Go Away to Falkland, Fife
Stewardship is a new-but-ancient term to describe looking after the environment - or, more simply, ""minding the future.""
Full of crazies and concrete is the line some anti-Fifers may take, but even if you've only a smidgeon of countryside-envy in you, I swear on Edith Bowman's life that you'll be pleasantly surprised by what's on offer over the next wee while in Fife.
The itsy bitsy village of Falkland, in central west Fife may be set to become the environmental hub for Scotland and possibly beyond, through hosting a truly original festival: Big Tent 2006 – Scotland's Festival of Stewardship, to be held on June 30 – July 2. Stewardship is a new-but-ancient term to describe looking after the environment - or "minding the future" as Helen Lawrenson, one of the festival organisers, simply described it.
Arriving in Falkland you'll see the quaint village square and the windy streets that lead off it (with a few 17th century coaching inns, a bakery and a few tearooms lining this street) and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were Kate Winslet in a period drama, had the headlines in the wee shop not been about Big Brother. As you walk into Falkland Palace, which dominates this square, the fairground style big tent rises over many little tents which fill the pretty grounds of Falkland palace (where Mary Queen of Scots used to holiday, don't you know) for the three days the festival runs.
During Big Tent Festival time there'll be workshops, exhibitions, debates, open-air performance, music and food – all to simultaneously entertain and educate festival-goers on matters such as recycling, renewable energy, fair trade and organic produce. Don't be scared by the word educate; if you want to participate you can, if you want to lie low and just soak it up, you can, and you should, as this is the only organised gathering like this in the UK at the moment. Two years in the pipeline (the police said no to last year's plans as all resources were used up by the G8 summit) and the think tank that is Falkland's Centre for Stewardship have created a programme which means anyone with any level of environmental interest can take part.
Highlights will range from demo models of hydrogen production from solar panels; talks on how to measure your global footprint; spinning workshops; to resting your legs and ears in the soap box style talk tent, listening to Friends of The Earth or WEN (Women's Environmental Network) speak. The kids (and adults) can browse around outside the tents and amongst the trees where Te POOKa will perform environmentally themed theatre/circus acts and Samba Ya Bamba drumming troupe will roam.
A yummy part of the festival - something that Falkland is renowned for - is organic food. Not only does this small village boast Big Tent 2006, but also the Pillars of Hercules, the organic farm, shop and café that won the Best Small Organic Store in the UK in May. To get there from the village, follow the trail through the wooded estate, and take the route that leads you along the "talking wall", where beautifully carved into this seemingly normal wall are old Scots words like Bletherin, Loupin and Stravaigan: just another wee touch to Falkland's charm that was added last year. This leads you to Pillars farm, at the heart of which is the laid-back café; its bamboo veranda making you think you are now backpacking around Laos. This is truly an oasis in Fife, and the chocolate brownies are delicious. Outwith the Big Tent dates, cyclists, locals and ramblers stop by here all the time - a welcoming place which is definitely worth a visit any time of year.
Anyone who has an interest in recycling, renewable energy, fair trade, or organic food should think about The Big Tent festival and visit Falkirk's unique and individual event. There shouldn't be anyone in this country without a vested interest in learning more, and in a tasty locally grown nutshell, that's where Big Tent is invaluable to Scotland's future.
The festival discourages using the car, so for you Edinburgh lot why not take the bike on the train to Ladybank, then it's a 6 mile cycle through windy country roads. Nae bike? Then go by train to Markinch and catch the free Big Tent bus from the station.
For Glaswegians you're better off getting a bus to Glenrothes, (£4.50 with Stagecoach) then the free Big Tent bus into Falkland.
Go to www.travelinescotland.co.uk and click on the foolproof "plan a journey section"
The Burgh Lodge, Back Wynd, 01337 857710 - from only £12pppn it's a 4 star independent hostel with comfy living room and pretty garden.
Camping may be available near the grounds of the Pillars of Hercules, but phone ahead to ask.
Alternatively search the easy to use accommodation database on www.visitscotland.com
The Stag Inn, Mill Wynd, 01337 858327 – teeny, rickety, village pub with loads of character, stuffed animals and £2.20 pints!
Coventanter Hotel, High Street, 01337 857224 – 17th Century coaching inn with shabby chic "cocktail bar" not decorated since about 1920
Beer and wine on site at Big Tent.
Local organic burgers and salads on sale at Big Tent provided by
Pillars of Hercules: Organic Farm, Shop & Café, 1 mile outside the village (signposted) 01337 857 749 www.pillars.co.uk
Kind Kyttocks Kitchen, Cross Wynd, 01337 857477 – award winning tearoom with scrummy cakes and doilies.
Big Tent 2006: Scotland's Festival of Stewardship June 30 – July 2, 9.30am – 5.30pm, £6 entry per day www.bigtent2006.co.uk
Falkland Palace – if you're at Big Tent you're already there!
For an evening trip in Fife the same weekend as Big Tent go an hour east to Scotland's Secret Bunker on June 29, near coastal village Anstruther.
This eerie, long undiscovered nuclear bunker is now open to the public and is a venue for Underground Music Kraft: a one off event of Finnish electronic music, lighting and video. Crazily intriguing! 10pm, £10 (£8)
Part of the East Neuk Festival, June 29 – July 2, www.eastneukfetival.co.uk