Stretching along the Fife coast, from Stark’s Park in the south to Dysart in the north, Kirkcaldy is the home of Raith Rovers. Sitting across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy lies alongside the historic territory of Raith, whose exact specifications are as lost in time as the details of the sixth-century battle named after it.
There was once here a Raith Estate, hence the mansion, tower and colliery that once dotted the landscape inland from Kirkcaldy. The colliery spawned a football team, Raith Rovers, formed in 1881, but not the one based in Kirkcaldy that would beat Celtic on penalties to win the Scottish League Cup in 1994. This older Raith Rovers merged with Cowdenbeath Rangers before their namesake neighbours over in Kirkcaldy saw light of day in 1883.
Cowdenbeath, Raith’s nearest but lesser rivals, took part in the first Fife Cup final of 1882, a competition later dominated by Rovers’ greater local foe, Dunfermline.
The lack of a specific place name for ‘Raith’ has confused many a non-Scot over the years. Fans of Bayern Munich may have curiously run their fingers over the atlas without success when the UEFA Cup draw was made in 1995 – although the Second Round tie was played at Easter Road, Edinburgh, Jürgen Klinsmann putting two past the Scottish League Cup holders.
The Fife Cup still struggles on – though it’s been well over a century since the likes of Hearts of Beath won the trophy. Shared exclusively since World War I between the four main clubs of the historic county – East Fife make up the quartet – its winners list reflects the highs and lows of each over the decades. Raith notched three consecutive trophies in the Alex James era of the early 1920s, before the Wembley Wizard went down to Arsenal, and another three around the time of the shock League Cup win of 1994-95.
Since 2009, Raith have been in the second tier, attracting average gates of well over 2,000 and bumper crowds for the visits of Rangers and the 2016 Premiership promotion play-off with Hibernian. The Fife derby with Dunfermline now revived as a league fixture, this figure will rise to nearer 3,000 – although Raith’s only play-off in 2017 will be to avoid the drop.
Edinburgh Airport is 44km (27 miles) south of Kirkcaldy. The No.747 bus every 30min only runs as far as Halbeath Park & Ride (journey time 35min), from where the No.X27 runs every 30min to Kirkcaldy bus station, journey time 25min. Both services are operated by Stagecoach.
It may be easier to take the tram from the airport terminal (every 10min) to Edinburgh Haymarket station (25min journey time, £5.50), where a regular train runs to Kirkcaldy (35min journey time, £8 single, off-peak day return £9.50).
From Glasgow, you need to change at Edinburgh Haymarket, overall journey time 1hr 40min, single £17.
Kirkcaldy bus station is in the town centre, the train station just outside, a 5-7min away. There are local buses in town, mainly run by Stagecoach and Bay Travel, but the only route that runs the mile south to Stark’s Park is a school run serving Balwearie High next door.
Raith Taxis (01592 261262) provides airport transfers to Edinburgh for £50 and hops to Stark’s Park for £5.
The only hotel that was near Stark’s Park, the Bridgeway, has long gone.
In town, the most convenient hotel is the mid-range Beveridge Park, close to the train station, with 31 en-suite rooms and a decent Indian restaurant with good-value offers. Closer to the bus station, and the waterfront, Ahaven comprises a series of luxury apartments, for hire by the night as well as weekly let. There’s a sea view from the terrace and some rooms, and a full Scottish breakfast can be ordered.
In similar vein, nearby Dunedin is a boutique-style B&B, contemporary and well appointed, with flat-screen TVs, underfloor bathroom heating and quality breakfasts.
In the same family for more than 30 years, the Windsor Hotel is old-school but eminently affordable, with large-screen sport in the lively bar. Alongside, the venerable Victoria Hotel was bought by a group from Dunfermline in 2016 and should be developed soon.
There’s plenty of pubs along the High Street – though sadly few overlooking the waterfront.
As if named after the most famous Raith fan in town, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, The Exchequer offers TV sport and pub food, right on the High Street. A few houses down, The Penny Farthing is an age-old favourite, with regular live music. Across the street, O’Connell’s is more bar/diner, with 2am closing at weekends.
Round the corner, Novar is the prime Raith bar in town – see section on Raith Rovers.
Nearer the Esplanade, the Society Bar remains the prime nightspot in town after a change of ownership in 2016. Live sport is prominent, with DJs kicking in later on. Door charge levied.
A Wetherspoon’s set in an old bank, The Robert Nairn takes its name from the linoleum mogul who brought wealth to Kirkcaldy 150 years ago.