A planned industrial village founded c.1770 by Charles, 5th Earl of Elgin (1732-71), Charlestown lies on the Fife coast, 2 miles (3 km) southwest of Dunfermline. At the same time a coal harbour was built here, one of the first in Fife, with an Outer Basin added c.1840.
The village is laid out in the shape of an elongated 'E', its focal point being the baronial Queen's Hall built to a design by Robert Rowand Anderson in 1887 to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. The original inhabitants were engaged in working coal and limestone. Conservation Areas were established in 1974 and 1984.