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Aberdour is a popular and attractive village on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, looking south to the Island of Inchcolm and its Abbey: and to Leith and Edinburgh beyond. Its sinuous main street lies a little inland from the coast, with narrow streets off it providing access to the more hidden parts of the village on the shoreline itself.
The origins of the village lie with its harbour, where the Dour Burn enters the River Forth. For much of history Aberdour was two villages, Wester Aberdour and Easter Aberdour, one either side of the Dour Burn. Although this distinction was blurred by the later arrival of the railroad, it is still visible today.
Virtually between the two, though actually part of Easter Aberdour, lies Aberdour Castle. This started life on a site overlooking the Dour Burn in the 1200s, and over the next four hundred years was successively developed into more modern accommodation for the Earls of Morton. A fire in the late 1600s was followed by some repairs, but in 1725 the family purchased Aberdour House, on the west side of the burn and in Wester Aberdour. Aberdour Castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland and open to the public. After a period of dereliction Aberdour House was developed for residential use in the early 1990s.
In the 1700s Aberdour's harbour was improved by the addition of a stone pier to help handle the coal traffic from nearby collieries. But in the 1850s the traffic changed dramatically, and Aberdour Harbour became a popular destination for pleasure steamers from Leith. This in turn led to the building of a deeper water pier a little around the bay at Hawkhead, and to the development of hotels and many of the other services still on view today in the village.
The railway came to Aberdour in 1890, with the building of the line east from the newly opened Forth Railway Bridge. The half hour journey to the centre of Edinburgh helped build on the existing popularity of the village, though at the same time it put the steamers out of business. The main result was a growth in the building of large and attractive houses, especially down the hill from Wester Aberdour to the West Sands.
Today's Aberdour is a fascinating place. The main A921 leads down the High Street of Wester Aberdour, before kinking sharply left to cross the railway line, then right again to progress through Easter Aberdour's Main Street.
Wester Aberdour has the more olde worlde feel of the two, with the narrower through road more closely hemmed in by shops and hotels. Close to the railway bridge, three lanes continue eastwards, presumably one along the route of the original High Street before the arrival of the railway. One now leads to Aberdour Railway Station, a beautifully kept and cared for example of a traditional station, in keeping with its role of transporting at least a quarter of the village's working population to their work each day.
A second lane leads alongside the railway line to Aberdour Castle, while a third leads to the redeveloped Aberdour House. A little further west, a narrow road closely lined with high walls, Shore Road, leads down to the West Sands and the Harbour. For many this area is the highlight of any visit to Aberdour, though be aware that parking at the foot of Shore Road is usually at a premium.
Another road leads coastwards from Easter Aberdour. Hawkcraig Road leads past St Fillan's Church and through Silversand Park, en route to the much better parking area on Hawkcraig, the overgrown and rocky bluff separating Aberdour's two bays. From here is it a short walk to Silversands, Aberdour's most popular beach.