AT an early period, the Earls of Fife had a residence called the Castle of Falkland. Not a vestige of this building now remains, but its site appears to have been in the immediate neighbourhood of the Palace, on a part of what now forms the garden of Mr. Bruce. It is impossible now to ascertain whether James III. or James IV. began to build the Palace, as both of these monarchs were fond of architecture, and both of them employed workmen at Falkland; but the work was completed by James V., and the Palace from that time became a favourite residence with the Scottish monarchs.
The oldest portion of the Palace, which was erected either by James III. or James IV., forms the south front, and is still partially inhabited. On each floor there are six windows, square-topped, and divided by mullions into two lights. Between the windows, the front is supported by buttresses, enriched with niches, in which statues were placed, the mutilated remains of which are still to be seen, and terminating in ornamented pinnacles which rise considerably above the top of the wall. The lower floor is the part inhabited, and the upper floor is entirely occupied by a large hall, anciently the chapel of the Palace. The western part of this front of the Palace is in the castellated style, and of greater height than the other; it is ornamented with two round towers, between which is a lofty archway which forms the entrance to the court-yard behind, and which, in former times, was secured by strong doors, and could be defended from the towers which flank it. James V. made great additions to the Palace, and appears to have erected two ranges of building, equal in size to that described, on the east and north sides of the court-yard. As completed by him, therefore, the Palace occupied three sides of a square court, the fourth or western side being enclosed by a lofty wall. The range of building on the north side of the court has now entirely disappeared, and of that on the west, the bare walls alone remain; these two portions of the Palace having been accidentally destroyed by fire in the reign of Charles II. Having erected his addition to the Palace, in the Corinthian style of architecture, James assimilated the inner front of the older part of the building, by erecting a new façade is ornamented with finely proportioned Corinthian pillars, having rich capitals; and above the windows are medallions, presenting a series of heads carved in high relief, some of which are beautifully executed, and would lead us to believe that more than native talent had been engaged in the work. On the top of the basement which supports the pillars, the initials of the king, and of his queen, Mary of Guise, are carved alternately. The architect who designed this building, and superintended its erection, was in all probability Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, a natural son of the 1st Earl of Arran, who was cupbearer to James V., steward of the household, and superintendent of the royal palaces. He was accused of high treason, tried, convicted, and executed as a traitor, in August, 1540. The Palace of Falkland, deserted by its royal inmates, was for a long series of years suffered to fall into decay:
“The fretted roof looked dark and cold,
And tottered all around;
The carved work of ages old
Dropped wither’d on the ground;
The casement’s antique tracery
Was eaten by the dew:
And the night-breeze, whistling mournfully,
Crept keen and coldly through.”
It is now the property of Mr. Bruce, who takes great interest in its careful preservation, as well as in ornamenting the court-yard with flowers and shrubs, and the ground in its immediate neighbourhood, which he had laid out as a garden. The view from the southern parapet of the Palace has long been admired, and as it can now be attained not only with safety but even without any apprehension of danger, it will be often resorted to and enjoyed. On the one hand, the Lomond hills spread out their green sides, and point their conical summits to the sky; on the other, the whole strath of Eden, the Howe of Fife from Cupar to Strathmiglo, lies open and exposed; and whilst the spectator will naturally inquire after and regret the woods of Falkland, he will find that the present proprietor is doing all that he can to make up for the spoliations of Cromwell’s soldiery. There is a large plain, on the east of the Palace, in which a little knoll rises here and there above the level. This consists of moss, which has lately been well-drained; exhibiting the remains of what was called the Rose loch, – the knolls having been islets. The water of this lake must then have washed that part of the building which was discovered at the bottom of the garden.