Locals in Scotland's 'Outlander village' face a race against time to save their 800 year old abbey
Residents face a race against time to save their 800 year old abbey after Kirk leaders set a deadline for its disposal.
Culross, in Fife, is one of Scotland's most picturesque villages, famed for its white-harled houses, red-tiled roofs and steep cobbled streets that double as Cranesmuir in the time travelling TV series Outlander. Culross Abbey, which dates from 1217, has been listed to be disposed of by the Church of Scotland to save money amid shrinking congregations and rising costs as well as falling numbers of ministers.Now locals have until December 2027 at the latest to come up with a rescue plan.Presbyteries across Scotland have been considering properties to be sold off in a bid to ensure the Church is "lean and fit for mission in the 21st century".A Historic Churches Working Group acknowledged that Culross Abbey has a "long and deep history" but recommended against the Church retaining it because there were too few people to shoulder its ongoing upkeep and recommended the formation of a local trust to take over its running.Their report said: "Culross sits at one end of the Fife Pilgrim Way, which presents significant opportunities around hospitality, fostering spirituality, and offering accommodation."However, the congregation and office-bearers are deeply conscious of the lack of people in the church to take on responsibility. And so we conclude that the determination B for disposal is right."John Laird, Culross Abbey's property convener and senior elder, admitted that the average Sunday congregation was just eight due to the abbey’s hilltop location making it difficult for many older villagers.But he said villagers regard the Abbey as a "sacred and special place".The Abbey is directly adjacent to the ruins of a Cistercian monastery managed by Historic Environment Scotland, while the Abbey itself holds the vault of Sir George Bruce, an early industrialist who developed a system of coal mining in the village.Mr Laird said: "We are very keen to see the Abbey retained for any kind of community use and also for Sunday worship. We need to determine how many local people would be prepared to support the council in taking over the Abbey.”He said public meetings are to be held shortly in a bid to gauge local feelings about the abbey’s future.Mr Laird recently fundraised over £308,000 to replace the category A-listed abbey’s gutters after successfully canvassing eight different funding bodies for donations and says the building is structurally sound.He said: "It is a very solid building yet while inside you get the feeling of peace and being at one with yourself and your thoughts."A Church of Scotland spokesman said: "We recognise that Culross Abbey has meaning and value to the local community but the congregation and office bearers are deeply conscious of the lack of people available to take on the heavy responsibility of running it as an active place of worship."The working group affirmed a Fife Presbytery decision to release the building as a full-time place of worship by December 2027 and a local community trust will be established to explore options for its preservation and future use.”