The name Leuchars comes from the Gaelic word "luachair" meaning place of the rushes. There was a settlement of sorts here in the late 1100s when Robert de Quinci built Leuchars Castle on Castle Knowe, half a mile to the north.
North of Leuchars lies Tentsmuir - a wooded area where the primitive people of the Stone Age and Bronze Age were known to eke out an existence. The woods are now cared for by the Forestry Commission but access, complete with visitor facilities is available at Kinshaldy Beach.
Originally the Leuchars area was a vast marshland at the mouth of the River Eden. Extensive land reclamation about 1800 allowed Leuchars village to expand and the coming of the railway helped to establish a prosperous community.
The first recorded settlement was here in the late 1100s when Robert de Quinci built Leuchars Castle on Castle Knowe, half a mile to the north. It occupied the higher ground and secured a vantage point over the surrounding area. Its two successors built in the 1300s and 1500s. It has was demolished in the 1970's.
Also built by Robert de Quinci but rather more enduring was Leuchars Parish Church, built in 1187 and dedicated to St Athernase in 1244. The original choir and apse still stand at the east end of today's church, a stunning example of the very best of Norman architecture.
12th century St Athernase Church is one of the finest surviving examples of a Romanesque parish church in Scotland, or indeed Britain as a whole, with two levels of blind arcading in the Norman style running round the exterior, surmounted by a corbel table with heads of various designs. The interior has elaborate chancel and apse arches, and a series of powerful beast-heads on the corbels supporting the ribs of the internal vaults. The nave has unfortunately been rebuilt. The apse roof is crowned by a rather incongruous small bell-tower added in the 17th century.
Situated close to the RAF Leuchars, Earlshall Castle has its origins in the 16th C. The origin of the name could date back to the Earls of Fife. Earlshall is slightly different from the standard L-plan tower house since it has an oval tower on one of the external angles and a stair tower in the re-entrant angle. Construction began in 1546 by Sir William Bruce and was completed by his great-grandson of the same name in 1617. The castle fell into disrepair and was rescued in 1891 when Sir Robert Lorimer started the restoration.
In 1848 Leuchars became the temporary terminus of the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway as it progressed north from Cupar. The line from Leuchars to Tayport was completed in 1850. Leuchars became a junction station when the line to St Andrews was built in 1852, and in 1878 the line to the Tay Rail Bridge and Dundee was built from Leuchars.
The line to Tayport closed in 1956 and that to St Andrews in 1969. "The Home of Golf" is now served from Leuchars Station by bus and taxi links covering the intervening four miles or so. Leuchars itself continues to be well served by trains, being on the main line from Edinburgh to Dundee and Aberdeen with direct services to all those cities as well as to London.
Leuchars' other main claim to fame dates back to 1908, when the War Office acquired land to the east of Leuchars Church on which to test man-carrying kites.
The town is now best known for the adjoining Royal Air Force base, RAF Leuchars, which was established in 1920.
So began the story of what is now one of the longest continuously operating military airfields in the world. In 1935, RAF Leuchars underwent a major modernisation in time for its service during WWII and it was in the front line of the UK's air defences throughout the Cold War. During that period many of the current buildings including the hardened aircraft shelters you can see from St Andrews were constructed.