How a Fife village was given a new lease of life

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Dysart is one of 48 conservation areas in Fife and in recent years has gained fame as the setting for parts of the Outlander television series.

When Fife Historic Buildings Trust embarked on a major regeneration project in 2009, amounting to almost £10m, it was one of the biggest ever undertaken.

The refurbished Dysart Tolbooth

The refurbished Dysart Tolbooth

The Dysart Regeneration Forum led by a group of enthusiastic residents, including the late Councillor Kay Carrington, had already started the ball rolling with environmental projects and community initiatives.

The Trust’s programme involved not just the Royal Burgh’s historic buildings, but delivered a wide range of improvements to the physical, social and economic environment of the whole area.

The five-year initiative combined a Townscape Heritage Initiative and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme and was undertaken with Fife Housing Association to give the centre of Dysart a complete facelift.

It included two priority projects – restoration of the historic Tolbooth and the Town Hall and the provision of affordable housing in the derelict Barony Church and a number of gap sites.

Public realm improvements were also made along the High Street and Quality Street.

The work was carried out by Fife Council’s building services team, and incorporated a training programme and small grants scheme for property owners who were encouraged to improve their premises.

It also facilitated the restoration of the ancient St Serf’s Tower, once part of St Serf’s Church which was dedicated in 1245 and had been a place of worship for many years before.

John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to cross Australia, lived in Dysart, and work to convert his house, a former museum, into a holiday apartment were completed in May 2013.

John McDouall Stuart's birthplace in Rectory Lane, Dysart, was converted into a holiday apartment

John McDouall Stuart's birthplace in Rectory Lane, Dysart, was converted into a holiday apartment

Pupils from the local primary school were also involved, taking part in an educational project and designing public artwork which was incorporated in the scheme.

The work carried out by Fife Historic Buildings Trust and its partners in the Dysart Townscape Heritage Initiative and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme has helped give the village a new lease of life.

Lorraine Bell, manager of the Trust, said: “Dysart was notable for the enthusiastic involvement of a group of residents who set up the Dysart Regeneration Forum which began the process of community led action and a lot of activity had already taken place before the THI and CARS got the go-ahead.

“The strong sense of community and civic pride which has always been evident within Dysart was nurtured during the project’s lifetime.

“As FHBT celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is good to look back and see what has been achieved over that time.

“Dysart is firmly on the map as a good place to live.

‘‘The restored buildings are proving a real draw for the many visitors that I have seen there over the past few weeks.

“While many of them have come because of the Outlander connection, they are also taking the time to see St Serf’s Tower, the restored Tolbooth and to visit the Harbourmaster’s House, now the headquarters of Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.”

Beth Bell, holiday letting and marketing consultant with the Trust, said: “We have been increasing our marketing of John McDouall Stuart View, and the results are very encouraging.

“Our guests particularly like staying in a property with lots of character as well as exploring the local area and Fife.

“The apartment has already attracted visitors from all across the world, who have left great reviews from their stay.”