Largo: The Villages of Robinson Crusoe and Tommie Norrie
by Regan Kyle
Friday, July 1, 2016
For my first blog post I’ve decided to write about my hometown of Largo, Scotland. I feel that it is a very little known but special part of the world and that it is only right to start my blog from there.
Largo consists of both Upper Largo and Lower Largo, and is part of North East Fife. The two villages are in close proximity, surrounded by beaches, hills, and situated near major roads to Edinburgh and St. Andrews.
Lower Largo is an old fishing village situated in the East Neuk of Fife. It’s located at Largo Bay, and overlooks the Firth of Forth towards Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.
Lower Largo is famous for being the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration behind Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. In the story, the ‘fictional character’ was a Scottish sailor who spent four years and four months marooned on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez, Chile. In 1885 a statue of Alexander Selkirk was designed by Thomas Stuart Burnett and erected onto 99 Main Street. A bronze plaque reads: “In memory of Alexander Selkirk, mariner, the original of Robinson Crusoe who lived on the island of Juan Fernández in complete solitude for four years and four months. He died 1723, lieutenant of HMS Weymouth, aged 47 years. This statue is erected by David Gillies, net manufacturer, on the site of the cottage in which Selkirk was born.”
Largo Bay Sailing Club
Just across the street is the Largo Bay Sailing Club (LBSC). The LBSC is one of Scotland’s premier dinghy clubs, with the bay providing shelter for a variety of water sport activities. The club was founded in 1959 and is affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association. Although the club is relatively small, they invest heavily in safety, boats and training while also providing changing and showering facilities for upwards of 60/70 people. Whether you want to become a member, or just have a day’s hire, the LBSC can cater for every need.
As you walk through the winding main street you will see a tall garden sculpture created by local artist Alan Faulds. The artwork, entitled Malagan (2008) is brightly coloured and is built from Scottish oak. The sculpture is situated in Faulds’ garden overlooking the Firth of Forth.
Lower Largo Viaduct
Following the main street westbound, you will come across the iconic landmark of the Lower
Largo Viaduct. In 1856, the arrival of the railway line allowed tourists and Fife locals to visit the fishing village and its sandy beach. However, in 1960, the station was closed by Dr. Richard Beeching, due to cuts being implemented that reshaped the British railway system. The viaduct has become a focal point in the village’s architecture, dominating the view from the harbour. The structure was built entirely out of stone and comprises of four 60- foot arches.
If you’re searching for a meal, or just a cold beer, look no further than the Crusoe Hotel, or the Railway Inn.
The Crusoe Hotel is situated on the harbour front and provides accommodation to those wishing to explore Lower Largo and the surrounding area. The hotel is family run and pet friendly, making it a great location for holiday goers in Fife. The Castaway Restaurant is open during the summer months for evening meals. The restaurant offers an extensive A La Carte menu, using prime Scottish beef and fresh lobster caught off the pier. The small restaurant can be busy during the summer months so I would definitely recommend booking, especially if there is a larger group. The hotel also offers the Crusoe Bar; open to residents and non-residents looking for a drink or a bite to eat. The bar has a selection of beers, whiskies and wine as well as playing host to some live music nights, which are not to be missed!
The Railway Inn is a traditional village pub and was established in 1749. This place means a lot to me, as it provides fond memories of my youth, learning the proper rules of dominoes and teaming up with the locals for the pub quizzes. The bar offers a variety of draught beers as well as five Scottish guest ales that are updated weekly. The Railway Inn also allows dogs and children until 8pm, making it a great place to visit after dinner, or to make a trip on a sunny afternoon to their beer garden.
However, if the sea air is too refreshing, you can always head into Upper Largo (also known as the Kirkton of Largo).
Upper Largo, although smaller than Lower Largo, boasts a variety of interesting architectural and historical landmarks including the Largo and Newburn Church of Scotland, Largo Law and Largo House.
Largo and Newburn Church
The Largo and Newburn Church located in the centre of the village is the resting place of Alexander Selkirk and Sir Andrew Wood, the admiral who led the Scots fleet to victory over the English in 1489. In the grounds of the church, behind a gated enclosure lies the ‘Largo Stone’. Dominating the front of the stone is a Celtic cross, to the left a figure of a man, and to the right, intertwined sea-horses. The reverse side is occupied by figures of horsemen and animals. The stone is of Pictish origin. The church, over 1100 years old, conducts Sunday morning service at 10am, where both residents and non-residents are welcome.
Largo Law reaches heights of 290 metres (950ft) and is the remains of a volcanic plug, active 300-350 million years ago. The hill is made up of three tops; the top that can be viewed from the main road is not the true summit. The true summit lies just to the North East.
The base of the law can be accessed from North Feus, between the Kirkton of Largo Primary School and the Upper Largo Cemetery. It is best to ascend the law in the early morning, take a picnic and have lunch at the summit – viewing Fife, Edinburgh and the Lothians. I’d then recommend stopping in to the Upper Largo Hotel for a hearty meal on the way home.
There are many myths and tales that are related to Largo Law, one suggesting that the law was formed when the Devil dropped a massive boulder, with part of the law being referred to as the Devil’s chair, with several steps leading up to it.
It is said that Largo Law contains hidden treasure or a gold mine that is yet to be found. Local folklore tells the tale of a local shepherd who gained enough courage to speak to a ghost who haunted the vicinity. The ghost declared that he would tell the shepherd the location of the treasure at 8am the next morning: “If Auchendowie cock doesn’t crow, and the herd of Belmain his horn doesn’t blow, I’ll tell where the gold is in Largo Law”. Subsequently, the shepherd killed every cockerel in the local area and also approached Tommie Norrie, asking him not to blow his horn. As the time of the meeting drew near that morning, there was silence throughout the area, and just as the ghost was about to declare the treasures location, a horn was heard in the near distance. Tommie Norrie had either forgotten his deal, or did not care. The phantom went silent, then screamed “Woe to the man that blew that horn, For out of that spot he shall never be borne.” At this moment, Tommie Norrie dropped dead, and no matter how many people tried, his body could not be moved, therefore a stone cairn was piled around his body.
If you do have the opportunity to walk up Largo Law, take a stone from the Law and add it to the stone cairn covering Tommie Norrie’s body atop Largo Law.
The building of Largo House, a two and a half storey, six-bay house began in 1753 for estate landowner James Durham. During the Second World War, it served as HQ for the Independent Polish Parachute Brigade who fought under General Sosabowski in Operation Market-Garden and then it housed the Polish Military Geographical Institute until 1946. It was declared derelict in 1951, after the roof had been removed (allegedly to avoid paying taxes), and was left to rot. The house ruins are only visible from the main road during the Autumn/ Winter, when the trees are bare, however the lodge house is still occupied with the grand gateposts guarded by eagles (now singular), which originally gave access to the mansion estate.
Trying to keep this post short has been difficult, but visiting Largo and the surrounding areas in Fife is a must for any traveler heading to Scotland. There is so much history, and definitely a good spot for anyone wanting to visit St. Andrews.
Other than B&B’s the only real establishment within the village is the Upper Largo Hotel, the small hotel consists of only two twin rooms and one double room, but is in a great location for those looking to continue exploring the rest of what Fife has to offer. The restaurant however is known throughout the area for its price crunch menu (3 courses for £12.50), Friday night Steak night, and traditional Sunday Roast.
How To Get There:
The villages are easily accessible by public transport or car. Simply use the Stagecoach 95, X58 or X60 bus service from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, or drive the A915 to access by car.
Next up, my new home town of Rush Lane, Toronto.