Before Falkland Palace was built a hunting lodge existed on the site in the 12th century. This lodge was expanded in the 13th century and became a castle which was owned by the Earls of Fife.
In 1371 Falkland Castle was destroyed by an invading English army. In 1402 Robert, Duke of Albany imprisoned his nephew and rival David, Duke of Rothesay, the eldest son of King Robert, in the Well Tower at Falkland. The incarcerated Duke eventually died there from neglect and starvation.
James VI of Scotland spent the summer of 1583 at Falkland, and the English diplomat Robert Bowes noted it was a “little house” unsuitable for holding a parliament. In 1584 James VI had the roofs repaired, and requested his tenants in Fife help carry slates, tiles, timber, sand and lime to the palace. He stayed in the palace during the plague in July 1585 and for fear of infection ordered people with no business in Falkland or at court to stay away. His guests at Falkland in the summer of 1585 included the English ambassador Edward Wotton and three Danish envoys who came to discuss the Orkney and Shetland islands and the king’s marriage.
Falkland was included in the “morning gift” that James VI gave to his bride Anne of Denmark. On 12 May 1590 the Danish ambassadors rode from Wemyss Castle to Falkland to evaluate the palace and her Fife lands. They were welcomed by the keeper James Beaton of Creich. The lawyer John Skene produced a charter of the queen’s lands and as a traditional symbol of ownership the Danish Admiral Peder Munk was given a handful of earth and stone. After this ceremony, they rode to the Newhouse of Lochleven Castle.
For five hours in the morning of 28 June 1592 Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, with the Master of Gray, John Hamilton of Airdrie, the Laird of Niddrie and others including men from Cumbria attempted to capture the palace and James VI and Anne of Denmark. They attempted to batter down the back gate but were repulsed by gunshots. The king withdrew to the gatehouse tower and his guard shot at Bothwell’s men. According to James Melville the defenders who favoured Bothwell loaded their guns with paper rather than bullets. Bothwell abandoned the attack at 7 o’clock in the morning, and rode away with the king’s horses. It was said that Bothwell had given a pep talk to his supporters, encouraging them to kill Sir John Carmichael, Sir George Home, and Roger Aston.
Another Danish commission including Steen Bille and Niels Krag visited in 1593, which resulted in the keeper James Beaton of Creich giving over more rights over the lands and buildings to the queen. Anne of Denmark came to stay on 12 July 1594 before the baptism of Prince Henry at Stirling Castle. It was said she left Edinburgh for Falkland because Holyrood Palace was not magnificent enough to receive the Danish ambassadors Steen Bille and Christian Barnekow.
Queen Elizabeth sent deer for the park in 1587, and again in 1591 from parks near Colchester. When Anne of Denmark visited in September 1598 her bed chamber was hung with tapestry brought from Holyroodhouse. In August 1600 a French acrobat danced on a tightrope in the palace courtyard for the king and the queen.
After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the architect James Murray repaired the palace for the visit of King James in 1617. Some courtiers were lodged in the house of Nicol Moncrieff, which still stands in Falkland, opposite the palace gate. Charles I, and Charles II also visited Falkland. A fire partially destroyed the palace during its occupation by Cromwell‘s troops, and it quickly fell into ruin.
n 1887 John, 3rd Marquis of Bute purchased the estates of Falkland and started a 20-year restoration of the palace using two architects: John Kinross and Robert Weir Schultz. At the time the Palace was a ruin with no windows or doors. Thanks to his restoration work and considerable budget the Palace remains standing today. Many features in and around the Palace show evidence of his work, such as the “B” on the guttering and portraits of his children carved into a cupboard door in the Keeper’s Dressing Room.
During the time of Lord Bute, the ornamental kitchen garden was enhanced by a pergola and decorative vases. The north part of the “upper garden” was redesigned to express the foundations of Falkland Castle and Palace North Range which were uncovered during the Marquis’s archaeological excavations. Walls were built atop the foundations for the Well Tower and the Great Hall to emphasise the structures.
The Orchard and Palace gardens were linked to the House of Falkland by the private walk and new bridges. Houses were built near the palace and connected into the ornamental kitchen garden and orchard by a system of new public and private paths. The ground around the curling pond (to the North East of the orchard) was planted with trees and shrubs and laid out in flower plots.
The enclosing yew hedge around the pond garden is a typical feature of period. The lime tree avenue which is north of the palace gatehouse was built sometime between 1894 and 1912–13 according to the Ordinance Surveys of those periods. The Victorian glass house was built in 1890 by Mckenzie and Moncur from Edinburgh for Lord Bute and was used mainly to grow flowers and exotic plants. Plant hunting was popular at that time and wealthy people would travel the world to find specimens, and plant in their gardens for display to friends. There is also evidence that there was a second glass house in the garden near the existing one.