Auchtermuchty lies astride the A91 as it makes its way from the M90 towards Cupar and the heart of eastern Fife. It's one of those places that people don't want to have to ask directions for: a four syllable mouthful by any standards. Which is probably why it's known to its residents simply as 'Muchty.
Auchtermuchty's roots are deep. Archaeologists have found the remains of houses dating back to AD350 here. Going back even further are traces of a Roman marching camp, said by some (possibly in an effort to inject an air of mystery into the 'Muchty story) to be the last known camp of the Roman 9th Legion which, some time around AD100, marched into Caledonia and simply disappeared off the face of the Roman world. Were they trapped and so badly defeated by the Caledonians that non survived?
Less mysterious is the origin of the name itself. Auchtermuchty comes from the Scottish Gaelic phrase uachdar muc garadh which means "upper pig enclosure". Various spellings and variants of the name were recorded in medieval times, but it was as Auchtermuchty that it emerged blinking into the daylight in the centuries when enough people could read and write for the spelling of names to become fixed.
Auchtermuchty became a Royal Burgh in 1517 and spent the following several hundred years engaged in a wide variety of industrial ventures, ranging from weighing machines and engineering through linen and flax to beer and whisky.
The town's brewery opened for business in 1809, but survived only until 1813. The premises were taken over as a distillery from 1829. This flourished, latterly as Stratheden Distillery, until the onset of prohibition in the USA brought about its closure in 1929.
Textiles proved a larger scale employer. In 1843 there were 700 hand weavers in Auchtermuchty, while 30 people were working in the associated bleachfield. Not long later, in 1853, the branch railway from Kinross to Ladybank opened a station in Auchtermuchty, bringing the usual spurt of growth: though it closed again just 93 years later in 1950.
In the early 1990s, Auchtermuchty's pretty streets and wynds became the backdrop for a reprise of the long-running 1960s TV series about Dr Finlay based on the character created by A.J. Cronin. You can still experience the world of Dr Finlay in the Tannochbrae Tearoom in the High Street. This was used in the filming of the series and continues to reflect the spirit of the 1950s in its decor and memorabilia.
Auchtermuchty's most famous son was Sir Jimmy Shand, the famous and highly respected accordion player and band leader. He lived from 1908 to 2000 and is remembered by his statue in the village.
Auchtermuchty is one of those places in which you can have some difficulty finding the centre, which lies just off the main through routes. But persist, because it repays exploration, being especially attractive where the High Steet widens out to form a market place.
The 1728 town house overlooks this area from one side, while in its centre the space once occupied by the mercat cross is now given over to the impressive war memorial. Opposite, bringing a whiff of southern France with its red tiled roof and shuttered windows, is the Forest Hills Hotel.
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