsewhere in the town has put the Mercat Centre's expansion proposals into serious doubt.[92]

An out-of-town retail park constructed in 1997 to the north-west of the town on Chapel Level, off the A92 is home to a number of warehouse retailers.[93][94] The retail park was purchased by Hammerson, a London-based property developer for £75 million in April 2005.[94]


Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery

Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, which opened in 1925, contains a notable collection of paintings by the Scottish Colourists and a permanent display of the town's industrial heritage.[95] A library was added to the existing building in 1928.[96] It is to undergo a £2.4 million renovation which will require closure for eighteen months from December 2011. This will include a new cafe which will look out onto War Memorial Gardens; an upgrade of the heating system and essential repairs to the roof. Work is expected to be completed by Spring 2013.[97]

The Adam Smith Theatre on Bennochy Road, which was opened in 1899 by Andrew Carnegie, hosts theatrical and musical productions as well as showing films.[98][99]

The Links Market initially started as a farmers' market in 1304 on Links Street, and moved to Sands Road (later to be known as the Promenade) in 1903. It is regarded as the largest fairground in Scotland.[26][100][101] The market visits the town every April and celebrated its 700th anniversary in 2004.[26] The Kirkcaldy Pageant started in 1923 as a fundraiser for several hospitals (later local charities) in the area. The arrival by carriage of a lad and lass was introduced to the proceedings in 1968. Although the event was discontinued in 1977, it was revived from 2001 until 2006 and again from 2010 as part of the Beveridge Park Community Festival.[64][102] The song "Cry Baby Cry" on the White Album by The Beatles refers to a fictional Duchess of Kirkcaldy. John Lennon may have been inspired to compose the song by the band's visit to the town on a Scottish tour in late 1963.[103] Kirkcaldy has had a twin-town link with Ingolstadt in Germany since 1962.[104] There are plans for a joint celebration to recognise the 50th anniversary of the town's twinning with Ingolstadt in 2013.[105]

There are three main public parks in Kirkcaldy.[84] Beveridge Park, to the west of the town is a 104 acres (420,000 m2) park created from the existing Robbie's Park, at the top of Nicol Street, and land purchased from the Raith Estate.[106][107] This was part of a £50,000 bequest from linen manufacturer and provost Michael Beveridge, who died in 1890.[106][108] On 24 September 1892 a crowd of over 10,000 came to see the opening of the park by his widow, the provost, magistrates, and the town council of the royal burgh.[108][109] The park includes a boating lake, a formal garden with fountain, a skateboard park, rugby ground and woodland walks.[110] In 2011 Beveridge Park was the winner of a green flag award for the second year running.[108] Ravenscraig Park to the east of the town was formed from the estate of Dysart House.[111][112][113] The grounds were bequeathed to the town by the linoleum manufacturer Sir Michael Nairn in 1929.[113][114] Dunnikier Park, purchased by the town council in 1945, consists of an area around Dunnikier House to the north of the town, and is home to numerous woodland walkways.[115][116]

Stark's Park, home ground of Raith Rovers

Raith Rovers FC, the town's senior football team, play in the Scottish Football League First Division at their ground, Stark's Park.[117] Founded in 1883, the club were elected to the Scottish Football League in 1902.[118][119] They reached their highest league position in the 1921–1922 season, when they placed third in the Scottish Football League, and achieved a British goal scoring record of 142 goals in 34 matches in the 1937–1938 season.[118][119] Under manager Jimmy Nicholl, the team were promoted to the Scottish Premier Division as Division One champions in the 1994–1995 season.[119] In 1994 the club won their first national trophy, when they defeated Celtic 6-5 on penalties after finishing the game 2–2, to win the League Cup.[118][119][120] This gained them qualification to the UEFA Cup in the following season. The club reached the second round before losing to Bayern Munich.[119]

The junior football team, Kirkcaldy YM, play their games at Denfield Park in the East Region Central Division.[121][122] The senior rugby team, Kirkcaldy RFC, play their games at the Beveridge Park in the Scottish Premiership Division Three.[118][123] Fife Flyers, established in 1938, are the oldest ice hockey team in the United Kingdom.[124] The team, who play at the Fife Ice Arena, will join the Elite League for the 2011/2012 season.[84][125] A cricket club plays at Dunnikier Park and a flag football club at Beveridge Park.[118][126] The town has a range of leisure facilities such as a swimming pool, the ice rink, and two golf courses (Kirkcaldy and Dunnikier).[84]

A new £15 million leisure centre to replace Kirkcaldy Swimming Pool is scheduled to be built on the site of the existing Tolbooth Street car park.[127][128] However, Kirkcaldy MSP Marilyn Livingstone claims 92% opposition to the chosen site in a survey she has carried out.[129] The campaign group, Save The Car Park, have collected over 7,000 signatures against the closure of the car park. They fear closure would discourage shoppers from coming to the High Street.[130][131] Legal objections have also been raised by the group to the council, who are to purchase shop owners' legal rights of access to the car park.[129] This action has been severely criticised in an internal auditors report.[132] Ongoing issues relating to access rights have delayed work on the new leisure centre until late 2011, with a target completion date of spring 2013.[129][133]


Square Norman (west) tower of the Old Kirk

The oldest church in Kirkcaldy is the Category B listed[134] Old Kirk, the old parish church, on Kirk Wynd.[135] The earliest mention of the Old Kirk is the record of its consecration in 1244 to St Brisse and St Patrick by David de Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews.[14] Adam Smith was baptised in the Old Kirk in 1723.[136] The building's deterioration in the late eighteenth century was addressed by major renovations to the main body of the church between 1807 and 1808.[137][138] Only the square western tower, which dates from around 1500, was retained.[31][138] In 2011 the Old Kirk was purchased by the Old Kirk Trust using a £75,000 loan from businessman John Sim, son of the late Reverend John Sim, minister of the church from 1960 to 1987. The Trust will maintain the building for the use of the community following the closure of the church as a place of worship in November 2010 by the Church of Scotland.[139][140]

The Category B listed[141] Kirkcaldy Town House on Wemyssfield is the centrepiece of the town's civic square.[31][100] It was designed in the 1930s by David Carr and William Howard of Edinburgh.[31][142] The Second World War brought work on the building to a halt and this did not resume until 1950.[142] Construction was split into two phases: the west wing, which was completed in 1953, and the east wing, completed in 1956.[142][143] At the corner of Hunter Street and Wemyssfield is the Category B listed[144] former Kirkcaldy Post Office, built between 1900 and 1902 in a Scottish baronial style. It was one of the first buildings in Scotland to incorporate the initials and coat of arms of King Edward VII, monarch of the United Kingdom (reigned 1901-1910).[145][146]

The Category B listed[147] Kirkcaldy War Memorial in War Memorial Gardens unveiled in June 1923 was gifted to the town by John Nairn, linoleum manufacturer and grandson of Michael Nairn. This was dedicated to Ian Nairn, the son of John Nairn who died in the First World War.[96][148] The Second World War memorial, designed by Thomas Hubbard, was unveiled in 1958.[148] Bronze plates depicting a sailor, a soldier, and an airman cover three sides of the central pillar. At the base of the memorial are 36 south-facing plates, 18 on each side of the central piece, which commemorate the lives of 1,012 people from the town who died in the First World War.[149] On the east side is the tomb of the unknown soldier, along with 11 bronze plates which list the 452 men and women who died in the Second World War.[149] As part of the War Memorial, the Category B listed[150] Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, Museum and Central Library building was also donated by Nairn.[96]

At the corner of Bennochy Road and St Brycedale Avenue is the Category B listed[151] Adam Smith Theatre was gifted to the town by linen manufacturer, Michael Beveridge as a memorial intended to mark the 100th anniversary of Adam Smith.[98][152] On St Brycedale Avenue is the Category B listed[153] St Brycedale's Church with its 204 feet (62 m) spire built between 1877 and 1881 as a free church.[31][154] The church was renovated in the late 1980s to make space for a social centre for social and educational groups in the lower area, while the upper area was retained as a traditional church.[155]

Sailors' Walk

In the north-east of the town are two buildings which were the homes of wealthy merchants and shipowners connected with Kirkcaldy's harbour.[156] The Category A listed[157] Merchant's House, or Law's Close, at 339–343 High Street is one of the best surviving examples of a sixteenth-century town house in Scotland. The house was built around 1590 for David Law, a wealthy ship owner and merchant.[158][159] The Category A listed[160] Sailors' Walk, at 443–449 High Street, consists of a pair of seventeenth-century houses, once divided into four dwellings, which are situated on foundations dating back to around 1460.[158][161][162] This is the oldest house in Kirkcaldy.[163] Three of the four dwellings were owned by the Oliphants, a ship-owning family. The fourth was owned by James Ferguson of Raith.[164] In 1650 the newly crowned King Charles II stayed at the house as a lodger while passing through the town, following his coronation at Scone Palace.[161] A forward-looking committee saved the house from being demolished in 1934, and it was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1935.[163] Architects Wheeler and Sproson undertook reconstruction work on the building between 1954 and 1959.[163]

Path House

North of the harbour area, on The Path, are two examples of distinctive architectural styles.[158] The Category B listed[165] Hutchison's House was designed by George Spears, the owner of the nearby East Bridge distillery, in 1793.[158][166] The Category A listed[167] Path House, originally known as Dunnikier House, is a three-storey L-plan tower house designed by John Watson in 1692 for his bride, Euphan Orrock.[166][168] In 1703 Watson sold the house to the Oswald family, who had important links with the town.[166]

To the north of the town is the Category B listed[169] Dunnikier House, designed by Alexander Laing between 1791–1793 as a family residence for the Oswald family.[158][170] The category A listed[171] Raith House was built by Sir Alexander Raith, 4th Earl of Raith and Melville, for his bride, Barbara Dundas, in 1694.[170][172][173] Today Raith House is owned by the Munro-Ferguson family as a private residence.[170][173]

Ravenscraig Castle, showing the large D-plan west tower and the ruined east tower

The Category A listed[174] Ravenscraig Castle stands on a rocky spit of land extending into the Firth of Forth to the east of the town.[175] King James II began construction of the castle in 1460 for his queen, Mary of Gueldres. It was also a means of defending the upper reaches of the Forth, including the port of Dysart. To a lesser extent it protected the harbour of Kirkcaldy against piracy and English rivalry.[166][175] Ravenscraig is one of the earliest British castles designed to defend against and use artillery, an innovation demonstrated by the massive walls, the regularly placed shot holes, and the deep rock-cut ditch.[176] Following the death of the King at the siege of Roxburgh Castle (1460), work continued on Ravenscraig, and it became a home for Mary of Gueldres until her death in 1463.[177] In 1470 King James III granted the castle and lands to William Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, in exchange for the castle in Kirkwall and the right to the Earldom of Orkney.[176][177]


Balwearie High School

The first grammar school was Kirkcaldy Burgh School, established in 1582 with the help of the local minister, Dr David Spens. Until premises were found, pupils were taught in the minister's house.[178] Notable pupils include Robert Adam and Adam Smith.[179] The school was located at Hill Street before being replaced by Kirkcaldy Grammar School on St Brycedale Avenue in 1843.[179][180] A Government list of 1872 described the school as being of 'higher class'.[180] A new building for the school was gifted to the town in 1893 by Michael Barker Nairn, a linen manufacturer, at a cost of £10,000 (£822,000 as of 2011),[20].[181] Other schools were established in the town, such as girls schools, subscription schools, and apprentice schools.[179] The town benefited from the will of Robert Philp, a linen manufacturer, who left £75,000 (£5,022,000 as of 2011),[20].[181] This money was used to fund a trust in his name, which ran schools in Kirkcaldy, Linktown, and Pathhead.[181] The passing of the Education (Scotland) Act in 1872 replaced voluntary education in the town with a school-based education for all children between the ages of 5 to 13.[179]

Today Kirkcaldy has four secondary schools and twelve primary schools.[182][183] Other educational facilities include a private school and a school for children with learning difficulties.[184] Kirkcaldy High School, the oldest secondary school, serves pupils living in the north of the town and has occupied a site on Dunnikier Way since 1958.[64][185] Balwearie High School opened as a junior secondary school in 1964 and was upgraded to a high school in 1972.[184][186] The school serves pupils living in the western end of the town and neighbouring Kinghorn and Burntisland.[187] Viewforth High School, which opened in 1908, was also initially a junior secondary school, but upgraded to a high school in 1980.[184] A new secondary school for the east of Kirkcaldy will eventually replace the ageing Viewforth High School. Two possible locations are on Windmill Road and at Randolph Playing Fields. The school is expected to be completed in 2019.[188] St Andrews RC High School, which opened in the late 1950s is one of only two Roman Catholic secondary schools in Fife. This caters to pupils living in the eastern half of Fife, from St Andrews to Burntisland and Lochgelly.[184][189]

St Brycedale Kirkcaldy Campus, Adam Smith College

Further education was first provided by the former Kirkcaldy Technical College, which opened in St Brycedale Avenue in 1929. Initially only evening classes were offered, since the facility was used during the day by Kirkcaldy High School. Plans for an extension to the college were proposed in 1956. The second phase, completed in 1965, involved alterations to the existing building, and the third phase in 1968 entailed the demolition of the old High School building and construction of a nine-storey tower block.[190] In 2003 Fife College of Further and Higher Education, the successor to Kirkcaldy Technical College undertook a £12.5 million redevelopment of the campus, which included the demolition and replacement of the tower block with a new building.[190] Fife College of Further and Higher Education officially merged with Glenrothes College on 1 August 2005, to become known as Adam Smith College.[190][191] Adam Smith College has two campuses in the town: St Brycedale Campus on St Brycedale Avenue and the Priory Campus on Victoria Road.[192] The University of Dundee also have a campus in the town which specialises as a School for Nursing and Midwivery. This campus originally built by the Fife Health Board for the use of Fife College, was taken over by the University in 1996.[193]

Public services

Waste management is handled by the local authority, Fife Council. There is a kerbside recycling scheme in operation in the town. A three-bin collection is in place for the majority of residents living within Fife.[194] Kirkcaldy has one recycling centre and several recycling points, all operated by Fife Council.[195][196] Non-hazardous waste is sent to landfill at Lochhead near Dunfermline, and Lower Melville Wood, near Ladybank.[197]

Health care is supplied by NHS Fife, who have their headquarters at Hayfield House in the town. The Victoria Hospital serves as the accident and emergency hospital in the town.[198] A new £152.5 million 530,000 sq ft (49,000 m2) extension to the hospital is expected to be finished in January 2012.[199][200][201] The new extension will contain a maternity unit, eleven operating theatres, 528 new beds, and a relocated Accident and Emergency Department.[201][202] Within the grounds of the hospital, a Maggie's Centre, under the name of Maggie's Fife, specialises in care for patients with cancer. The centre, which was completed between 2004 and 2006, was the first building to be designed by Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect in the United Kingdom.[203][204] Whyteman's Brae Hospital, which is also part of the complex, serves psychiatric and elderly patients.[205]

Statutory emergency fire and rescue services in the town are provided by the Fife Fire and Rescue Service from its station on Dunnikier Road.[206] Policing in Kirkcaldy is operated by Fife Constabulary. The headquarters of the Kirkcaldy area is on St Brycedale Avenue.[207] Kirkcaldy is served by the East Central Region of the Scottish Ambulance Service, which covers Tayside, Forth Valley, and the Fife.[208] There are two ambulance stations in the town, one on Whyteman's Brae and the other at the Victoria Hospital on Hayfield Road.[209]


Main Entrance (South Platform), Kirkcaldy Railway Station

The A92, which connects Dunfermline to the west with Glenrothes and Dundee to the north, passes immediately north of Kirkcaldy. The A910 road connects it to the western and central parts of the town. At Redhouse Roundabout the A921 connects the A92 to the eastern side of Kirkcaldy. It continues via St Clair Street and The Esplanade on to Kinghorn, Burntisland, and Aberdour to the south-west. The main route through the north of the town, the B981, runs roughly parallel to and one kilometre to the south of the A92. This road also connects to the A910 and the A921, from Chapel Junction via Chapel Level and Dunnikier Way to Gallatown.[210][211] From here the A915, known locally as the Standing Stane Road, connects the town to St Andrews and Leven to the north-east. The A955 runs along the coast from Dysart to East Wemyss and Buckhaven to the north-east.[212][213]

The main bus station, adjacent to the Postings Shopping Centre, is between Hill Place and Hunter Street.[214] The Kirkcaldy railway station is to the north-west of the town centre and is on the route for the Fife Circle Line and the East Coast Main Line.[215] Other services run to locations such as Perth, Aberdeen, and Inverness to the north and Newcastle Central, York, and London King's Cross to the south.[216] Nearby stations such as Burntisland and Kinghorn are to the south and west of the town. The nearest international airport is Edinburgh Airport, 26 miles (42 km) away.

Notable people

Kirkcaldy is the birthplace of many notable people such as the social philosopher Adam Smith,[217] who wrote The Wealth of Nations at his mother's house at 220 High Street between 1765-1767 [218]; the architect and designer Robert Adam (and his father, William),[219] and Sandford Fleming, the founder of Standard Time.[220] The explorer John McDouall Stuart, who led six expeditions into the centre and from the south to north of Australia, was born in nearby Dysart.[221]

Politicians who come from the town include Ronald Munro Ferguson, the Governor-General of Australia from 1914–1920;[222] David Steel, leader of the Liberal Party from 1979–1988 and former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament;[223] and Bertha Wilson, the first female judge of the Supreme Court of Canada and Court of Appeal for Ontario.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was brought up in the town from the age of three.[224][225] The Scottish crime writer Val McDermid was born in the town.

Guy Berryman, bassist of the alternative rock band Coldplay, was born and brought up in the town until the age of thirteen.[226]

Richard Park, the chief executive of Global Radio and the headmaster on the BBC talent show Fame Academy was born in the town, where he attended Kirkcaldy High School.[227]

Sportsmen include the two-time world darts champion Jocky Wilson, footballer Colin Cameron, and professional golfer Peter Whiteford.[228] David Danskin, the founder of Dial Square FC (now known as Arsenal FC), the first football team from the south of England to play in the Football League, was brought up in Kirkcaldy. William Arnott (1827–1901), a biscuit manufacturer in Australia, also came from the town.[229]



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