Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Nova Fifae Descriptio  
Pagination: 78-79
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Translation of text:

with the rest of their antiquities (which undoubtedly were not unworthy of investigation) is today totally unknown. But Ptolemy, who lived about 160 A.D., places here the Venniconian people. Our people recognise Ross as its oldest name; this nomenclature does not depart at all from the truth, for that word, a genuine one of the old language, means Peninsula. But the modern name Fife is thought to have derived from Fife Macduff its most powerful Earl, who lived about the year 670.

Its landmass stretches for quite a length between the two estuaries, ending in a wedge at the town of Crail, enclosed by the sea or sea-water on all sides, except where it faces west and is connected to the rest of the mainland; there it has as neighbours the prefecture of Clackmannan, the land of Stirling, and the County Palatine of Strathearn. Its length from Culross to the town of Crail, that is from west to east, comprises thirty two Scots miles; in width, from Kinghorn to the Firth of Tay, it is more or less fifteen miles.

The air, thanks to the sea, is surprisingly gentle and mild for its location; but one may see not a few regions, more inclined to the south, far more liable to cold, snow and harshness of climate, as they either enclosed by mountains or are away from the sea; but all winter harshness is driven away from here by the huge and inexhaustible supply of fossil coal, whence living is very easy and pleasant, and the number of inhabitants great.

The soil is fruitful and suited to crops, it produces generously wheat, oats, rye, peas, beans, and many kind of legume, nor are garden plants lacking. Where the fields are further from rivers or sea, or lie beneath mountains, the industry of the inhabitants has made them more fertile by manuring especially with lime (of which a very great amount is cooked from limestone).

A great income comes to the lords every year from the veins of fossil coal, which are sold either at home or to outside people. Great and inexhaustible mines of it are found in the places which look on the Forth. Thanks to them in many places a large amount of very white salt is cooked each day, which apart from everyday use is also exported. Also in the months of August and September there is a valuable fishing of herring on the neighbouring coast, which gives work to the maritime population.

Should one measure the abilities of the inhabitants against others, it can be truly said without boasting, that no province in the kingdom has more gentle or more cultivated inhabitants, whether you consider the nobility, who have seats here in great numbers, or the common people. In many other places one may see harsh, fierce, ignorant men, but this most humane province produces civil, cultivated, kindly men, but second to none in carrying arms.

The most notable mountains are the Ocelli (the Ochills), not unknown to the ancients, which skirt the western edge of the province and divide it over a long stretch from Strathearn; they are neither high nor rough, and allow farming almost everywhere, or where they are broken up by grassy valleys are used for flocks. In the interior parts various hills spread and rise here and there, divided by lovely, fertile valleys and spread out into plains; where they rise a little higher, they have been given various names; so, at the southern side of the royal retreat of Falkland (with the adjacent town and park) from the castle, a twin-peaked mountain rises which has the name of Lomond. Another lies between Lochs Leven and Ore called Benarty. Normans Law looks on the Firth of Tay, situated not far from Ballinbreich. The parts which face east or south-east have the mountains Largo Law, Kellie Law, Dunnikier Law, Logie Law and Duncarro Law.

There are rivers, the Eden not unknown to the ancients and denoted by Ptolemy with the name Tyne, far different from the modern Tyne, which he seems to name Vedra; its source lies in the park of Falkland; for there that river first has the name Eden, although the River Meigle flows much further up from the Ochill Hills and below the park mingles its waters with the still narrow Eden; from there the Eden gradually increases by taking in many scarcely known streams, slides through a lovely, cultivated plain, and washes the town of Cupar; from there, taking in near its mouth the small Motray Water, in two miles near St Andrews it enters the Ocean, not admitting ships because of shallows. The Leven flows from the loch of the same name, into which two rivers called Queich and a third Gairney discharge; after the outlet from the loch, now known by the name Leven, it travels due east to the town which takes its name from the mouth of the Leven, and enters the Firth of Forth, having taken in the streams Ore and Lochty Burn.

Many, not inconsiderable towns may be seen here on the coast, especially because of the opportunity for trade, such as:
Cupar, an inland town, head of the sheriffdom, where law is dispensed, on the River Eden, ancient without doubt, like many of the cities on earth whose glory has now vanished. This seems to be proved by the fact of it being the legal centre, to the neglect of the coastal ones, which in older times seem either not to have existed at all or to have been quite small, as our ancestors were still rarely carrying on business with foreigners, being exhausted by frequent wars with Britons, Danes or Saxons.

[On Cupar Arthur Johnston wrote these verses (Section Note):
If you should deign to live among the Scots, Cupar
Will be a good seat for you, mother of Love.
Not far hence hills are painted with flowers, to those
Idalium which you favour yields, and high Eryx.
Beneath a grassy rock horse racing is seen,
Such was the arena of the Elean course.
Here you may look on young men, whom you could pierce,
Whether it pleases you to draw your dart or the wedding-torch.
Challenging the glassy waters of the Acidalian fountain,
The smooth flowing Eden licks the side of the city.
Here you watch swans and shore-loving myrtles;
You are surrounded by them, a twin swan bears you, Goddess.
The fields around are green, Adonis wept for by you
Here grows red, and Crocus wounded by Idalian fire.
The land yields crops, do not despise Ceres’ gift,
Without this aid love freezes and feels cold.
Here girls gather ripe apples along with cherries
And whatever the gold-bearing garden of the Hesperides offers.
Quickly, hastening hither, Goddess, leave your old home,
And bring with you your bonds, weapons, torches.
You who formerly deserved to be called Cyprian from Cyprus,
Will now as an inhabitant of Cupar be mother Cupria.]

St Andrews, not so long ago the metropolis of the whole kingdom in sacred matters, the seat of an Archbishopric, the dwelling of the Muses, known for its celebrated University, set in a lovely position on the Ocean, has a not incommodious harbour, the neighbouring sea full of fish, and healthy and spacious plains. Its foundation or its growth is due to Albatus Regulus (whence the old name of Regulus’ Shrine), who returning from long travels and bringing with him the bones of the Apostle Andrew, claimed that he had buried them in the chapel and won the belief of holiness (in that rude age) for the place. However that may be, that belief certainly did the city much good; for at once the liberality of kings and munificence of many nobles was poured forth and a very rich Priory was founded there, whose revenues equalled the wealth of the Archbishop. Ruins remain of the church and monastery, which abundantly testify to its ancient glory and magnificence.

There are in addition towns not to be neglected: Crail in the extreme eastern angle, Anstruther, Pittenweem, St Monans, Elie, Leven, Wemyss, Dysart, Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Burntisland, from where there is a daily crossing to Leith, Aberdour, Inverkeithing (formerly a flourishing market), Dunfermline: all these towns are on the Firth of Forth, except Dunfermline, which is a few miles from it. But on the opposite shore of the Tay are Newburgh and East-Ferry; and inland, Falkland. Two towns in this area are mentioned by the ancients, Orrea and Victoria, both inland, the former not far from the site of Cupar, the other from that of Falkland, but whether they are the same or these ancient places have long since disappeared, it is not safe to conjecture.

Before the Reformation three monasteries and three priories were known here, endowed with great revenues: Dunfermline or Fermelinodunum, the foundation of David I; Lindores, erected by David Earl of Huntingdon, the brother of Kings Malcolm IV and William; Balmerino, the work of Queen Ermengarde, wife of King William. And the priories are: St Andrews, which Alexander I founded; the second is Pittenweem, founded by ...; the third Port-Moak, the work of Brude king of the Picts.

Today ecclesiastical business is transacted by four presbyteries, these are Cupar, St Andrews, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, under each of which are their parish churches.

At the city of Crail, in the year 874, there was a battle against the Danes, who were led by Hungar and Hubba; here Constantine king of the Scots was captured and beheaded by the cruel foe. Many years later, about 1300 A.D., the brave hero William Wallace, defender of our freedom in the most difficult times, defeated John Psewart and the English army, killing the general and a great number of the troops, at a place which is today called Black Ironside Forest.

Several islands lie off the south coast. Inch Garvie (where the firth is narrowest) was once fortified with a castle, which prevented passage above it by sailors. A little below is Inchcolm, the seat of a now destroyed monastery, and not far from Crail at the beginning of the Firth, Aemona, today called May, where also there was once an monastery to be seen; it has sandy and level soil, and is not lacking in fresh water; it now offers a lighthouse, from which by torches the night-time courses of passing ships are directed.

Since the custom of the Kingdom from ancient times leads the nobles generally to live in their houses in the country and not to frequent the cities much, but when business is completed to pass their lives at home, this province is everywhere most splendidly provided with innumerable villas, castles and seats of the nobility; to set down a list of them would take much labour, and this short chorography would scarcely contain it; but certainly this practice of country life makes a great contribution to the attractiveness and culture of the kingdom, as each takes pains to adorn and cultivate his estate in rivalry. Hence foreigners or travellers may see numerous families, hospitable tables, open houses, everything full of courtesy and kindness.

However I cannot fail to append a useful note of the leading nobility who mostly reside in these places or are native to them; but in no rank, as that is unknown to me and belongs to Parliamentary law; and their genealogies I leave to the heralds, as these are beyond the purpose of my work.

The Earl of Rothes, head of the family of Leslies, has at the River Leven a house known by the name of Leslie Castle. The Earl of Crawford, claiming ancestors of ancestral nobility and antique character, head of the most ample family of Lindsays, owns in the vicinity of the town of Cupar a fine villa (called Struthers) with an extensive park. The Earl of Wemyss, head of the family of Wemyss, has his abode at the small city of Wemyss and the castle

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