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View from Markinch Cemetery1.jpg
Glenrothes, Fife
Grid reference: NO2702
Location: 56°11’47"N, 3°10’24"W
Population: 38,750  (est)
Post town: Glenrothes
Postcode: KY6, KY7
Dialling code: 01592
Local Government
Council: Fife

Glenrothes is a large town situated in the heart of Fife, some 30 miles from both Edinburgh and Dundee.

Planned in the late 1940s as one of Scotland's first new towns, Glenrothes is an administrative centre for Fife containing both the Fife Council and Fife Constabulary headquarters. It established itself as a major industrial centre in Scotland's Silicon Glen between the 1970s to the 1990s with several major electronics and hi-tech companies establishing a base in the town. Manufacturing and engineering industries remain to this day important to the town's economy. Glenrothes is unique in Fife as the majority of the town's centre is contained indoors, within Fife's largest indoor shopping centre - The Kingdom Shopping Centre.

According to a 2008 population estimate, Glenrothes is Fife's third largest town with a population of 38,750. However the boundaries of the new town are virtually indistinguishable between its neighbouring small towns and villages. The Glenrothes conurbation, which includes the surrounding settlements of Leslie, Markinch, Thornton and Coaltown of Balgonie has a population of 47,280. Whilst these communities still retain their own character and status, they have been altered and changed by close proximity to Glenrothes.

The town has parks and landscaping recognised at the National level as being outstanding with Glenrothes winning awards in the "Beautiful Scotland"[1] and "Britain in Bloom" contests. It also has numerous outdoor sculptures and artworks, a result of the appointment of town artists in the early development of the town.[2] Public facilities include a regional sports centre, two golf courses, a civic centre and theatre, a cinema and a major college campus.

The town is primarily accessed by the A92 trunk road which connects it with the rest of the trunk road and motorway network. A major bus station is located in the town centre which provides regular services to surrounding towns and cities. Glenrothes can also be accessed by rail stations in nearby Markinch and Thornton.


Cadham Village conservation area, built pre-Glenrothes

Glenrothes was designated in 1948 under the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1946 as Scotland's second post-war new town.[3][4] The name Rothes comes from the association with the Earl of Rothes, whose family name is Leslie. The Leslie family historically owned much of the land upon which Glenrothes has been built. Glen was added to prevent confusion with Rothes in Morayshire, and because the town lies in the Leven valley.[5][6][7][8][9] The original town plan was to build a new settlement for a population of 32,000–35,000 people. The intention of the new town for the developers was: "to establish a self-contained and balanced community for working and living".[10]

The land where Glenrothes now sits was largely agricultural and once contained a number of small rural communities and the hamlets of Woodside and Cadham which were established to house workers at the local paper mills. Originally the new town was going to be centred on Markinch, however the village's infrastructure was deemed unable to withstand the substantial growth required to realise a new town.[5] Leslie and Thornton were also considered but as a consequence an area of 5,320 acres that sits between all of these villages was chosen.[11] The land taken was previously an area of great natural beauty. Balfour, Rothes, Aytoun and Balgonie estates were all incorporated in the Glenrothes designated area along with the historical stately homes, Balbirnie House, Leslie House and Balgeddie House.[12][13][14][15] The different areas or "precincts" of Glenrothes have been named after the hamlets already established (for example Woodside, Cadham), the farms which once occupied the land (e.g. Rimbleton, Caskieberran, Collydean) or historical stately homes in the area (such as Balgeddie, Balbirnie, Leslie Parks).[16]

The planning, development, management and promotion of Glenrothes was the responsibility of the Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC), a quango appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland.[17] The corporation board consisted of eight members including a chairman and deputy chairman.[18] The first meeting of the GDC was in Auchmuty House, provided by Tullis Russell on 20 June 1949.[19][20]

The first town masterplan sub-divided the town's designated area into self-contained residential precincts or areas with their own primary schools, local shops and community facilities.[21] Separating industry as far as possible from housing areas in planned industrial estates was a key element of the plan.[22] This was a step change from the unplanned, congested and polluted industrial towns and cities of the previous centuries where cramped unsanitary housing and dirty industries were built in close proximity to one another. The vision for Glenrothes was to provide a clean, healthy and safe environment for the town's residents.[21]

Development of Glenrothes started in Woodside in the east and progressed westwards. Housing was a mixture of low-rise mixed social rented housing and flats. A private housing estate was developed at Alburne Park for GDC managers.[23] The first masterplan was implemented as far as South Parks and Rimbleton housing precincts.[24][25][26]

1950s housing and St Columbas church

Early Glenrothes precincts, developed under the first masterplan, were based on Ebenezer Howard's Garden City principles and this is reflected in their housing styles and layouts.[17][24] The primary reason for the designation of Glenrothes was to house miners who where to work at a new super coal mine.[27] This was to be the most modern of the day and was built west of Thornton, an established village south of Glenrothes. The Super Pit was named the Rothes Colliery and it was officially opened by the Queen in 1957. About 5,000 miners were to be required to produce 5,000 tonnes of coal per day, and huge railway yards were established.[28] The pit was to have a working life of 100 years. The planned long-term benefits were to be huge, and the driver for economic regeneration for central Fife. At its peak the Rothes Colliery employed over 1,500 miners. In 1961, four years after opening, the huge investment was written off and the mine closed as a result of un-stemmable flooding and geological problems. Ironically, miners who had worked in older deep pits in the area had fore-warned against the development of the Rothes Pit for this very reason.[24] The closure of the state-of-the art facility left the huge enclosed concrete wheel-towers standing at Thornton for many years as a forlorn symbol of what could have been until demolished in the early 1990s.[29]

Originally the main industries in the Glenrothes area were paper-making (Tullis-Russell and the other mills along the Leven Valley), coal mining and farming. Unlike East Kilbride, Cumbernauld or Livingston Glenrothes was not originally to be a Glasgow overspill new town, although it did later take this role. It was however populated in the early 1950s in part by mining families moving from the West of Scotland and the declining Lothian coalfield areas.[24] The coal mine's closure almost resulted in further development of Glenrothes being stopped. However shortly following the closure Central Government decided to change the town's role by appointing Glenrothes as one of the economic focal points for Central Scotland. The Glenrothes Development Corporation were successful in attracting a plethora of modern electronics factories to the town as a consequence. The first big overseas electronic investor was Beckmans Instruments in 1959 followed by Hughes Industries in the early 1960s.[24] A number of other important companies followed establishing Glenrothes as a major hub in Scotland's Silicon Glen.[30] During the middle of the 1970s, the town also became the headquarters of Fife Regional Council, effectively the county town of Fife. Glenrothes officially took over the role from Cupar.[31][32][33]

Contemporary staggered terraced housing with mono-pitch roofs set in mature landscaping
1970's housing, Collydean

A second town masterplan was developed in the late 1960s following Glenrothes' change of role and was to accommodate an increased population target of 50,000-70,000. New areas of land in the north and south of the designated area were brought into production for new development.[34] The road network was upgraded to deal with projected increases in car ownership and new housing estates were developed to the west from Macedonia to Newcastle, to the south from Pitteuchar to Stenton and then to the north from Cadham to Collydean and Balfarg.[35] The precincts of the 1960s and 1970s, developed under the second masterplan departed from the garden city principles, instead adopting the principles of Radburn; separating as far as possible footpaths from roads.[36] The townscape changed with a mixture of higher densities and more contemporary architectural styles. The fronts of houses were designed to face onto public footpaths and open spaces with car parking kept either to the rear of properties or in parking bays located nearby.[36]

Modern detached bungalows in a cul de sac surrounded by mature landscaping
Modern suburban housing, Balgeddie

Housing precincts from the 1980s onwards have largely been developed by the private sector and more reflect today's aspirations of low-density suburban living.[37] The majority of this housing was developed as suburbs in the northern parts of the town at Balgeddie, Formonthills, Balfarg, Coul and Pitcairn, to the south at Finglassie, to the east at Prestonhall and Balbirnie and to the west at Whinnyknowe and Newcastle.[37] A specialist development was created at Balfarg named the Balfarg show village which was created to showcase new styles of homes by a variety of private housebuilders.[38] Glenrothes came late into high rise development and as a result it has only a single tower block, which is located adjacent to other tall buildings in the town centre. Three others were earmarked for the east of Pitteuchar backing onto the A92, but due to emerging problems associated with high rise blocks these never materialised.[38]

Large portions of land in the south of the town were developed for industrial and employment purposes, largely as a result of the proximity to the proposed East Fife Regional Road (A92) which was developed in 1989 giving dual carriageway access to the main central Scotland road network.[36] The Silicon Glen legacy peaked in the 1990s with Canon developing their first UK manufacturing plant at Westwood Park in Glenrothes in 1992.[39] ADC Telecommunications, a major American electronics company, also established a base at Bankhead in early 2000 with the promise of a substantial number of jobs.[40] By 2004 both companies had closed their Glenrothes operations with the jobs growth promised by both companies never materialising to any substantial level. The electronics industry was dependent upon an inward investment strategy that led to almost 43% of employment in foreign-owned plants, making such plants susceptible to global economic markets.[41] The turn of the century marked the decline of major electronics manufacturing in Scotland with a consolidation in the sector as a whole.[42][43] Following the loss of Canon and ADC in Glenrothes other companies have established their operations in the vacant units. The former ADC building was occupied by online retailer in 2005.[44] The latest proposals for the facility will see Fife Council convert the building for use as a new super depot, with relocating to a larger facility in nearby Dunfermline.[45][46]

The GDC left a lasting legacy on the town by overseeing the development of 15,378 houses, 480,692 square metres (5,174,125 square feet) of industrial floorspace, 68,328 square metres (735,476 square feet) of office floorspace and 53,603 square metres (576,977 square feet) of shopping floorspace.[3]

The development of Glenrothes since the demise of the GDC has been led by Fife Council. Two Glenrothes Area Local Plans have guided development of the town and its surrounding villages since the departure of the GDC. The emerging Mid Fife Local Plan, which will supersede the 2003 Glenrothes Area Local Plan, allocates land for the development of approximately 1,800 new houses in and adjacent to Glenrothes over the next 10 years. It also outlines proposals for town centre renewal and for improvements to existing employment areas.[47]

View of Glenrothes seen in its landscape setting from a nearby cemetery. A train is leavng nearby Markinch Station on the East Coast Mainline. Glenrothes town centre with the numerous taller residential and office buildings can be seen in the centre of the image. The River Leven Bridge provides a stark white vertical emphasis on the right side of the image. The Lomond Hills regional park and rolling countryside form the backdrop on the horizon.
Panorama of Glenrothes seen from Markinch Cemetery

Glenrothes is Fife's principle administrative centre and serves a wide area as both a service, employment and retail centre. It has been described as "a clean, generally well maintained and quietly successful modern town".[37] Much of the townscape consists of unexceptional 20th century developments. However, there are a number of notable areas in Glenrothes including the early residential areas which present some of the best examples of post-war social housing, two of which won Saltire Society Awards following their completion. Three of the towns churches, St Margaret's,[48] St Paul's[49] and St Columba's,[50] are now listed buildings which represent strikingly contemporary architecture.[51][52] There are a number of historic small towns and villages surrounding the town each with unique characteristics. The surrounding villages are Markinch, Leslie, Thornton, Coaltown of Balgonie, Star of Markinch, Milton of Balgonie (with Balgonie Castle) and Kinglassie.

Glenrothes gained National publicity by winning the 2009 Carbuncle Award, following an unofficial contest operated by Urban Realm and Carnyx Group which was set up to criticise the quality of built environments in Scotland. Glenrothes was awarded the category of the most dismal place in Scotland for its "depressed and investment starved town centre".[53] This generated mixed views from locals and built environment professions alike.[54]

Contrary to this the town has also won awards for the "Best Kept Large Town" and the most "Clean, sustainable and beautiful community" in Scotland in the Beautiful Scotland competition [55] and a Silver Gilt award in the 2009 Britain in Bloom competition.[56]

Culture and community

Bronze sculpture in the form of a mother with her children growing from the earth and reaching to the sky. A representation of the town's Latin motto; Ex terra vis. The sculpture is surrounded by colourful flower beds
Ex Terra sculpture

Glenrothes was the first Scottish new town to appoint a town artist in 1968.[57] Today, as a result, there is a large variety of artworks and sculptures scattered throughout the town made from a variety of materials such as bronze, fibre glass, bricks, sandstone and concrete. The sculptures range from giant flowers, giant hands, a dinosaur, toadstools, the Good Samaritan, a horse & chariot, dancing children, a seated old couple, crocodiles and marching hippos.[2] The first sculpture erected in Glenrothes was Ex Terra, created by Benno Schotz.[57] Funding was approved in 2010 by the Glenrothes Area Committee for the repair and relocation of six pieces of town art to more visually prominent locations around the town.[58][59]

The town has won numerous awards locally and nationally for the quality of its landscaping;[1][56] something that is promoted by the "Glenrothes in Bloom Group" who were established as a town promotion initiative through the "Take a Pride in Glenrothes" campaign.[55] The Glenrothes Development Corporation devoted around one third of land in Glenrothes to the provision of open space.[60] Landscaping in Glenrothes often leaves the impression that many of the housing areas have been built in parkland. As a consequence the town has numerous parks, the largest being at Riverside,[61] Balbirnie,[62] Warout, Gilvenbank,[63] Tanshall, Dovecot, Carleton[64] and Lochty Pond.[65][66][67] The Lomond Hills Regional Park fringes and enters the town to the north and east.[68] A new flood-lit concrete skate park was constructed in Riverside Park in 2011.[69] This was part funded by sportscotland in partnership between Fife Council and The Stefan Drummond Appeal/Riverside Skatepark Group. The Group, set up following the death of young Glenrothes skater Stefan Drummond, have been fundraising and generating support for the creation of the skatepark as a memorial for Stefan.[70]
A view across the park valley with grass playing fields, a floral display and woodland
Riverside Park, view from Glenrothes town centre
The Rothes Halls complex is the town's main theatre, exhibition, conference and civic centre venue. The facility caters for a large variety of regional and local events including theatrical and musical performances, as well as arts and crafts exhibitions.[71][72] A community cinema operates on a monthly basis from the Rothes Halls. As a spin off of this Glenrothes had its first film festival in October 2010 which presented a series of short film competition entries and celebrated the film industry.[73][74] The town's central library and a cafe also form part of the Rothes Halls complex.[75] The success of the community cinema has spurred the opening of a commercial cinema in 2010 giving the local population all the latest film releases.[76]
two storey silver clad building set behind an internal glazed square with circular floor feature
Rothes Halls, Kingdom Centre
There is an aspiration for a permanent heritage centre to be formally established in the town, following the success of a trial heritage centre that was set up in a vacant shop unit in the Kingdom Centre in 2010. The temporary heritage centre provided a record of the history of Glenrothes and its surrounding communities from the early 19th century to 1995 when the then new town's development corporation was wound up.[77]

There are a number of social clubs and organisations operating within Glenrothes which contribute to the cultural and community offerings of the town. These include an art club, various youth clubs, a floral art club, amateur theatre groups, a choral society and a variety of sports clubs.[78][79] Glenrothes hosts an annual gala which is held at Warout Park and has a variety of family activities including a dog show, highland dancing and a fun fair with stalls.[80] Markinch hosts an annual Highland Games[81] and the other surrounding villages host their own annual gala days. Glenrothes also has a twin-town link with Böblingen, a city in Baden-Württemberg in Germany since 1971.[82]

The town has a large variety of established sports facilities including two 18-hole golf courses (Glenrothes and Balbirnie), a football stadium at Warout and a major sports complex; the Fife Institute of Physical and Recreational Education (FIPRE).[60][83][84] The local football club is the Glenrothes F.C., a junior side who play at Warout Park. Glenrothes also has a rugby club based at Carleton Park and a cricket club who play at Riverside Park.[85][86] There are plans to build a new multimillion-pound regional sports centre on the site of the existing Fife Institute beginning in the summer of 2011.[87] [88][89]

A war memorial was constructed in Glenrothes in 2007 following the deaths of two local Black Watch soldiers in Iraq. Prior to this Glenrothes was in the unusual position of not being able to host its own Remembrance Sunday commemorations. Unlike traditional memorials, the Glenrothes war memorial consists of two interlinking rings of standing stones.[90]


Fibre glass sculpture depicting four giant flowers, two blue and two yellow
Giant Irises, Leslie Roundabout

The most prominent landmarks in Glenrothes are the River Leven Bridge which towers over Riverside Park, the Tullis Russell factory chimneys towering in the east of the town, Raeburn Heights; a residential tower block and Fife House; an office block, both of which sit at the western corners of the town centre. These are the most recognisable tall structures in Glenrothes which can be seen from afar.[91]

Glenrothes is home to the remains of ancient stone circles which can be seen at Balbirnie and Balfarg in the northeast of the town. A number of Glenrothes' artworks and sculptures act as landmarks at major gateways into the town, such as the Giant Irises at Leslie Roundabout, and the Glenrothes Gateway Totum at Bankhead Roundabout.[37][92]

A sandstone two storey Georgian manor home with classical architectural features in a parkland setting
Balbirnie House Hotel, Balbirnie Park

Balbirnie House, the category-A listed[93] Georgian former home of the Balfour family, was bought along with its grounds in 1969 by the Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC) from the Balfour family to be developed as Balbirnie Park and golf course.[94][95][96] The house was later occupied and restored by the GDC in 1981, to stop the property falling into disrepair. This led to potential interest and the house was converted into a four-star hotel in 1989. The B-listed former stable block[97] of the house were also converted for use as a craft centre.[96] Balgeddie House, a C-Listed[98] former Victorian residence located in the northwest of the town, has also been converted into a high quality hotel.[12]

Leslie House, the category-A listed[99] 17th century former home of the Rothes family, became a care home for the elderly in 1945; owned by the Church of Scotland. The building was being renovated to become luxury apartments however the interior and roof of the house were destroyed by fire in late 2008 delaying the redevelopment.[100] Much of the former grounds of Leslie House have been used to create Riverside Park. Collydean precinct hosts a ruin of a 17th-century laird's house called Pitcairn House.[14]

The town is also home to a number of churches which act as important landmarks as a result of their unique architectural styles and sometimes their locations at key road junctions. The three earliest churches are now listed buildings. These are St Margaret's Church[48] in Woodside (category C listed), St Paul's RC Church[49] in Auchmuty (category A listed), and St Columba's Church[50] on Church Street (category A listed) in the town centre.[51][52][101] St Paul's RC was designed by architects Gillespie, Kidd and Coia[51][52][102] and has been described "as the most significant piece of modern church architecture north of the English Channel".[103] In 1993 it was listed as one of sixty key monuments of post-war architecture by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo. The church sits at a junction between two main distributor roads. St Columba's Church, designed by architects Wheeler & Sproson, has recently undergone significant restoration.[104][105] The church with its distinctive triangular iron bell tower and Mondrian-inspired stain glass windows[106] acts as a landmark at the south-western gateway to the town centre.

There are two other gateway landmarks, located just outside Glenrothes. The B-listed Markinch Railway Viaduct[107] marks the town gateway from Levenmouth in the east. This structure spans the River Leven Valley carrying the main East Coast rail line.[108]

To the west of Glenrothes is the B-listed Cabbagehall Railway Viaduct,[109] which once carried a branch line connecting Leslie to Markinch over the River Leven Valley. This marks a main gateway entrance to Glenrothes from Leslie and now carries a major cycle/footpath, Böblingen Way, connecting Leslie with Glenrothes.[95][110]



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  • Ferguson, Keith (1982). A History of Glenrothes (1st ed.). Glenrothes: Glenrothes Development Corporation. 
  • Ferguson, Keith (1996). A New Town's Heritage: Glenrothes 1948-1995 (1st ed.). Glenrothes: Glenrothes Development Corporation. ISBN 0950260347. 
  • Cowling, David (1997). An Essay for Today: Scottish New Towns 1947-1997 (1st ed.). Edinburgh: Rutland Press. ISBN 1873190476. 
  • Wood, Alistair (1989). 40 Years New: Glenrothes (1st ed.). Glenrothes: Glenrothes Cheshire Homes. 
  • Omand, Donald (2000). The Fife Book. Edinburgh: Birlinn Publishing. ISBN 1841582743. 
  • Pride, Glen L. (1998). Kingdom of Fife (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Rutland Press. ISBN 1873190492. 
  • Glenrothes and Surrounding Villages. Cupar: Links Media. 2006. 
  • Reid, Emma (2004). Old Glenrothes- Old buildings, farms and villages in the area which became the New Town of Glenrothes (1st ed.). Fife Family History Society. 
  • Glenrothes New Town Masterplan Report. Glenrothes: Glenrothes Development Corporation. 1972. 

Outside links

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