Fife (Gaelic: Fìobh) is a council area of Scotland, situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire. It was originally one of the Pictish kingdoms, known as Fib, and is still commonly known as the Kingdom of Fife within Scotland.
It is a lieutenancy area, and was a county of Scotland until 1975. It was very occasionally known by the anglification Fifeshire in old documents and maps compiled by English cartographers and authors. A person from Fife is known as a Fifer.
From 1975 to 1996 Fife was a local government region divided into three districts — Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and North-East Fife. Since 1996 the functions of the district councils have been exercised by the unitary Fife Council.
Fife is Scotland's third largest local authority area by population. It has a resident population of just under 360,000, almost a third of whom live in the three principal towns of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes.
The historical town of St Andrews is located on the east coast of Fife. It is well known for one of the most ancient universities in Europe, and as the home of golf.
Popularly known as 'The Kingdom of Fife', Fife probably takes its name from Fibh, a 7th century Pictish king. Fibh was one of the seven sons of Cruithne, a warrior king who ruled over a wide area of ancient Scotland.
Legend has it that upon the death of Cruithne, the Pictish realm - known collectively as 'Pictavia' - was divided into seven sub-kingdoms or provinces, one of which became Fife. The name is recorded as Fib in 1150 and Fif in 1165. It was often associated with Fothriff.
Fife, bounded to the north by the Firth of Tay and to the south by the Firth of Forth, is a natural peninsula whose political boundaries have changed little over the ages.
King James VI of Scotland described Fife as a 'beggar's mantle fringed with gold' - the golden fringe being the coast and its chain of little ports with their thriving fishing fleets and rich trading links with the Low Countries, ironic given the much later development of farming on some of Scotland's richest soil and the minerals, notably coal, underneath. Wool,linen, coal and salt were all traded. Salt pans heated by local coal were a feature of the Fife coast in the past.The distinctive red clay "pan tiles" seen on many old buildings in Fife arrived as ballast on trading boats and replaced the previously thatched roofs. In 1598 King James VI employed a group of 12 men from fife, who became known as the Fife adventurers to colonise the Isle of Lewis in an attempt to begin the "civilisation" and anglicisation of the region. This endeavour lasted until 1609 when the colonists, having been opposed by the native population, were bought out by Coinneach, the clan chief of the MacKenzies.
Historically, there was much heavy industry in the century or so following the Victorian engineering triumphs of the Forth and Tay rail bridges, The Fife coalfields were developed around Kirkcaldy and the west of Fife reaching far out under the Firth of Forth. Shipbuilding was famous at Methil and Rosyth. The world centre for linoleum production was in Kirkcaldy (where it is still produced), and flax grown in Fife was transformed into linen locally too. Post-war Fife saw the development of Scotland's second new town, Glenrothes. Originally to be based around a coal mine the town eventually attracted a high number of modern Silicon Glen companies to the region. Fife Council also centered their operations in Glenrothes.
There are many notable historical buildings to be seen in Fife, some of which are managed by the National Trust for Scotland or Heritage Scotland. They include Dunfermline abbey (last resting place of Scottish Royalty), the Palace in Culross, Ravenscraig Castle in Kirkcaldy, Dysart Harbour area, Balgonie Castle near Coaltown of Balgonie, Falkland Palace (hunting palace of the Scottish Kings), Kellie Castle near Pittenweem, Hill of Tarvit (a historical house), St Andrews Castle (with a gruesome bottle dungeon), St Andrews Cathedral and St Rules' Tower.
Fife is a peninsula in eastern Scotland bordered on the north by the Firth of Tay, on the east by the North Sea and the Firth of Forth to the south. The route to the west is partially blocked by the mass of the Ochil Hills. Almost all traffic into and out of Fife has to pass over one of three bridges, south on The Forth Road Bridge, west on the Kincardine Bridge or north east via The Tay Road Bridge, the exception being traffic headed north on the M90. Tolls were abolished on the Tay Road Bridge and Forth Road Bridge on 11 February 2008.
There are a number of extinct volcanic features, such as the Lomond Hills which rise above rolling farmland, and Largo Law, a volcanic plug in the east. At 522 m (or 1713 feet), the West Lomond is the highest point in Fife. The coast has many fine but small harbours, from the industrial docks in Burntisland and Rosyth to the fishing villages of the East Neuk such as Anstruther and Pittenweem. The large area of flat land to the north of the Lomond Hills, through which the River Eden flows, is known as the Howe of Fife.
North of the Lomond Hills can be found many villages and small towns in a primarily agricultural landscape. The areas in the south and west of Fife, including the towns of Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and the Levenmouth region are much more lightly industrial and densely populated. The only area which could claim to be heavy industry is that of Rosyth, around the naval dockyard.
The east corner of Fife, generally that east of a line between Leven and St Andrews is recognised throughout Scotland as the "East Neuk" (or corner) of Fife, small settlements around sheltered harbours, with distinctive vernacular "Dutch" or craw(crow)stepped gabled and stone-built architecture - an area much sought after as second homes of the Edinburgh professional classes in the 30 years since the Forth Road Bridge was built. The fishing industry on which the East Neuk settlements were built has declined in recent years with the main fishing fleet now operating from Pittenweem and the harbour in Anstruther being used as a marina for pleasure craft.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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