Colinsburgh is a linear village which runs along either side of the B942 a mile north of Kilconquhar and two miles north of Elie. It is usually encountered these days by motorists taking the shortest route from the west to Pittenweem and Anstruther, and remembered primarily for its fairly constricted Main Street.
As ever, however, if you take the trouble to look more closely, what emerges is a more interesting, if not much less linear, village with an unusual history. Colinsburgh was founded, perhaps inevitably, by a Colin: in this case by Colin Lindsay, the 3th Earl of Balcarres, in 1705.
The Lindsays had owned the Balcarres Estate, immediately to the north of Colinsburgh, since 1587, and built Balcarres House in 1595. Colin Lindsay inherited the estate in 1662 at the age of 10, and in the 1680s set to work to extend Balcarres House. During the first Jacobite uprising of 1689, Colin Lindsay fought on the Jacobite side, at the head of a regiment he had recruited in this part of Fife.
After the defeat of the 1689 Jacobite Uprising (see our Historical Timeline), Lindsay went into exile in Holland, where he was to stay until 1700. When he was allowed to return he turned his attention to the welfare of those who had taken up arms for him in 1689. Colinsburgh was the result, being established primarily to provide homes and livelihoods for his Jacobite supporters and their families.
Colin Lindsay, by now aged 63, again supported the Jacobite cause during the 1715 uprising. Many who did so lost their lands and titles as a result, but Lindsay, apparently through friends he retained at court, was simply placed under house arrest at Balcarres House. He would remain there until his death in 1722 at the age of 70.
The road through Colinsburgh was upgraded to a turnpike in 1790 and Colinsburgh became a important post town and home to two annual fairs. D Hay Fleming, in his 1886 book Guide to the East Neuk of Fife said of Colinsburgh: "It contains an inn, a branch of the Commercial Bank, a post and telegraph office, a Church, and a gas-work. A weekly market is held on Thursday, and an extensive agricultural show once a year."
Today's Colinsburgh feels as if it has changed little since Hay Fleming visited. Aligned east-west, the south side of the main street is usually in shadow, and combined with the very dark stone much of the village is built from, this can give the village an almost monochrome appearance. Some of the buildings are more striking than you might expect in a village of this size. At the far eastern end of Colinsburgh is its Town Hall, built in 1895. This is dominated by the carriage porch which stands in front of it, but it is, nonetheless, a remarkably ambitious building.
Nearer the centre of the village is the attractively ornate Galloway Library. Less immediately imposing is Colinsburgh Parish Church. This stands, almost apologetically, a little back from the south side of the main street and would be easy to miss. A surviving sign of Colinsburgh's location on an important route to the East Neuk of Fife can be found in its old hostelries. Both the Auld Inn and the Balcarres Arms Hotel look like they were early fixtures in the village.
A much more recent service to passing travellers is provided by the petrol station at the east end of the village. Another modern addition to the area is Charleton Golf Club, which since 1994 has provided 18 and 9 hole courses on the estate of Charleton House, a mansion standing just over a mile north-west of Colinsburgh.