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.
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.
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.
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.
High-scoring wins in 2016-17 kept supporters entertained – although a climb up to the Premiership looks highly unlikely.
Arriving in town, local transport and timings
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 (Mon-Sat every 30mins, Sun morning every 1hr, journey time 35mins, £8.20). From there, regular Stagecoach buses 19, 33, X24, X27 and X55 run to Dunfermline bus station (12mins). Note that the X24 also serves Glasgow Airport, the X27 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 – £3.50 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 (£5-£6) takes 30-35mins. From Glasgow Central/Queen Street, you need to change at Haymarket.
Dunfermline-based Abbey Taxis (01383 735 555) charge £35 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.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the ground and around town
Three B&Bs also stand close to East End Park, two just the other side of the stadium from town, both on Halbeath Road. Family-run Garvock Guest House has in-room flat-screen TVs, off-road parking and tea- and coffee-making facilities while the Clarke Cottage comprises nine en-suite guest rooms. Dining takes place in a bright conservatory. The more basic Bellyeoman B&B (10 Bellyeoman Road, 01383 720 244) is on the town side of the ground.
Also close, halfway between Dunfermline Town station and East End Park, the Garvock House Hotel is more upscale, with power showers and LCD TVs with a selection of DVDs in each of the 26 rooms.
Right in town, the mid-range City Hotel, formerly Milne’s, 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.
Note that the Watering Hole pub with attached Gables B&B near Dunfermline Town station are currently closed, awaiting new owners.