There is a hidden irony behind the coffee houses that sit unobtrusively along the sinuous roads of Falkland. Had Charles II, who briefly stayed at the nearby palace after his coronation, had his way, there would be no coffee shops in Scotland at all. During his reign he saw these humble establishments as a threat and tried to have them all shut down. He referred to them as ‘places where the disaffected meet’. And he may well have been right. Coffee houses at this time were often referred to as ‘penny universities’ because once you had paid the penny entrance charge at the door, you could strike up a conversation with anyone once inside; tackling the great social debates of the time. But whilst the heated wrangling has died with the voices of those who paid their penny for a share of the parlance, the coffee shop remains a place to all who pass by.
No matter the season, there is an almost intangible allure to the humble coffee shop. In the depths of winter, when the temperature has plummeted and the soft, flickering lamps from within cast out a pool of warm light, the cafe beckons you in through its misty windows. During these bleak months the coffee house becomes the urban lighthouse, offering you sanctuary or safe passage as you pass through. As you come in from leaf-covered streets and cup your hands around the steaming mug, you realise that good coffee is more than just a hot beverage, it’s an experience, a moment for you to just sit and be.
But as the spring approaches, the quiet, sombre tones dissipate with the snow on the hills. As people wake up from their hibernation they venture out again, keen to reconnect with nature and explore once more the places they neglected when the nights started to draw in and the wind rattled at the door. Spring and summer are the months for talking about the places you’ve just visited and the things you’ve just seen. A chance to extend the day and keep that carefully curated feeling of contentment within you as you butter your home baked scone.
Tucked away in a corner of the High Street, overlooking the Bruce Fountain and Falkland Palace is Campbell’s Coffee House and Eatery. This glass-fronted cafe is the perfect place to people watch. When you sit in one of the windows you feel as though you are the sole audience of your own private theatre. Once settled, time ceases to be your master as you watch the scenes play out before you and the characters of Falkland come and go.
Because that’s the most remarkable thing about cafes, no matter the time of year or where in the world you are, every coffee house is a time machine in disguise. Once you are seated, resting your chin in your hands, a coffee languidly steaming at your elbow, you stop counting time in units of minutes or hours. Time becomes fluid and infinite, multiplying itself over and over until the precise moment that the experience began becomes imperceptible and irrelevant.
Campbell’s is the most recent eatery to open in Falkland but has already proven to be popular. This family run establishment was opened seven years ago and has seamlessly nestled into the life of the village. The interior is contemporary but isn’t incongruous with the historic landmarks that surround it.
A short stroll from the fountain along Back Wynd, you’ll stumble upon The Hayloft Tearoom. If you find contentment in nostalgia then this wee tearoom will suit you to a tea; pun very much intended. This is one of those rare tearooms that has rooted itself in a time of tablecloths, placemats and pine farm style chairs. When climbing the stairs to this amiable tearoom, leave your hopes for grandeur at the door because this unpretentious cafe is about conviviality and honest home baking.
If after exploring the village of Falkland you decide that you’d like to head up into the Lomond Hills that surround the village, then take a drive up to Glass by Kathryn in Wester Glassie. What started as a studio converted from an old cart shed to display and sell her fused glass pieces has now expanded further to include an outdoor cafe. Here, brightly coloured bistro tables overlook the Firth of Forth and the Pentland Hills in the far distance. Kathryn herself will surely be there to welcome you and is always happy to have a quick blether. Her passion for both her studio and the place where it dwells is infectious and up there in the hills, her freshly brewed coffee undoubtedly tastes all the better for the gentle breezes that travel over the hills to meet you.