Awayday in Falkland

Team BEFS spent a wonderful day exploring and learning about the history and heritage of Falkland.

Best known for its historic Palace, once a hunting lodge used by the Stuart kings and now maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, Falkland is a quintessentially picturesque Scottish village. The village centre is a picture-postcard, with many of its mix of buildings, mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, still retaining their pan-tiled roofs, crow-stepped gables and outside stairs.

The visit offered an opportunity to explore the village of Falkland, the Falkland Estate and the Palace, with a focus on the way in which the three are interacting with one another, the pressures of tourism, and the opportunities arising out of their recent charrette process.

We were welcomed by BEFS Trustee and Chair of Falkland Stewardship Trust, Peter Burman, at The Falconer’s Lodging/Brunton House at the heart of the village. The Falconer’s Lodging is one of the four Category A-listed buildings and part of a row of buildings rescued through the National Trust of Scotland’s Little Houses Improvement Scheme in 1970-1.

Following a brief introduction to its heritage, Stuart Pearson, Chair of Visit Falkland, described the contribution made by the organisation to the well-being of the village and the attraction of Falkland’s floral features. A meeting with representatives of Falkland and Newton Community Council, Rod Crawford and Ken Laurie, also Chair of Falkland Development Trust, reflected on the charrette process, which reached the stage of consideration of key emerging ideas that week. They shared the challenges presented by trying to engage all parts of the local community, the pressures of increasing visitor numbers and the ‘Outlander effect’ on the streets and parking, as well as concerns and opportunities arising from the St. John’s Works site.

The walk back through the village to the Falkland Estate took us down cobbled lanes, past the parish church (threatened with redundancy), Old Town House/Hall (NTS alienable property shared with the community), the historic burial ground, and the Garden Cottage in West Port. On arriving at the Estate, we were greeted by Director of the Centre for Stewardship, Helen Lawrenson, and Estate Buildings Manager, George Watson, who shared the transformation of the Stables into a viable pop-up restaurant and venue, the rehabilitation of the courtyard and various facilities, and the general ethos of the Centre to identify sustainable uses for historic buildings on the Estate. We were also shown the revived sawmill, which has been built and repurposed as a workshop for teaching and learning programmes, such as their WoodWorks programme.

The final part of the day took us along the scenic High Walk, through the Palace Orchard, to the Palace to meet members of the National Trust for Scotland team. This was an opportunity to see the exceptional gardens and the Palace and discuss the role of the Trust in attracting and looking after visitors, which reached a staggering 55,000 in 2017.

The issues Falkland is tackling are highly relevant to the work BEFS does and it was insightful to hear about them in a real rather than theoretical context. Moreover, hearing about the numerous and varied approaches adopted to address these challenges and the energy and enthusiasm with which they are met, was simply inspirational.