Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Fife Foray

A couple of weeks ago, we packed a picnic and flask for tea and piled into the car for a wee trip over the Forth Road bridge to Fife. Our first target was Kellie castle. The oldest part of the castle is a tower house built around 1360 and another tower was built and then joined up to make one building in the 16th century.

By 1829 the line of Earls of Kellie had ceased to exist and the castle lay empty until James Lorimar rented  it, as an improving tenant on a long lease as a holiday home. He had this carved on lintel of one of the doors. It translates as, "This mansion snatched from rooks and owls and dedicated to honest ease amongst labours 1878", which suggests the building was in pretty bad condition before he came along.

Twice in it's history the contents of the castle have been sold off, the last time early in the 20th century, so that everything in the castle as we saw it, dates from after that or has been acquired by later occupants, perhaps including the National Trust for Scotland who look after it now. In restocking the building, attempts have been made to buy back occasional items that would have been in it before and much of the art that can be seen is by members of the Lorimar family, James Lorimars son, the painter John Henry Lorimar and grandson the sculptor Hew Lorimar.

The most delightful painting in the building has to be this by Pheobe Anna Traquair. (The talented Pheobe has made an appearance on these pages before - you can see more of her here)

There are many pubs in Scotland called the Tappit Hen and I seem to recall a fiddle tune of that name (here it is). Until we saw one on a mantelpiece in Kellie castle, I had no idea what a tappit hen was. Unfortunately being a National Trust for Scotland building we were unable to take photographs inside so I've had to steal this picture of three particularly shiney examples from the net. They are a type of large Scottish tankard with a lid - the bit sticking up was thought to be like the crest of a hen - the bit that tops it off, thus Tappit hen. It didn't look that big to me but some definitions say the tappit hen is a quart measure - you'd have to be drouthy indeed for that.

Kellie castle has an excellent walled garden behind it with some beautifully scented old fashioned roses and the biggest bed of rhubarb, I've ever seen. No wonder it was cheap in the castle shop. This is only half their crop.

A view of the back of the castle from the gardens.

We dropped in on the picturesque fishing village of St Monans (sometimes called St Monance) for our picnic. Here, as in much of Fife, we saw buildings with red clay tiled roofs. This, and also some Dutch influence in the buildings, is down to the area trading with Belgium and the Netherlands way back into the middle ages. Ships would leave Fife with coal and wool and returned loaded with these red clay tiles as ballast.

This is St Monans rather ancient church - it was build in the time of David II between 1329 and 1371. It's thought not to be finished as it seems to have transepts and a nave but nothing beyond that. That'll explain the rather squat tower at the end - it was intended to be in the middle of the church. There are claims that it is the closest church to the sea in Scotland (about 20m)

From where we had our picnic, we could see this windmill.

When we wandered along we found these strange shapes just above the shoreline in front of it.

Information boards nearby explain that these are panhouses which were used for turning seawater into salt. In this picture you can see that one of the panhouses has been excavated.

It was a dirty and expensive business. This diagram was on one of the notice boards. Using the windmill (perhaps - they don't seem to sure) and a holding pool which filled at high tide, water was drawn up to the tank in the back of the house - where through a series of about four boilings it would be turned into salt. Salt was a precious commodity in those days, it took three tones of coal to make one of salt, and at the end of the row of panhouses would be a girnel or secure warehouse where is would be weighed by salt officers who would ensure that the correct duty was paid on it.

Salt production at St Monans only lasted about 40 years round about 1800 but the windmill still stands in pretty good condition.

A quick look out to sea and the Isle of May.

We were treated to a small fly past by the RAF in formation. Twice in fact but they were nipping along a bit and this is the best I could do to catch them.


We spotted this dinky wee lighthouse in Elie, while we had a cuppa.

Next stop, Lower Largo, where this great and somewhat odd sculpture sits on a bit of private ground. It was made by Alan Faulds who lives here.

I like his gate too.

Lower Largo is famous for being the home of one Alexander Selkirk , which is why we came here in the first place. When he grumbled about the sea worthiness of the ship he was sailing on in 1704, the crew had no qualms at all of leaving him behind on one of the Juan Ferdanez islands of the coast of Chile. There he remained for four years all on his ownsome. Daniel Defoe took quite a shine to the story and immortalised him as Robinson Crusoe.

On the way back we drove past the Forth Bridge and into the other half (ish) of Fife where we found these standing stones in a field near Cairneyhill- well, we knew they would be there, we had a big scale map and they were marked on it.

They are known as the Tuilyies stones, which comes from the Scots word, Tulzie, meaning a fight. It is said, according to legend, the stones mark the grave of chiefs which fell in a battle here.

I have to admit we're out of Fife here and into the small county of Clackmananshire where, if there were 7 wonders of the Scottish central belt, this would be one. Nobody knows why the 4th Earl of Dunmore commissioned a giant pineapple for the top of his summerhouse in 1761. He had been in Virginia as Governor for 7 years, where they put pineapples on gateposts as a sign of welcome, so perhaps that's got something to do with it.

It was starting to get dark by the time we went to the pineapple. A little extra daylight would have been very handy. Today being the longest day, we've got the extra daylight but I'm at sea so shall just have to admire it out of my cabin window. Today, we're not aligned correctly for me to see the sunset from my cabin window but two days ago, when I took this picture, we were. This was taken at half past ten. Tonight in my corner of the Atlantic, the sun will set at seventeen minutes to eleven.

Happy solstice everyone.



Shundo said...

Happy solstice Sandy, that was a grand sunset you had there. Now I want to know about the other six wonders of the Scottish central belt... I'm sure you can come up with something good.

Ellie said...

Wow Sandy what an interesting post. I learn so much coming to your posts. Gives me plenty of ideas where I would like to visit too.
The castle and gardens look really nice and that fishing village looks lovely. I don't think I've ever been there.
Your sunset picture is rather stunning too.

The Glebe Blog said...

Great post on the Kingdom Sandy.I frequented St Monans and Largo as a youth, so they brought back memories.
Never got to see Kellie Castle though, looks an amazing place.

Love the Pineapple

Sandy's witterings said...

Thank you Shundo - that sounds a bit like a challenge - I shall have to apply my mind to find 6 other wonders in the central Belt. Suggestions on a postcard please. We actually tried to see the Falkirk wheel on the way back but it was somewhat too dark by that time - that may be one of the other wonders. We saw two small deer in the mirk as a compensation.

Ellie - it made a great run from Edinburgh. It would be a bit more of a run from Ayr though. This wee country of ours is certainly full of things to see.

Jim, It's a county of contrast - I'd certainly be choosing St Monans over Methil, though on a weekday afternoon, they certainly seem more suited to forty somethings and their picnics than a youngster. Lower Largo looked like it might have a bit of life waiting to burst out for the night.

Dominic Rivron said...

Got me thinking, being in the English NT, I'll have to be travelling North to visit some Scottish NT places...

That Alan Faulds reminded me of a blog you might know (or not) -

Sandy's witterings said...

Dominic - my Scottish National Trust certainly covers the English National Trust so it must work in reverse. I'm also a member of Historic Scotland (can never work out why the two are separate)which has a similar recipricol arrangement with English Heritage if you're a member of that too. Things like Edinburgh and Striling castle come into that catagory.

I checked out your link - Alan Faulds would just fit in there wouldn't he.