LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Dunfermline

Fife football capital hits the skids as Pars dip

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

The former royal capital of Dunfermline, just over the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, has been a one-club, one-stadium town for well over a century.

This club, Dunfermline Athletic, and this stadium, East End Park, have seen action since 1885.

With the exception of a single stellar decade, this action has mainly taken place in the lower half of the top tier or in the second flight. The 1960s, however, twice brought the Scottish Cup and regular European football to this old mill town.

Welcome to Dunfermline/Natália Jánossy

In fact, senior football was slow to start here. In 1874, members of Dunfermline Cricket Club played a first game of football on the Town Green. In 1882, a Fifeshire Football Association was founded at St Margaret’s Hotel in Dunfermline, the cricketers playing an exhibition game against a Fifeshire XI. At the time, there were three clubs based in the largest town in the county: Dunfermline, Dunfermline United and St Leonard’s.

The three only lasted a short time – although a Dunfermline United club was introduced as a local Sunday league side in 2012. They play at Halbeath Park near Dunfermline Queen Margaret station.

Back in 1885, the footballers of the original club of Dunfermline wanted to cut free from their cricketing overlords and, at the Old Inn on Kirkgate, decided to form an independent, soccer-only outfit.

As a junior, ie non-league, club, Dunfermline Athletic suffered an 11-1 defeat at the hands of Hibernian in the Scottish Cup before turning professional in 1899. Their nearest local rivals, Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers, had already been formed in the early 1880s.

Welcome to Dunfermline/Liam Dawber

Competing in the Scottish League for three seasons before and during World War I, the Pars then helped set up the breakaway Central League in 1919 before being invited back into the national Second Division in 1921.

And there, more or less, they stayed, until the arrival of Jock Stein in 1960. The later Celtic supremo instigated a decade of unprecedented success at East End Park, involving record crowds, record transfers, two Scottish Cups, a close challenge for the league title and a run to a European semi-final.

The Fife Cup also became the club’s domain, the venerable regional trophy, first played at Lady’s Mill in Dumfermline and won by the likes of Clackmannan and Lochgelly, becoming a two-way scrap between the Pars and Raith. The competition has been practically moribund since 2008.

Welcome to Dunfermline/Natália Jánossy

Recent times have been both dramatic and heart-warming at East End Park. Reaching three major finals between 2004 and 2007, and returning to Europe, Dunfermline then plunged into financial disarray and were placed into administration in 2013. Fans rallied round, old players – including Alex Ferguson – urged solidarity and a fund-raising campaign eventually saw supporters’ group Pars United assume control of the club.

In April 2016, a season-record crowd of 6,000-plus at East End Park saw Dunfermline beat Peterhead 1-0 to celebrate promotion back to the Scottish Championship – by 18 points over Ayr.

A narrow play-off defeat to Dundee United in 2018 was the closest that the Pars came to the Premiership, another play-off defeat in 2021 followed by relegation in 2022. Bouncing straight back to the Championship, Dunfermline struggled to stay there in 2023-24.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

The nearest airport to Dunfermline is Edinburgh, 21km (13 miles) away. From Stance G on the terminal forecourt, Stagecoach bus Jet 747 runs to Halbeath Park & Ride near Dunfermline (£10, every 20-30mins, journey time 35mins). From there, several Stagecoach buses run to Dunfermline bus station (12mins). Note that the X24 also serves Glasgow Buchanan bus station.

The 19, X24, X27 and X55 call at East End Park. Halbeath P&R is within the Stagecoach Dunfermline dayrider zone – £4, pay on board.

Dunfermline bus station is right in town. Two train stations serve the city: Dunfermline Town is south-east of the centre, 10-15mins’ walk away; Dunfermline Queen Margaret is east of town, towards Halbeath Park & Ride. East End Park is about halfway between the two.

From Edinburgh Waverley/Haymarket, a half-hourly train to each Dunfermline station (£7) takes 30-35mins. From Glasgow Central/Queen Street, you need to change at Haymarket.

Dunfermline-based Abbey Taxis (01383 735 555) charge £40 from Edinburgh airport.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

The best place to start is The Old Inn, where Dunfermline Athletic were formed in 1885. Today it has big-screen sports, a digital jukebox and live music. Alongside, the Creepy Wee Pub plays up its spooky ambiance, particularly around Hallowe’en but is otherwise a popular spot to sink a drink. Nearby, Tappie Toories is a party-focused place with a top bar for DJs and matches shown during big tournaments.

Belhaven pub the Seven Kings goes big on football broadcast all season round, with eight TVs and one 3D screen. Across the street, Jack O’Bryan’s has food in focus, particularly Fife fish, with a handy terrace for evening drinking right by Pittencrief Park.

More a late-night and live venue, Lourenzos also shows televised sports. Prime music (and Irish) bar in town, evening-only PJ Molloys (PJ’s) is a local institution. On Douglas Street, Commercial Inn was voted CAMRA Pub of the Year for Fife in 2022. Nearby, down from the High Street, big-screen sport brings in the punters at the East Port Bar.

You’ll find more live music – and live sport – at Somewhere Else, a friendly little spot on Guildhall Street. On Pilmuir Street, Coadys also hosts regular live music.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Dunfermline.com has a hotel-booking link. Close to East End Park on St John’s Drive, the family-run Garvock House Hotel sits in lush gardens, formerly a stud farm before being converted into a smart lodging in the 1990s. Natural light floods through the 26 guest rooms, all equipped with a deep bath tub – there’s a decent restaurant and on-site parking, too.

Also walking distance from the ground and conveniently close to Dunfermline Queen Margaret station, Clarke Cottage comprises nine en-suite guest rooms. Dining takes place in a bright conservatory. The family-run, three-room Bellyeoman B&B on Bellyeoman Road is closest to the ground as the crow flies.

Right in town, the mid-range City Hotel has been in business for centuries – note the plaque marking the stay of Hungarian leader Lajos Kossuth here in 1856. Today you’ll find cheaper rates for business and executive rooms at weekends.

On the High Street, the Guildhall & Linen Exchange is a Wetherspoons pub & hotel, with 19 en-suite rooms in an early 19th-century building.